Pterosaur: Pteranodon

by AMNH on

On Exhibit posts

The Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs exhibition is now closed, but this article highlights one species from this amazing flying reptile group. Pteranodon longiceps, perhaps one of the most recognizable pterosaurs, lived about 85 million years ago.


Discovered in 1871 by the famed Yale paleontologist O. C. Marsh, Pteranodon longiceps (ter-AN-o-don LON-ji-seps) was for many decades the largest known pterosaur, with a wingspan of up to 20 feet (6 meters). Its long, backward-pointing crest and immense size have made it a favorite for generations.

Along with other large pterosaurs, Pteranodon was first discovered in western Kansas, near a chalk formation called Monument Rocks. Today, the region is dry, but at the time this species lived, about 85 million years ago, central North America was covered by a seaway.

This large pterosaur likely spent its days flying over the ocean, rarely returning to land. But after taking a break from flying to eat a fish, Pteranodon would be airborne again.


Taking off from the water is no easy feat: the pterosaur probably pushed off the water with massive force, and then hopped and flapped along the water until it could fly again. 

Unlike early species of pterosaurs, Pterandon and many other Cretaceous-era species didn’t have any teeth. In fact,  its genus name means “winged and toothless,” while the second name, longiceps, means “long headed.”

Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs is now closed.