Fossil range: Middle JurassicLate Cretaceous
Conservation status
Extinct (fossil)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Sauropsida
(unranked) Archosauria
Order: Pterosauria
Suborder: Pterodactyloidea
Plieninger, 1901

Pterodactyloidea (derived from the Greek words πτερόν (pterón, for usual ptéryx) "wing", and δάκτυλος (dáctylos) "finger" meaning "winged finger", "wing-finger" or "finger-wing") forms one of the two suborders of pterosaurs ("wing lizards"), and contains the most advanced members of this group of flying reptiles. They appeared during the middle Jurassic Period, and differ from the basal rhamphorhynchoidea by their short tails and long wing metacarpals (hand bones). The most advanced forms also lack teeth. Many species had well developed crests on the skull, a form of display taken to extremes in giant-crested forms like Nyctosaurus and Tapejara. Pterodactyloids (specifically the family Azhdarchidae) were the last surviving pterosaurs when the order became extinct at the end of the Cretaceous Period, together with the dinosaurs and most marine reptiles.

"Pterodactyl" is also a common term for pterodactyloid pterosaurs, though it can also be used to refer to pterosaurs in general or to Pterodactylus specifically. Well-known examples of pterodactyloids include Pterodactylus, Dsungaripterus, Pteranodon, and Quetzalcoatlus.



Listing of families and superfamilies within the suborder Pterodactyloidea, after Unwin 2006.


Cladogram after Unwin (2003). For alternate cladograms, see List of pterosaur classifications.

    |       |-?Boreopterus 
    |       |--Istiodactylidae
    |       `--Euornithocheira
    |            |--Ornithocheiridae
    |            |    |--Ornithocheirinae
    |            |    `--Anhanguerinae
    |            `--Pteranodontia
    |                 `--Pteranodontidae
    |                       |--Nyctosaurus
    |                       `--Pteranodontinae
          |     |-?Feilongus 
          |     |--Gallodactylidae
          |     `--Euctenochasmia
          |          |--Pterodactylus
          |          |--Lonchodectes
          |          `--Ctenochasmatidae
          |               |--Gnathosaurinae
          |               `--Ctenochasmatinae
          |     |-?Herbstosaurus 
          |     |-?Kepodactylus 
          |     |-?Puntanipterus 
          |     |--Germanodactylidae
          |     `--Dsungaripteridae


  • Unwin, D. M., (2003). "On the phylogeny and evolutionary history of pterosaurs." pp. 139-190. In Buffetaut, E. & Mazin, J.-M., eds. Evolution and Palaeobiology of Pterosaurs. London: Geological Society of London, Special Publications 217, 2003, pp. 139-190.
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