Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
P. antiquus (Holotype)
Pterodactylus (TER-o-DACK-ti-lus) was a pterosaur or flying reptile, with a wingspan of about 50–75 cm (20–30 inches), that lived on lake shores during the late Jurassic era. It was a carnivore, and probably ate fish. Fossils have been discovered in Europe and Africa.
Etymology and description
The name derives from the Greek words ptero ("winged") and dactyl ("finger"), and refers to the way the wing is supported by one large finger. Like all pterosaurs, Pterodactylus's wing stretched from its last finger to its torso, and was internally supported by collagen fibres, and externally by keratinous ridges. It was originally believed that pterodactyls were gliders, but studies have shown that they could sustain true, powered flight.
The genus was originally named Ptero-dactyle by Georges Cuvier in 1809. In 1812, Soemmering named a specimen of the same species Ornithocephalus antiquus. As the senior name, Cuvier's name had precedence, so the holotype specimen became known as Ptero-dactyle antiquus, which was Latinized to the current name in 1815.
While closely related, the pterodactyl is not a dinosaur.
Pterodactyls in pop culture
Petry in the Land Before Time films is cleary a pterodactyl, and so is Pterri on Pee Wee's Playhouse
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