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How Do Pterodactyls Hunt? The Surprising Adaptations That Helped Them

Pterodactyls are known to be among the most known flying species that lived with dinosaurs during their stay here on Earth. Some people have considered pterodactyls as far from being related to dinosaurs, but other scientists believe otherwise. Regardless, their fascinating lifestyles have been known to put scientists and paleontologists in awe of their wonder. Thus, many people are interested in how these species, considered predecessors to modern-day birds, have hunted for food and how similar their habits are to other animals and dinosaur species that existed back then.


What Did Pterodactyls Hunt?

How do pterodactyls hunt? Most pterodactyls hunted while flying in the air, dipping their beaks in the shallow surfaces of rivers, seas, and coastal plains to hunt for food, such as fish, crustaceans, and worms. They also ate a wide variety of food, such as mammals and other dinosaur species.

This article talks about how the pterodactyls hunted for food and survival back when they were still ruling the high skies. I will also discuss the various types of animals they ate regularly. We will also discuss the different anatomical features that helped pterodactyls hunt successfully for prey.

The diet of pterodactyls has always fascinated paleontologists and scientists around the world. We will talk about what the fossil evidence says about how the pterodactyls eat and survive daily.

They Are Known Carnivores

The scientists believed that pterosaurs, where the pterodactyls are classified, have eaten a lot while still living on Earth. Most importantly, they were categorized as carnivores and scavengers, who fend off by eating carcasses of different animals back then.

Most paleontologists have long thought that pterosaurs were primarily piscivores. It means that they ate mostly fish. They were considered to have the same diet as the pescatarians of today. It separated them from other dinosaur species, who loved eating meat from other animals living on land.

In addition to eating fish, fossil evidence has suggested that pterosaurs are also fond of eating other animals, such as mammals, crabs, clams, and other types of shellfish, insects, terrestrial dinosaurs, eggs, avian dinosaurs, and carrions. They are not picky eaters, and they are also known to have a wildly voracious appetite.

Some evidence has also pointed out that they have also eaten their fellow pterosaurs at one point. At least one pterosaur, the Pterodaustro, was known to be a filter-feeder and used its specialized beak with teeth formed like a tooth comb to consume animals such as shellfish, plankton, and algae.

More On What The Pterodactyls Had For Meals

Even though they were mostly known as carnivores, some pterodactyls have also eaten fruits occasionally. However, they only ate fruits when there were no other animals to be eaten like prey. Fruits were seen as their last resort for them to survive.

The terrestrial pterosaurs ate whatever they could find, and they were probably fairly active hunters of smaller prey. On the other hand, pterosaurs that love thriving near water ate a wide range of marine life, including fish, crabs, squid, and other kinds of shellfish.

Scientists had also discovered that pterodactyls started eating insects back then when they were young. As adults, they have eaten much marine life, such as fish they would catch from the surface.

They did this by dipping their beaks in as they flew over. Their beaks are equipped with incredible strength that allowed them to grip their slippery prey effortlessly, then continued to eat it with much enthusiasm.

They are also huge fans of eating dead dinosaurs, carcasses, and other kinds of meat lying around them. They have also eaten avian dinosaurs, which are predecessors to modern-day birds. (Source)

An Interesting Hypothesis

In 2014, scientists discovered that among the fossil evidence present, marine pterosaurs who are younger had dominated the fossil record, which was odd.

Typically, the older family members are supposed to dominate the fossil records, but juveniles dominate the fossils discovered.

One hypothesis to explain why this happened is because juvenile pterosaurs often died due to drowning instead of being eaten as prey by bigger dinosaurs. Pterosaurs can float well, but they have poor floating skills, and their postures did not help.

Taken together, it suggests that aquatic pterosaurs do not spend much time on the water, thus would fly into the air after diving for food to avoid drowning. However, since younger pterosaurs do not have the muscles yet, they experienced more difficulties flying out of the water, thus leading to their unfortunate death.

Anatomical Features That Enabled Pterodactyls To Hunt

Since pterodactyls are known to be vicious carnivores, their bodies are equipped with body parts to hunt and catch prey effectively with some fruit diets on the side. Here are some of the anatomical features of pterodactyls that enabled them to hunt freely.

