Pteranodon VS Pterodactyl: 2 Cool Reptiles’ Differences

Pteranodon VS Pterodactyl versus grid set in forest and sky backgrounds

Source by: Only Dinosaurs

Here’s the difference between Pteranodon and Pterodactyl: Pteranodons were Pterosaurs that are known for their lack of teeth and their skulls’ upward-projecting cranial crests. Pterodactyls, on the other hand, were smaller Pterosaurs that had cone-shaped teeth and backward-projecting crests.

In this post, we’ll learn all about the fascinating key differences between two cool winged reptiles: Pteranodon versus Pterodactyl. Come and join the adventure!

Here’s also a quick preview of what we’ll check out together:

  • The 101 On Flying Reptiles (Pterosaurs)
  • Distinguishing Characteristics of Pteranodons
  • Distinguishing Characteristics of Pterodactyls
  • Frequently Asked Questions About Pteranodon Versus Pterodactyl

Let’s jump right in!

The 101 On Flying Reptiles (Pterosaurs)

A Pterosaur is flying in a forest

Source by: Science

Why start with Pterosaurs? That’s because both Pteranodon and Pterodactyl belong to the Pterosauria order though they’re both different genera.

Pterosaurs were winged reptiles that lived up to the Late Cretaceous geological period and existed as early as the Late Jurassic Period and the Triassic period. That’s about 66 to 228 million years ago. Pterosaur fossils have been found all over the world that reflect these time periods.

Pterosaur model presented inside a glass exhibit at the Natural History Museum

Source by: Simon

Pterosaurs are a curious-looking group of animals because of each species’ different physical features and ability to fly just like modern birds. Many of them were large like the Pteranodons with wings as wide as seven meters. Other species were smaller like the Pterodactyl whose wingspan was just a little over a meter.

These winged reptiles had a unique coating over their bodies called pycnofibers. These were filaments similar to hair which helped keep the Pterosaurs warm since they were warm-blooded animals. Pterosaurs ate fish, insects, small animals, and even medium-sized dinosaurs.

Why is a Pteranodon Not a Dinosaur?

a Pterodactyl is flying in a sunny sky

Source by: Live Science

Pterosaurs are more commonly known in dinosaur media as flying dinosaurs. But Pterosaurs aren’t flying dinosaurs even though they’re reptilian.

That’s why the Smithsonian Magazine says that Pterosaurs (this includes the Pteranodon genus) aren’t dinosaurs but rather, they’re dinosaurs’ close relatives. Dinosaurs belong to either the Ornithischia or Saurischia groups and either one excludes Pterosaurs.

A dinosaur movie scene with lifelike animatronic dinosaurs wouldn’t be complete without Pterosaurs though! Jurassic Park movies always look cool with realistic animatronic Pterosaurs in the background.

Two Pterosaurs eating while standing on grass

Source by: Mark Witton

Let’s zoom in on the Pteranodon and Pterodactyl so we can get to know them better individually now that you’ve got an overview of their origins.

Pteranodon Distinguishing Characteristics

yellow-brown Pteranodon model suspended from tree branches at a park

Source by: DinoTeam

First up are large Pterosaurs called the Pteranodons. Pteranodons were winged reptiles that lived during the Mesozoic Era, specifically, the Late Cretaceous period 86-84 million years ago. They played an important part in the animal community of the Western interior seaway.

Fossil specimens of these large Pterosaurs were first discovered in 1871 by Othniel Charles Marsh at Kansas’ Smoky Hill Chalk Member. This area is well-known to include formations from the Late Cretaceous geological period.

Can you guess what details the scientists discovered about this genus? Let’s find out in the next section!

Cool Pteranodon Physical Features That Make it Different

3D art of a sitting brown Pteranodon in white background

Source by: Lutz Peter

The scientists discovered American Cretaceous Pterodactyls that are far beyond anything they expected. Specifically, they found a large Pterosaur that had an upward-projecting skull crest and a long toothless beak! These were then identified as the major distinguishing features of the Pteranodon from other Pterosaur species like the Pterodactyl.

Woah, right? Add to that its amazingly long wings that could span the horizon and its short tail. Some would even go on to say that this genus was a large tailless Pterosaur but that wouldn’t be accurate. It did have a very short tail that was only around 9.8 inches.

Plenty of articulated skeletons with nearly complete skulls from the Cretaceous periods had been found of the flying reptile since then. Young Pteranodons made up most of the fossil record. Scientists have used these to give the public a better picture of the Pteranodon.

Pteranodon Skull Features

Pteranodon longiceps skeleton suspended from a museum ceiling

Source by: Mira Mechtley

Speaking of skulls, the Pteranodon had a cranial crest which was made of skull bones that extended to the back and pointed upward. This is unlike the Pterodactyl’s crest which was made of soft tissue.

