Temporal range:
Late Cretaceous,
~88–66 Ma possible Early Cretaceous record
Skull specimen (AMNH 7515) of the pteranodontid Pteranodon longiceps
Skull cast of the nyctosaurid Nyctosaurus gracilis
Scientific classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Order: Pterosauria
Suborder: Pterodactyloidea
Clade: Pteranodontoidea
Clade: Pteranodontia
Marsh, 1887
  • Euornithocheira Unwin, 2003

Pteranodontia is an extinct group of ornithocheiroid pterodactyloid pterosaurs that lived during the Late Cretaceous period (Coniacian to Maastrichtian stages) of North America and Africa. They were some of the most advanced pterosaurs, and possessed highly specialized cranial crests that may have served as sexual attraction, with males having a much larger crest.


Pteranodontia was originally named by Marsh in 1876. In 2003, it was given a phylogenetic definition by David Unwin as the common ancestor of Pteranodon and Nyctosaurus plus all its descendants. Though Marsh had originally named this group based on the shared absence of teeth in those species, most analyses show that all of the traditional "ornithocheiroid" pterosaurs are also members of this clade.

Below is a cladogram showing the phylogenetic placement of this group from Andres and Myers (2013).


Muzquizopteryx coahuilensis

"Nyctosaurus" lamegoi

Nyctosaurus gracilis

Alamodactylus byrdi


Pteranodon longiceps

Pteranodon sternbergi


Longchengpterus zhaoi

Nurhachius ignaciobritoi

Liaoxipterus brachyognathus

Istiodactylus latidens

Istiodactylus sinensis

Lonchodectes compressirostris

Aetodactylus halli

Cearadactylus atrox

Brasileodactylus araripensis

Ludodactylus sibbicki


Liaoningopterus gui

Anhanguera araripensis

Anhanguera blittersdorffi

Anhanguera piscator

Anhanguera santanae


Tropeognathus mesembrinus

Ornithocheirus simus

Coloborhynchus clavirostris

Coloborhynchus wadleighi

In 2018, Longrich, Martill, and Andres revisited the classification and proposed a different hypothesis based on a new phylogenetic analysis. Following Marsh's original classification, they restricted Pteranodontia to the families Pteranodontidae and Nyctosauridae. They also replaced Pteranodontia with Pteranodontoidea as the more inclusive group.









Piksi barbarulna




Pteranodon sternbergi

Pteranodon longiceps

Tethydraco regalis


Alamodactylus byrdi

Volgadraco bogolubovi

Cretornis hlavaci

Alcione elainus

Simurghia robusta

Muzquizopteryx coahuilensis

Barbaridactylus grandis

Nyctosaurus lamegoi

Nyctosaurus nanus

Nyctosaurus gracilis

In 2022, Fernandes et al. described Epapatelo as a new pteranodontian from Angola. Including Epapatelo in the phylogenetic analysis of Longrich et al. (2018), they recovered a new clade, Aponyctosauria, composed of the Nyctosauridae, Alcione, Simurghia, and Epapatelo.



Pteranodon longiceps

Pteranodon sternbergi (Geosternbergia)










Nyctosaurus lamegoi

Nyctosaurus grandis (Barbaridactylus)

Nyctosaurus nanus

Nyctosaurus gracilis



Similar to other pterosaurs, pteranodontian are considered to have been skilled fliers as well as adept at moving on the ground. Evidence from footprints shows that most pterosaurs did not sprawl their limbs to a large degree, as in modern reptiles, but rather held the limbs relatively erect when walking, like dinosaurs. Footprints of pteranodontians are still unknown, but it is likely that they also walked erect. Among pterosaurs, pteranodontians had unusually uneven limb proportions, with the forelimbs much larger and longer than the hind limbs. This would likely have required them to use unique modes of locomotion when on the ground compared to other pterosaurs. Most pteranodontians like Pteranodon flew like modern day albatrosses, which consists of flying very long distances and rarely flapping, though they were thermal soarers like continental flyers rather than dynamic soarers like most seabirds.


The name "Wyomingopteryx" appears in a painting of Morrison prehistoric animals by Robert Bakker. However, this binomen is a nomen nudum, and it is possible that Bakker may have intended to coin "Wyomingopteryx" for the Istiodactylus-like specimen TATE 5999 because that specimen is found in Wyoming.

This page was last updated at 2023-11-27 14:40 UTC. Update now. View original page.

All our content comes from Wikipedia and under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License.


If mathematical, chemical, physical and other formulas are not displayed correctly on this page, please useFirefox or Safari