Spanning more than 160 million years across the fossil record, Pterosaurs were a diverse group of flying reptiles that dominated the skies of the Mesozoic Era. Juveniles of some species were as small as a bat or a modern bird, and others, such as Quetzalcoatlus, were the size of a giraffe with a wingspan of 33ft (10m) when fully-grown. Fossil evidence shows that at least some pterosaur species grew furlike "pycnofibers," or bristles, perhaps suggesting that these creatures were warm-blooded.
Above: 2cm teeth of varying color and texture.
This specimen is an individual Pterosaur tooth. It comes from the Kem Kem beds of Morocco and is associated with Coloborhynchus, a Pterosaur from the Early Cretaceous with an estimated wingspan of 5m (15ft).
The tooth comes inside an acrylic specimen jar in one of our classic, glass-topped riker display cases. The case measures 4 1/2" x 3 1/2". A small information card is also enclosed.
Please Note: The teeth are unique in color and shape. They are roughly 2cm in length, though as you would expect the gridth of the tooth is different. All teeth will show some sign of repair as is to be expected with such a delicate specimen.
More about Pterosaurs
"One of these strange animals, whose appearance would be frightful did they occur alive at the present day, may have been of the size of a thrush."
~ Georges Cuvier Théorie de la terre / Essay on the Theory of the Earth (1821)
Broadly speaking, pterosaurs had proportionately large, elongated heads and modified hand bones that supported membranous wings attaching to the sides of their bodies and to their legs. Extensive air pockets made their large skulls lighter, and their skeletons in general - like those of birds - had hollow, thin-walled bones.
Above: Composite of pterosaur headcrests (not to scale)
Many Pterosaurs also sported elaborate head crests, which may have reached peak extravagance when pterodactyloids attained their largest size in the Late Cretaceous. Nyctosaurus, a pterodactyloid from the Niobara Formation in North America, had a fantastical skull sporting two long bony rods, which may have been connected by tissue to form a giant fan crest. Similarly, Tupandactylus imperator, found in the Crato Formation in Brazil, wielded a great sail atop its head as well as a keel-like fin on its lower jaw.
Above: Size comparison of Late Cretaceous pterosaurs and birds. Longrich, Martill, Andres (2018)
By the Late Jurassic Period, birds and pterosaurs overlapped extensively in many ecosystems. Some interpret this to suggest niche partitioning limited direct competition, while other scientists speculate that the decline of smaller pterosaurs coincided with a radiation of comparably sized birds during that interval which could indicate direct competition. This may also explain the larger body sizes seen among Pterosaurs of the Late Cretaceous, a change that may have doomed pterosaurs to extinction.
Cuvier, Georges, and Robert Jameson. Essay on the Theory of the Earth. W. Blackwood, 1827.
Unwin, David. Pterosaurs: from deep time. Dutton Adult, 2006.
Palmer, Colin. "Flight in slow motion: aerodynamics of the pterosaur wing." Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 278.1713 (2011): 1881-1885.
Veldmeijer, Andre J., Ilja Nieuwland, and Mark Witton. Pterosaurs: Flying Contemporaries of the Dinosaurs. Sidestone Press, 2012.
Witton, Mark P., and Michael B. Habib. "On the size and flight diversity of giant pterosaurs, the use of birds as pterosaur analogues and comments on pterosaur flightlessness." PloS one 5.11 (2010): e13982.
Wang, Xiaoli, et al. “New Evidence From China for the Nature of the Pterosaur Evolutionary Transition.” Scientific Reports, 7: 42763, 2017.
Claessens, Leon PAM, Patrick M. O'Connor, and David M. Unwin. "Respiratory evolution facilitated the origin of pterosaur flight and aerial gigantism." PloS one 4.2 (2009): e4497.
Prentice, Katherine C., et al. “Evolution of Morphological Disparity in Pterosaurs.” Journal of Systematic Paleontology, vol. 9, no. 3, 2011, pp. 357-353.
Benson, Roger B.J., et al. “Competition & Constraint Drove Cope’s Rule in the Evolution of Giant Flying Reptiles.” Nature Communications, 5: 3567, 2014.
Zhou, Chang-Fu, et al. “Earliest Filter-feeding Pterosaur From the Jurassic of China & Ecological Evolution of Pterodactyloidea.” Royal Society Open Science, 4: 160672, 2017.
Longrich, Nicholas R., David M. Martill, and Brian Andres. "Late Maastrichtian pterosaurs from North Africa and mass extinction of Pterosauria at the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary." PLoS biology 16.3 (2018): e2001663.
Above: Back of the Specimen Card