Tuesday's Pterosaur: Dimorphodon

by AMNH on

On Exhibit posts

In the run-up to Saturday’s opening of the new exhibition Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs,  we’re highlighting one species a day from this amazing flying reptile group. Yesterday, it was Pterodaustro guinazui. Tuesday’s pterosaur is Dimorphodon macronyx, which lived about 200 million years ago.


Dimorphodon pterosaur

Pterosaurs lived between 220 and 66 million years ago, so Dimorphodon (dye-MORF-o-don) is one of the earlier known species.

Discovered in the 1820s on the coast of southern England, by a young woman, Mary Anning, famed for her fossil-finding abilities, Dimorphodon was also the first pterosaur fossil found outside of Germany. 

Pterosaurs’ wingspans ranged in width from just inches to more than 30 feet. Dimorphodon macronyx was a midsize pterosaur, with a wingspan of about 1.4 meters (4 feet 7 inches).

Animated image of a walking Dimorphodon.

Like all pterosaurs, when Dimorphodon macronyx walked, it folded its flight fingers back and up toward the side. This way, the wings did not obstruct progress, and the animal did not run the risk of damaging its wings while on the ground. 

It earned its name for its distinctive dentition. Dimorphodon, the genus name, means “two-formed tooth” and refers to the animal’s two types of teeth: Long, curved fangs that jut from the front of the jaws, and a row of short pointed teeth that lies behind. Its second name, macronyx, means “long claw” and describes the talons just above the toes.