Any time we hear the words "Pterosaur" or "Pterodactyl", the one that we'd be most synonymous with is the genus Pteranodon.

But in recent years, I've been growing fond of that most spectacular of pterosaur families, the Azhdharchids, a family that makes up the largest of the pterosaurs. What makes them stand out is not only their size, but that they were terrestrial hunters, meaning that they had no interest in seafood like the Pteranodontids.

So what would Pteranodon look like if it were an azhdharchid instead of a pteranodontid?


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  • $\begingroup$ It would look like an angry flying giraffe what else! $\endgroup$ – user6760 Sep 20 '15 at 3:31
  • $\begingroup$ More like a flying camel. Pteronodons were smaller :d $\endgroup$ – Youstay Igo Sep 20 '15 at 4:03

OK, I think this site is getting a generous assortment of tags which have hardly anything to do with world building. Ahem anyhow.

So. The first major difference immediately noticeable between a pteranodon and say, a quetzelcoatlus or arambourgiania is the head crest. Neither of the two giants has a prominent head crest! Now it would be out of scope of this site's discussion to start arguing why/how the azhdarchids lost the head crests which is the most prominent feature of many Pterodactyloidea genera, but it is safe to assume that if pteranodon was fully terrestrial like the azhs, it would probably also have lost it's head crest.

The next difference (if you look carefully at their shoulder and hand morphology) is their standing posture. The azhdarchids have a shoulder morphology more suited for long term standing on the ground. These monsters spent a large portion of their times on carcasses and were not as active fliers as pteranodons. Azhs stood with their elbow joints somewhat splayed out which resulted in spreading their weight outwards and not directly on their elbows. Pteranodons standing posture was more compact.

Also, while both these types of pterodactyloids had truly long jaws (beaks?) azhdarchid beaks were more sturdy and thicker than those of pteranodon. That is probably due to the fact that while pteranodon only had to grip fish and gulp it down, the bigger babies had to deal with dinosaur flesh which is much harder to pull apart than fish flesh. You could say that while a pteranodon's jaws were for catching and holding fish, azhs' jaws were suitable for poking and hitting down on flesh (like a woodpecker's beak, only 100 times bigger).

Plus, some scientists have postulated that the azhs had lost their ability to fly. Although there is no consensus on the matter but the theory exists with many believers in the scientific community.

And, do not take azhdarchid's lifestyle as hunters for granted. A lot of researchers think they were rather scavengers than hunters. How exactly do you bring down ... say ... an ankylosaurus or iguanodon with a body shape that of a giant pterosaur? And even if you did, would the raptors or a roaming T-Rex really let you eat your kill undisturbed?

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    $\begingroup$ Creatures are specifically mentioned as being on-topic. So what's your problem with this question's tag? $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Sep 20 '15 at 3:50
  • $\begingroup$ The question is not about building a pterosaur with xyz qualities or abilities, but rather what if x pterosaur was having a different lifestyle, which is more of a question of paleontology than world building. $\endgroup$ – Youstay Igo Sep 20 '15 at 3:54
  • $\begingroup$ Then vote to close it as off-topic, instead of providing an answer. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Sep 20 '15 at 3:56
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think simply hammering a question down would be a good thing. Members ask questions with hopes that somebody would provide an answer. Simply closing down the question wouldn't be a productive activity. Whenever I feel a question is answerable, but not directly on topic, I try to answer it and notify the OP that the question is not fully on topic, so they understand. $\endgroup$ – Youstay Igo Sep 20 '15 at 4:01
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    $\begingroup$ YoustayIgo - It's important to close questions that are off-topic so the site doesn't get more off-topic questions. As another way of looking at it, would you let questions about programming stay open on, say, English Language and Usage, just so they could be answered? No. Besides, as @Frostfyre said, this kind of thing is still on-topic here. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Sep 20 '15 at 13:11

If you are just looking to reduce the size, look to the Herons and Cranes for a current analog. They are in the size range you want, and utilize the long snakelike neck to facilitate their hunting styles. Although usually found hunting shallow marshes and lake edges, I have observed both Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets in Nevada taking lizards from sagebrush areas near marshes, so more terrestrial adaptation may be possible, given the lack of some of the more agile predators which would probably out-compete them.

  • $\begingroup$ I'm not sure about size as much as appearances. If Pteranodon was an azhdharchid, would it still bear that distinctive crest? $\endgroup$ – JohnWDailey Sep 20 '15 at 19:29

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