Pteranodon vs. Pterodactyl

What's the Difference?

Pteranodon and Pterodactyl are both prehistoric flying reptiles that lived during the Late Cretaceous period. However, there are some key differences between the two. Pteranodon was larger, with a wingspan of up to 30 feet, making it one of the largest flying creatures of all time. On the other hand, Pterodactyl had a smaller wingspan, ranging from 3 to 6 feet. Another notable difference is their head crests. Pteranodon had a large, backward-curving crest on the back of its head, while Pterodactyl had a smaller, more upright crest. Additionally, Pteranodon had a longer, toothless beak, whereas Pterodactyl had a shorter beak with sharp teeth. Despite these differences, both creatures were remarkable flyers and played important roles in the ancient ecosystems they inhabited.


Scientific NamePteranodonPterodactylus
Time PeriodLate CretaceousLate Jurassic
WingspanUp to 30 feetUp to 18 feet
WeightUp to 50 poundsUp to 10 pounds
TeethNo teethSharp teeth
Skull CrestLarge crest on back of headSmall crest on front of head
Wing ShapeLong and narrowShort and broad
Flight AbilityStrong flyersGood gliders

Further Detail


Pteranodon and Pterodactyl are two well-known flying reptiles from the Late Cretaceous period. While they both belong to the same group, Pterosauria, they have distinct characteristics that set them apart. In this article, we will explore the attributes of these fascinating creatures and delve into their differences and similarities.

Physical Characteristics

Pteranodon, with its impressive wingspan, is one of the largest known flying reptiles. It could reach lengths of up to 6 meters, with a wingspan of around 7 meters. Its most distinctive feature is its elongated crest, which varied in size and shape among different species. This crest was likely used for display purposes or to attract mates. On the other hand, Pterodactyl, while still impressive, was generally smaller than Pteranodon. It had a wingspan of around 3 meters and a length of approximately 1 meter. Pterodactyl lacked the prominent crest seen in Pteranodon, instead having a more rounded head.

Wings and Flight

Both Pteranodon and Pterodactyl had wings composed of a thin membrane of skin, muscle, and other tissues stretched between their elongated fourth finger and their body. This adaptation allowed them to achieve powered flight, making them the first vertebrates to conquer the skies. However, there were differences in their wing structures. Pteranodon had longer wings, which enabled it to soar for extended periods and cover vast distances. Pterodactyl, with its shorter wings, was likely more maneuverable and capable of quick aerial movements.

Diet and Feeding Habits

Pteranodon and Pterodactyl had distinct dietary preferences. Pteranodon was primarily piscivorous, meaning it fed on fish. Its long, slender beak was well-suited for catching slippery prey in bodies of water. Pteranodon likely used its sharp teeth to grasp and secure fish before swallowing them whole. On the other hand, Pterodactyl had a more varied diet. It was capable of catching fish like Pteranodon, but it also consumed other small animals such as insects, crustaceans, and even small vertebrates. Pterodactyl's teeth were more numerous and pointed, suggesting it had a more diverse feeding strategy.

Habitat and Distribution

Pteranodon and Pterodactyl inhabited different regions during the Late Cretaceous period. Pteranodon fossils have been found primarily in North America, particularly in areas that were once covered by the Western Interior Seaway. This vast body of water provided an ideal habitat for Pteranodon, as it offered an abundant source of fish. Pterodactyl, on the other hand, had a more global distribution. Fossils of Pterodactyl have been discovered in Europe, Africa, and South America, indicating a wider range of habitats and adaptability to various environments.

Behavior and Social Structure

While limited information is available about the behavior and social structure of Pteranodon and Pterodactyl, some inferences can be made based on their anatomy and fossil evidence. Pteranodon likely lived in colonies, as numerous fossils have been found in close proximity to each other. This suggests that they may have nested and roosted together, possibly for protection or communal activities. Pterodactyl, on the other hand, is believed to have been more solitary, with fewer fossils found in close association. This suggests that they may have had a more independent lifestyle, although they may have still interacted during mating seasons or when resources were abundant.


Both Pteranodon and Pterodactyl, along with other pterosaurs, became extinct at the end of the Cretaceous period, around 66 million years ago. The exact cause of their extinction remains a topic of scientific debate. One prevailing theory suggests that the impact of a large asteroid or comet, which caused widespread environmental devastation, played a significant role in their demise. Other factors, such as climate change and competition with emerging bird species, may have also contributed to their extinction. Regardless of the cause, the disappearance of these magnificent creatures marked the end of an era in Earth's history.


Pteranodon and Pterodactyl, while belonging to the same group of flying reptiles, had distinct attributes that set them apart. Pteranodon's larger size, elongated crest, and piscivorous diet differentiated it from the smaller Pterodactyl, which had a more rounded head and a broader feeding range. Their wing structures, habitat preferences, and social behaviors also showcased their unique adaptations and lifestyles. Despite their eventual extinction, these remarkable creatures continue to captivate our imagination and provide valuable insights into the ancient world they once inhabited.

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