Skip to content

German Quarry Yields 145 Million-Year-Old ‘Elvis’ Pterosaur With Unique Bony Head Crest

Exquisitely preserved fossil of nearly complete flying reptile sheds light on Late Jurassic pterosaurs

A 145 million-year-old pterosaur dubbed “Elvis” because of its quiff-like bony head crest has been discovered in a German quarry.

The flying reptile, which wasn’t fully grown but had a two-meter wingspan, was nearly complete and exquisitely preserved in the rock.

In life, it would have waded the shore of shallow seas but might have ventured into estuaries or to lakes.

Its long jaw with many small teeth would have been good for grabbing at small fish, shrimp and other aquatic prey.

It has the biggest crest for its sub-group and is one of the largest pterosaurs from the late Jurassic period.

Unlike most other ctenochasmatids, the pterosaur group it belongs to, it had an expansion at the back of the skull to attach large jaw muscles and give it a stronger bite than many of its contemporaries.

A team of British, American and German scientists have been analyzing the fossil since it was dug up in Bavaria.

Photograph of the whole specimen of Petrodacyle. The flying reptile, which wasn’t fully grown but had a two-meter wingspan, was nearly complete and exquisitely preserved in the rock. PHOTO BY RENE LAUER/SWNS 

They have officially named it Petrodactyle wellnhoferi which translates as ‘Wellnhofer’s stone-finger’ honouring legendary German palaeontologist Peter Wellnhofer who spent his career working on German pterosaurs.

Study co-author Bruce Lauer, of the Lauer Foundation, said: “The animal was nicknamed ‘Elvis’ when the fossil was first unearthed in Bavaria, Germany because of the giant pompadour-like bony crest on its skull.

“Petrodactyle is a member of a group of pterosaurs called the ctenochasmatids that were mostly small filter feeders.

“The specimen was located in a quarry that is producing scientifically important fossils that provide additional insights into Late Jurassic Pterosaurs.

“Petrodactyle is a very complete skeleton with nearly every bone preserved and in remarkable detail.”

It is thought that pterosaurs used their bony crests primarily as sexual signals to other members of the species, but Pterodactyle has by far the largest crest even seen in a ctenochasmatid.

Study lead author Dr. David Hone, of Queen Mary University, London, said: “Big though this crest is, we know that these pterosaurs had skin-like extensions attached to it, so in life Petrodactyle would have had an even larger crest.

“Petrodactyle was unusually large too. It has a wingspan of around two metres, but it was still an older ‘teenager’ by pterosaur standards and would have been even larger as a fully mature animal.

“Even so, it is one of the largest pterosaurs known from the Late Jurassic period.”

Dr Frederik Spindler of the Dinosaurier Museum in Germany, an author on the study said, “It is amazing to document an increasingly wide range of adaptations.

“Pterosaurs were a fundamental part of the Jurassic ecology”.

Produced in association with SWNS Talker

Edited by and

“What’s the latest with Florida Man?”

Get news, handpicked just for you, in your box.

Check out our free email newsletters

Recommended from our partners