The genus Pterodactylus: how many species?

Many are the pterosaurs that have been named “Pterodactylus.” Fewer are the pterosaurs that actually nest with the holotype, Pterodactylus antiquus (n4 of Wellnhofer 1970, Fig. 1).

Click to enlarge. Pterodactylids in phylogenetic order.

Figure 1. Click to enlarge. Pterodactylids in phylogenetic order. Note the incremental size increase.

With the addition of n37 (Fig. 1, size guesstimated), I thought it would be interesting to see what the family looked like in one snapshot. How many species do you see?

The big one, Ardeodactylus, formerly Pterodactylus and formerly Diopecephalus (n58, Fig. 1), was recently renamed (Bennett 2012). The small one, Ningchegnopterus (Li 2009), was not recognized as being basal to the clade. It was considered a baby. There’s an even larger specimen known from two neck vertebrae we talked about earlier.

As always, I encourage readers to see specimens, make observations and come to your own conclusions. Test. Test. And test again.

Evidence and support in the form of nexus, pdf and jpeg files will be sent to all who request additional data.

Bennett  SC 2012.  New information on body size and cranial display structures of Pterodactylus antiquus, with a revision of the genus. Paläontologische Zeitschrift (advance online publication) doi: 10.1007/s12542-012-0159-8
Lü J 2009. A baby pterodactyloid pterosaur from the Yixian Formation of Ningcheng, Inner Mongolia, China. Acta Geologica Sinica 83 (1): 1–8.
Wellnhofer P 1970. Die Pterodactyloidea (Pterosauria) der Oberjura-Plattenkalke Süddeutschlands. Abhandlungen der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, N.F., Munich 141: 1-133.



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