pterodactyl

pterodactyl
pterodactylic, pterodactylous, adj.pterodactylid, adj., n.pterodactyloid, adj.
/ter'euh dak"til/, n.
any of a number of genera of flying reptiles of the extinct order Pterosauria, from the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, having a highly reduced tail and teeth and a birdlike beak.
[1820-30; < NL Pterodactylus genus name, equiv. to Gk pteró(n) wing + -daktylos -DACTYLOUS]

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Any member of the pterosaur suborder Pterodactyloidea, known from Late Jurassic and Cretaceous fossils (159–65 million years ago) in eastern Africa and Europe.

Members of the typical genus, Pterodactylus, ranged from the size of a sparrow to that of an albatross. Pterodactyls had slender, delicate teeth that were angled forward (possibly for use as straining devices), long metacarpal bones, and a short tail. They were probably able gliders but not efficient as active fliers, and they apparently lacked feathers. Unlike the archaeopteryx, the pterodactyl was not an ancestor of the birds.

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▪ fossil reptile
      informal term for a subgroup of flying reptiles (Pterosauria (pterosaur)) known from the Late Jurassic (Jurassic Period) through Late Cretaceous periods (Cretaceous Period) (145 million to 65 million years ago).

      Pterodactyls, or, more correctly, pterodactyloids, are distinguished from basal pterosaurs by their reduced teeth, tail, and fifth toe. Pterodactyloid metacarpals (metacarpal) (palm bones) were more elongated than those of earlier pterosaurs, which instead had elongated phalanges (finger bones). There are also proportional differences in the skull, neck, pelvis, and wing bones. Pterodactyloid genera include Pterodactylus, a Late Jurassic form from Germany with a wingspan ranging from 50 cm (20 inches) to well over 1 metre (3.3 feet). It is likely that all fossils of Pterodactylus represent different stages of growth within a single species. Pteranodon, a Late Cretaceous form found in North America, had a long cranial crest and a wingspan exceeding 7 metres. Other crested genera are found in Late Cretaceous deposits of Brazil and include Tupuxuara, Anhanguera, and Santanadactylus; Dsungaripterus and several other crested forms have been discovered in China. A group of Late Cretaceous pterodactyloids called azhdarchids includes Montanazhdarcho and Quetzalcoatlus from North America, Europe, and Africa. The wingspan of these reptiles ranged from 2 to 11 metres, which makes them the largest-known flying animals.

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Universalium. 2010.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Pterodactyl — Pter o*dac tyl, n. [Gr. ? a wing + ? finger, toe: cf. F. pt[ e]rodactyle.] (Paleon.) An extinct flying reptile; one of the Pterosauria. See Illustration in Appendix. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • pterodactyl — 1830, from Fr. ptérodactyle (1821), from the Modern Latin genus name, from Gk. pteron wing (from PIE root *pet fly; see PETITION (Cf. petition)) + daktylos finger (see DACTYL (Cf. dactyl)) …   Etymology dictionary

  • pterodactyl — ► NOUN ▪ a pterosaur of the late Jurassic period, with a long slender head and neck. ORIGIN from Greek pteron wing + daktulos finger …   English terms dictionary

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