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Last updated date: 21st Jul 2024
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Overview of Pteranodon

Pteranodon is usually known as a flying dinosaur. It is a Greek term that refers to a toothless wing. It has several species, and these are some of the largest flying reptiles. Its height may grow around 6-7m which is 20 ft approximately. Of course, the height is less than that of the wings. It has nearly 1200 species, and it is one of the most important communities of animals. Let us explore more about Pteranodons and understand the concepts like - origin, characteristics, food habits, structure, etc. 

Evolution of Pteranodon Dinosaur

Pterosaurs are a taxonomy that has winged reptiles called pterodactyl. The classification of pterosaurs includes - Pterodactyl and Pteranodon. One of the palaeontologists at Queen Mary University of London, whose name is David Hone, found nearly 130 species of pterosaurs genera. Pteranodon is not a dinosaur. Because the dinosaur species have different groups. Every kind of dinosaur must belong to one of these two groups. The genera of Dinosauria consists of Saurischian or Ornithischian as the two groups of dinosaurs. Pteranodon dinosaur is just a name given by having the similarities in their structures. According to the study in 2000, it is clear that the Pteranodons were Othniel C. Marsh in 1876.

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Existence of Pteranodon 

They lived from the late Triassic Period to the late Cretaceous geological period of North America. But later, we can find them in  Kansas, Alabama, Nebraska, Wyoming, and South Dakota, etc. David also occupied across the globe from China to Germany and then to America etc. Due to drastic changes in the environment, the species also spread worldwide and can be found in various regions.

Structure of Pteranodons

As we know that these are some of the largest flying reptiles, pteranodons' structure was much bigger compared to other reptiles. The length of its wingspan is more than that of its height. The wingspan is nearly similar to the length of a school bus. Even though the Pteranodons have wings, they don't have feathers. Instead, they have a basal type of integument in the place of feathers. These integuments are known as pycnofibers. These fibers are made up of keratin and appear like hair. The wingspan of male pteranodons is about 5 m. On the other hand, the wingspan of female pteranodons is around 3 m. Usually, the Wing Length is 20 ft (6 meters), and the Weight is 20 – 93 kg (44 - 205 lbs).

They also have crests made up of both flesh and bones. The primary cranial crests have skull bones in both upward and backward directions. The shape of these crests may vary from one to another depending on size, gender, etc. For instance, the male pteranodons have vertical crests, whereas the females have narrow crests. The Pteranodons have toothless beaks which end with sharp points. They also have one upper jaw and one lower jaw. The length of the upper jaw is longer than that of the lower jaw. Also, the upper jaw is in a curved shape in the upward direction. 

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What Do Pteranodons Eat?

Are they herbivorous or carnivorous or omnivorous? The Pteranodons are carnivorous. They eat different kinds of small fishes, dead Marine animals, scavengers, etc. The collecting food and eating methodology did not have a clear idea as of now. Because several scientists gave various assumptions and suggestions, some felt that they flew under the seat and grabbed the fish with its beak. Another exemption was that they could fly to the high and observe the food like fish or scales or any other bones etc., with their head and shoulders. Similarly, two more exemptions were there to fly on the land and catch the food, etc.

Reproduction in Pteranodons

The life of pteranodons starts from eggs. They undergo sexual reproduction but have four different variations. The first variation is cloned pteranodons which have a hooked beak in the neck posture. They appear in black, and their neck parts will be dark brown. They do not undergo sexual dimorphism because they don't want to recreate male pteranodons. So they completely removed that dimorphism, and they only wanted to create females. They are bipedal gaits.

The next variation has quadrupedal gaits. They have more strength when compared to the cloned pteranodons. They have a tooth lining on their beak, which is also brown. Their reproductive system is similar to the birds, which prey on eggs. These pteranodons can lay six eggs at once, and they can start flying from the early stage itself. But these young pteranodons depend on any adult to get food. The length of this pteranodon's wingspan is around 32 feet.

Pteranodon Sternberg is the name of the third variation. They have a lot of similarities with the first variation. They have hooked beaks, pycnofibres, etc. It is a recent discovery of the scientist. Even though the first and the third variations have several similarities, the reproductive process may differ slightly.

In this fourth variation, the male pteranodons do not have teeth, whereas the female pteranodons do not have crests. The head of these pteranodons is in dark red and blue, whereas their body is in gray. These pteranodons can dive and swim under the sea. They use their feet to catch objects and food. The structure and characteristics were similar to that of modern sea birds. 


The Pteranodons beach house things can fly higher than that of albatross because they have a higher aspect ratio which can be measured using wingspan and chord length than that of the albatross. The aspect ratio of albatross is the 80s to one, and the aspect ratio of pteranodons is 9:1. Long stretches and dynamic soaring were the methods used by albatrosses to travel long distances. They do not flap while traveling.


Usually, the pteranodons can be found in the regions where Smokey deposits and spring deposits were there. Usually, scientists found these species in the central and North parts of the United States in the 1870s.

