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356

Dimorphodon macronyx

OLogy Series
extinct animal
card
356

Dimorphodon macronyx

OLogy Series
extinct animal

Until 1828, pterosaur fossils had been found only in Germany. Then a new kind of pterosaur fossil was discovered in England. Dimorphodon macronyx was stockier than its German cousins. This new pterosaur also had shorter wings, a larger head, and a longer tail. This discovery showed that pterosaurs were more varied and lived in more places than once believed.

A Fossil Hunter's Find In the early 1800s, one of the most avid fossil hunters in England was a carpenter's daughter named Mary Anning. She had grown up collecting fossils by her seaside home. (At age 13, she discovered one of the first ichthyosaurs -- giant swimming reptiles.) Mary supported her family by finding and selling fossils. Many scientists visited her shop to buy her fossils and learn about her latest finds. In 1828, she made one of her biggest discoveries: a fossil of the first English pterosaur, known today as Dimorphodon macronyx. Headlines praised Mary and her "flying dragon."

The name Dimorphodon macronyx describes:

the location it was discovered

its teeth and claws

the shape of its wings

Are you right?

Correct!

Dimorphodon, or "two-formed tooth" in Greek, comes from its two types of teeth: long, curved fangs at the front of its jaws and short pointed teeth in the back. Macronyx, or "long claw," describes the claws on its wings.

Pterosaurs left trackways on the ground that help scientists learn how these animals landed, stood, and walked. They show that pterosaurs:

hopped on two legs

walked on two legs

walked on four limbs

Are you right?

Correct!

Fossil tracks show that pterosaurs were quadrupedal. That means they walked on all four limbs -- their two wings and two hind legs. The distance between tracks shows the length of an animal's stride -- or whether it was slowing down or speeding up.

What did Dimorphodon do with its large wings when it walked?

it held its wings out to the side

it tucked up its wings like a folded umbrella

it closed its wings back over its tail

Are you right?

Correct!

Like other pterosaurs, its wings could fold like an umbrella. Pterosaurs tucked up their outerwings when they walked. This kept the wings protected and out of the way!

Mark Norell, paleontologist

When pterosaurs were first found, people didn’t know what to make of them. Some people thought they were aquatic animals that used their forelimbs to propel themselves through water!

Dimorphodon used its long tail to attack predators.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fiction

Long tails kept it steady when flying, like a kite's tail. The flap on the end may've worked like a boat's rudder, keeping it straight, or like a plane's wing flap, keeping it at the right height.

Pronunciation: dye-MORF-o-don ma-KRON-ix
Lived: around 200 million years ago
Fossil Found: on a coast in southern England
Wingspan: up to 4.5 feet (1.4 m)
Diet: insects, fish, and other small vertebrates
Cool Fact: Large holes in the bulky skull kept the head light for flying.
Cool Fact: The floor of the sea where Dimorphodon fossilized was high in iron, so its fossils are colored iron-gray.

Image credits: © AMNH 2014; Mark Norell: AMNH.