Pterosaur of the Day: Pterodaustro
by AMNH on
In the run-up to Saturday’s opening of the new exhibition Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs, we’ll be introducing you to five interesting species—one a day—from this amazing flying reptile group. First up: Pterodaustro guinazui, which lived about 100 million years ago.
Of all pterosaurs that ever lived, only a small fraction died under the right conditions to be preserved as fossils. Even though pterosaur fossils are rare, paleontologists have found tremendous diversity among the 150 known species, from shape and size to feeding style.
Like many known pterosaur species, the 8-foot-wingspan Pterodaustro guinazui lived and hunted near water, in this case near lakes in what’s today central Argentina.
While some pterosaurs had a small number of big, sharp teeth for stabbing prey and others were toothless, Pterodaustro (tair-o-DOW-stro) had about 1,000 teeth in its bill!
You can see a cast of a spectacular Pterodaustro fossil skull above (with most of the teeth missing) in the exhibition.
Pterodaustro's lower bill included extremely long, needlelike teeth, while the upper bill had short, nubby ones. Paleontologists infer that this species’ lower teeth may have allowed it to filter feed by scooping up water and straining it for tiny aquatic animals, much like flamingos do today.
Was Pterodaustro really also pink like a flamingo?
Perhaps—and the reason is related to what they ate. Fossils of Pterodaustro guinazui tell us this species probably had a diet similar to that of flamingos: small crustaceans like brine shrimp.
And flamingos do get their pink color from what they eat: the brine shrimp dine on Spirulina algae, which make carotenoids—organic pigments that create many of the colorful colors we see in birds, including the pinks of flamingos.