Check out these four useful trivia about the long bony crest of the Pteranodon genus:

  • The adult male of the Pteranodon sternbergi had a long slender head and a long bony crest that pointed upwards and projected-forwards
  • Pteranodon longiceps is the only known species whose males had upright or straight bony crests.
  • Adult females of the Pteranodon had small rounded head crests.
  • The Pteranodon’s long crest was mostly used for display.

Pteranodon Wings & Other Body Features

Pteranodon longiceps skeleton on display with a red wall behind it

Source by: IJReid

Did you know the Pteranodon genus are the largest known flying reptiles? The wingspan of adult females was as wide as 12 feet and male Pteranodons’ wingspans were up to 18 feet! No wonder they’re known to be one of the largest Pterosaurs known.

Here’s more. The largest known flying reptiles not only had very large crests and wings (not to mention a long toothless beak), but they also had very wide pelvic canals. This gave the female Pteranodon the space to carry her eggs.

Pterodactyl Distinguishing Characteristics

gray Pterodactyl 3D art with yellow head crest flying under the blue sky

Source by: Elenarts

Is it a bird? A dinosaur? No, it’s a flying reptile called the Pterodactylus!

The proper name for Pterodactyl is Pterodactylus. It’s a genus under the Pterosaur order and is also the first pterosaur ever to be named.

The Pterodactyl lived and flew the skies of the Mesozoic Era 150-148 million years ago during the Late Jurassic period. We see here that the Pterodactyl lived several million years earlier than the Pteranodon genus that lived during the late Cretaceous period.

A Puzzling Discovery of Pterodactyl Fossil Remains That Are Like No Other

3D art of green Pterodactyl flying near the beach

Source by: Michael Rosskothen

The fossil remains of this small Pterosaur genus that lived during the Late Jurassic period were discovered in Bavaria, Germany at the Solnhofen limestone. It was a fairly complete Pterodactyl skeleton that puzzled scientists of that day, they couldn’t make up their mind if it was an aquatic creature or a bat!

It eventually turned out that the Pterodactyl was one of a kind flying reptile and was identified as such. The discovery was also the only one species credited to Pterodactylus: Pterodactylus antiquus.

Awesome Pterodactyl Physical Features from Wings to Finger

a Pterodactyl with a fish in its mouth is flying in a sunny sky

Source by: The Guardian

The Pterodactyl soared in the Late Jurassic period winds using its wings thanks to the skin and muscle membrane that formed them. This unique feature stretched from its very long fourth finger up to its hind limbs. That’s also how it got its name which means “winged finger”.

Now we’re guessing you’re imagining how the Pterodactyl had very long bones and you’re right. They’re quite long for the few bones that they have.

But compared to other Pterosaurs, they’re small because the estimated adult wingspan of Pterodactyls is only around three and a half feet. This makes Pterodactyls small Pterosaurs.

Close-up photo of a lifelike brown animatronic Pterodactyl with trees in the background

Source by: Only Dinosaurs

Pterodactyl also had a long neck that gave it a slender appearance. And moving upward to its skull, you’ll find a low bony crest on top of its long slender head

This crest that was used for display extended backward unlike the Pteranodon which projected upward. The Pterodactylus’ crest was made of soft tissue which grew larger in size and solidity as it matured. Lastly, Pterodactyl had a longer tail compared to the Pteranodon which had a very short tail.

Summary of Differences Between Pteranodon & Pterodactyl

Infographic summarizing the differences between Pteranodon and Pterodactyl

Source by: Only Dinosaurs

Here’s a nifty infographic summarizing all you need to know about the key differences between Pteranodon and Pterodactyl.

Frequently Asked Questions About Pteranodon VS Pterodactyl

A brown Pteranodon is standing on a tree trunk

Source by: Only Dinosaurs

There’s always more to discover when it comes to prehistoric creatures. We’re shedding light on some of them by answering a few FAQs. Check them out below.

Is a Pteranodon a Pterosaur?

Yes, a Pteranodon was a Pterosaur genus under the Ornithocheiroidea clade that lived during the Late Cretaceous period. It’s often perceived as a large tailless pterosaur.

What is the Strongest Flying Dinosaur?

There is no flying dinosaur. But there were flying reptiles. And the strongest flying reptile can be the Quetzalcoatlus which can fly as fast as 67 mph.

What Evolved from Pterodactyl?

None according to the American Museum of Natural History. Pterosaurs (includes the Pterodactyl) became extinct 66 million years ago and left no surviving species.

A man is carrying a baby Pteranodon puppet on his arm

Source by: Only Dinosaurs

Now here’s where we’d like to know what you think. Which winged reptile do you think was more interesting? The Pteranodon or the Pterodactyl?

And also, which one would you choose to be your next cool dinosaur puppet? We think they’re both pretty awesome.

If you want to know more flying reptiles like these two, the blog What are the flying dinosaurs called? Top 10 Types is also a good choice.

We’re glad you came by today and had fun on this adventure with us. We hope to see you in the next blog post!

Share to:

Leave A Comment

Leave a Reply