Classification of Pteranodons

The pteranodon belonged to the Kingdom Animalia (animals) kingdom. Their Phylum is Chordata (chordates), and Subphylum is Vertebrata (vertebrates). The Superclass of  Pteranodons is Tetrapoda, which has four legs. Pteranodons belong to the Class Reptilia (reptiles) or Class Diapsids, which have all the reptiles and birds except turtles. They are distinguished by their structure. They have two holes in the rear upper part of their skulls and behind the eyes.

Coming to the Subclass of pteranodons, Archosauria is a group that includes dinosaurs, crocodilians, pterosaurs, birds, etc. The flying reptiles come under the Order of Pterosauria and Suborder of Pterodactyloidea with wing fingers. They belong to the Plethodontidae family and have species called pteranodons longiceps. Most importantly, the Pteranodon dinosaur is just speculation, it is not a dinosaur. 

Pteranodon vs Pterodactyl

Let's see the similarities and dissimilarities between pteranodons and pterodactyls elaborately.

  • Both the pteranodons and pterodactyls have feathers. Apart from two-legged carnivorous dinosaurs of pterosaurs, the Pteranodons and Pterodactyls do not have feathers even though they belong to the reptile family.

  • Compared to pteranodons, the pterodactyls were discovered first at the beginning of the 18th century in Germany. After a few years, the pteranodons were found in Kansas.

  • The wingspan of pteranodons is higher than that of pterodactyls. Because these are the largest wingspan species among all the flying birds. The Pteranodons have an almost 30 ft wingspan which the pterodactyls don't have. 

  • Both Pteranodons and Pterodactyls have a large number of species on various parts of the Earth. There is no comparison at all in the species count because both exist in almost the same and huge numbers.

  • Besides the several distinct features of pteranodons, the skull crust is another add-on. It has a unique structure. Many people don't have a clear-cut idea about how it's functioning till now. It is pointing in a backward direction, and they use this crust as mid-flight. Also, they can have the ability to maintain sexually selected characteristics. This cannot be found in pterodactyls.

  • Another difference is pterodactyls have teeth, whereas the Pteranodons have toothless wings. This difference may distinguish their food habits and feeding strategies. Hence the diet also varies.

  • The male Pteranodons were bigger than females in size. But in pterodactyls, both males and females have the same size and features. Also, they don't have sexually selected characteristics.

  • Both the pteranodons and the pterodactyls are four-legged reptiles and can walk on their four legs. There is no difference in this point of view.

These are the various characteristics possessed by both pteranodons and pterodactyls. This gives a clear idea about the concept of Pteranodon vs Pterodactyl.

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Hence the Pteranodons are one of the largest reptiles, and they don't belong to dinosaurs. But all these are contemporary, which makes most of them feel like the Pteranodons are dinosaurs. They have several distinct characteristics, and their feeding strategies, functioning have remained a puzzle to scientists till now. There is a lot to know about these pteranodons and cannot fit into a single article.

FAQs on Pteranodon

1. Does a Pteranodon Have Teeth?

Ans: The word pteranodon itself means toothless wings. Hence they don't have teeth. These are the largest flying birds and depend on fishes, scales, dead Marine bodies to feed themselves. Its structure explains that - it has a long pointed beak, short detail, big-sized wings, furry body, long crest, and short fingers. Even though the pteranodons don't have teeth, they can catch fishes using their feet. The wings are around 20 to 30 ft in length which helps them to fly higher, and it uses its head and shoulders to observe the food. By observing the structure of pteranodons in detail, one can get more knowledge.

2. Could a Pteranodon Carry a Human?

Ans: Probably they cannot carry a human being. Though they are larger and have the biggest winged span, their weight is approximately 180 to 250 kgs. It is quite easy to carry a human. But most of its weight and strength are its wings. These large wings help to dive or glide. The pteranodons need to flap their wings to reach higher. If they carry a human being and keep it on the neck part or in between the wings, they cannot slap their wings easily and cannot glide to higher. So it doesn't give a free and safe ride. So they don't prefer to carry human beings, and it is not their food. It doesn't have any valid proof.

3. Is a Pteranodon a Dinosaur?

Ans: It was a pterosaur. It belongs to a reptile family in the animal kingdom. It is not a dinosaur. But it is a close relative to dinosaurs and contemporary to it. The structure has several similarities but entirely totally not the same. Pteranodons have toothless wings which have a long beak, short tail, and short fingers. They have furry bodies and don't have feathers. They have several distinct features and unique feeding strategies, and the functioning of organs. There are almost 1200 species on the earth. Usually, they are found in the Northern and Central parts of the United States. Smoky areas and spring deposit areas. All these characteristics may distinguish these pteranodons from dinosaurs.

4. Is a Pteranodon a Carnivore?

Ans: Yes. Pteranodons are carnivores that eat fish, dead Marine bodies, scales, etc. By observing their reproductive system, some species lay eggs approximately 6 in number. Even though the young pteranodons can fly at their early age, they depend on the adult one for their food. So the adult can feed its young ones with raw meat, fish meat, prime meat, cooked prime fish meat, Kibbles, mutton, lamb chops, bones, etc. 

But the feeding strategy became a mystery to all the scientists. So even though there is no clarity on their eating strategy, several exemptions were made that they can cash food through their feet, they can cut the fish with its beak, and find food through their shoulders and head.