Strong Wings Capable of Flying Distances

One of the main anatomical features of pterodactyls is their strong pair of wings.

Based on the skulls of other fossils, many pterosaurs are gifted with a pair of wings they can depend on for every hunting trip. With the help of these wings, they have effectively hunted for prey, such as insects, fish, and other animals on the surface of the Earth. Their enormous wings have also given them chances to fly hundreds of miles over the open seas for extended hunting expeditions. (Source)


Beaks Used To Hunt For Prey More Effectively

Most pterodactyls have used their long and sharp beaks to probe dirt and mud, searching for prey hidden underneath. Their long beaks are filled with about 90 teeth and were very helpful for hunting fish, which have slippery skin compared to other organisms and animals.

Modern-day birds such as kiwis and sandpipers employ similar characteristics when hunting for prey, such as worms, small hard-shelled clams, and crustaceans under the shallow seas. (Source)

Leptostomia, a similar species of the pterodactyls, have used their beaks in conjunction with their wings to hunt on-air effectively. Their beaks are known to be sharp and strong, and they also can be used to protect themselves from dinosaur attacks.

The long, slender beaks that Leptostomia has have evolved in many modern birds, such as curlews, hoopoes, ibises, kiwis, and sandpipers. They might have used their long and slender beaks to look for prey along beaches and tidal flats, feeding on fiddler crabs, small clams, and bristle worms.

The article you are reading is one of the 11 Series Articles connected to the Flying Dinosaur Types – Ultimate Guide to Pterodactyls, Pterosaurs. Check out the Ultimate Guide (see description and link directly below) or other key Series Articles selected for you at the bottom of this article!

Flying Dinosaur Types – Ultimate Guide to Pterodactyls, Pterosaurs
Main Article – With Links to 11 Series Articles


❖ Read Now! Flying Dinosaur Types – Ultimate Guide to Pterodactyls, Pterosaurs

This is the main article in the series and it is packed with information all about the flying reptiles that ruled the skies during the Mesozoic Era. It covers the different types of pterosaurs, from the basal pterosaurs and later species as well. There are sections on pterodactyl anatomy, classification, and phylogeny. The master article also covers:

—Interesting facts you may not know about pterosaurs
—Tables comparing wingspan sizes of different pterosaur species
—Links to all the Series Articles (11 in total!) which give deeper information about the pterosaurs

Where Did Pterodactyls Live?

Scientists and paleontologists have long established that pterodactyls lived both on land, air, and near water. They said their habitats had influenced their diets, with marine pterodactyls eating different animals than those hunted by wings.

Most Pterodactyls Found in Mainland Europe

Many pterodactyl fossils are preserved in the region of Bavaria in Germany. It suggests that this portion was known to have pterodactyls frequent in this area.

It was said that during the Jurassic period, the region where Bavaria now stands was a swampy wetland situated at the edge of an ancient sea. The soft mud became the resting place of the organisms that fell or washed into the wetlands. Then it slowly hardened into limestone, which turned the bodies of the organisms into fossils. (Source)

Other pterodactyls were discovered to be living in places similar to the ones in Bavaria, which further solidified the fact that the pterodactyls have frequented wetlands and marshy swamps that provide them easy access to their prey.

Other Places Where The Pterodactyls Used to Live

Aside from Germany, scientists have found other places where the pterodactyls used to live. They lived in Guam, China, Japan, England, France, and Tanzania down to Africa. One thing is common in these places: these places have large bodies of water nearby that can support the pterodactyls’ hunting lifestyle for survival. (Source)

Some other pterodactyl fossils were found in some parts of America and many other places. Pterodactyl fossils are a bit rare compared to other dinosaur species because of the fragility of their bones.

However, one thing is certain: the pterodactyls lived near bodies of water, where they could have land to stand on while hunting for prey using their wings and beaks.


Pterodactyls have long fascinated scientists and paleontologists with their unique lifestyles and eating habits. They are not closely related to the dinosaurs, but they shared several characteristics with their ferocious cousins. They hunted using their wings and beak, dipping their long and toothed beaks in shallow waters to hunt for prey while using their wings to embark on longer trips in search of more prey. They are also known to be huge carcass eaters, and they would eat anything, even their fellow pterosaurs. Their habitats have played a role in their diets, which would explain their majority of food, which is fish.