Scientists Scratch the Surface of Pterosaur Diets

SCIENCE

Microscopic scratches on fossil teeth are forcing paleontologists to rethink diets of pterosaurs. (Nature)

Use our fun activity to build your own pterosaur. (Yes, our lovely Dimorphodon illustration is out-of-date. Use the one below.)

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers Toolkit.

Dimorphodon probably wasn’t a good flyer and didn’t eat a lot of fish. Instead, this pterosaur consumed mostly carrion and small reptiles (like this lizard).
Illustration by Mark P. Witton, courtesy Wikimedia. CC-BY-4.0

Discussion Ideas

 

  • What do scientists think pterosaurs ate?
    • A lot. Pterosaurs were mostly carnivores and scavengers, and had appropriately varied diets.
    • Paleontologists long thought pterosaurs were primarily piscivores—meaning, they mostly ate fish. In addition to fish, evidence suggests pterosaurs also ate:
      • insects
      • crabs, clams, and other shellfish
      • mammals
      • eggs
      • terrestrial dinosaurs (reptiles)
      • other pterosaurs
      • avian dinosaurs (birds)
      • carrion
      • Not a part of the study, but at least one pterosaur, Pterodaustro, was probably a filter-feeder that used its specialized “tooth comb” to consume shellfish, plankton, and algae.

 

 

TEACHERS TOOLKIT

Nature: Tooth scratches reveal new clues to pterosaur diets

Nat Geo: Build a Pterosaur

Nat Geo: Flapling Fossil

Slate: Pterosaurs Were Even More Awesome Than Dinosaurs

Mark Witton: Pterosaurs

Wikipedia good article: Pterosaur

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