Friday's Pterosaur: Tupuxuara

by AMNH on

On Exhibit posts

In the run-up to tomorrow's opening of the new exhibition Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs, this week we’ve  highlighted one species a day from this amazing flying reptile group. Friday’s pterosaur is Tupuxuara leonardii, which lived about 110 million years ago, in what is now northeastern Brazil.


A variety of pterosaurs evolved during the Cretaceous period (145–66 million years ago). Many species had long, slender skulls, and toothless jaws or very long necks. Tupuxuara was a large animal, with a wingspan of about 15 feet (4.5 meters)—and its sharp beak was a fine weapon for capturing its prey, probably fish.

But by far the most dramatic feature of many pterosaur species was an eye-catching crest—and Tupuxuara (too-pu-SHWA-ra) had one of the most spectacular crests ever found.

Why did crests evolve? Possible functions include recognizing one’s own species, cooling, and steering.

Another theory is that crests attracted mates, so crested pterosaurs had more successful offspring. Charles Darwin called this process “sexual selection.”



Perhaps males of species including Tupuxuara leonardii showed off their stunning headgear in order to impress females. Above, an animation shows how a male pterosaur may have moved its head up and down, making sure females got a good look.

Learn more in the new exhibition Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs, open from Saturday, April 5, 2014–Saturday, January 4, 2015.