Istiodactylidae is a small family of pterosaurs. This family was named in 2001 after the type genus Istiodactylus was discovered not to be a member of the genus Ornithodesmus.

Temporal range: Early Cretaceous, 125–120 Ma
Possible Middle Jurassic record
Istiodactylus scavenging.tif
Life restoration of Istiodactylus latidens feeding on a stegosaur corpse.
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Order: Pterosauria
Suborder: Pterodactyloidea
Clade: Lanceodontia
Family: Istiodactylidae
Howse, Milner & Martill, 2001
Type species
Ornithodesmus latidens
Hooley, 1913
Istiodactylid skulls: A) Istiodactylus latidens (NHMUK R3877) (B) Istiodactylus sinensis (NGMC 99-07-11) and (C) Nurhachius ignaciobritoi (IVPP V-13288)

Remains of taxa that can be confidently assigned to Istiodactylidae have been found in the UK and China, in rocks dating from the Early Cretaceous period (Barremian to Aptian stage).[1] Arbour and Currie (2011) described Canadian Gwawinapterus beardi as a member of Istiodactylidae living in the late Cretaceous (upper Campanian stage);[2] however, Witton (2012) suggested the tooth replacement pattern in this animal does not match that of pterosaurs, suggesting that the species might be non-pterosaurian.[1] Additional research suggested that the species was in fact a fish.[3] The earliest known species might be Archaeoistiodactylus linglongtaensis, from the Middle Jurassic of China;[4] however, it also has been suggested that the holotype specimen of this species might actually be a poorly preserved specimen of Darwinopterus.[5] Hongshanopterus, a supposed istiodactylid from China, has been reclassified as a non-istiodactylid member of Ornithocheiroidea of uncertain phylogenetic placement by Witton (2012).[1]

Istiodactylids were medium-sized pterosaurs with flat, rounded jaws similar to that of a duck. They had small teeth lining their jaws, however.


Unlike most ornithocheiroids, istiodactylids bear physiologies suited to a terrestrial life and many of their fossils have been found in freshwater-deposits. Istiodactylids are considered to be pterosaurian equivalents to vultures: acting as the clean-up crew in their native locations. Whether or not istiodactylids could swim like most water-loving pterosaurs remains a mystery.


  1. ^ a b c Mark P. Witton (2012). "New Insights into the Skull of Istiodactylus latidens (Ornithocheiroidea, Pterodactyloidea)". PLoS ONE. 7 (3): e33170. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0033170. PMC 3310040. PMID 22470442.
  2. ^ Arbour V.M., Currie P.J. (2011). "An istiodactylid pterosaur from the Upper Cretaceous Nanaimo Group, Hornby Island, British Columbia, Canada". Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences. 48 (1): 63–69. doi:10.1139/E10-083.
  3. ^ Vullo R., Buffetaut E., Everhart M.J. (2012). "Reappraisal of Gwawinapterus beardi from the Late Cretaceous of Canada: a saurodontid fish, not a pterosaur". Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. 32 (5): 1198–1201. doi:10.1080/02724634.2012.681078.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ Lü J., Fucha X. (2010). "A new pterosaur (Pterosauria) from Middle Jurassic Tiaojishan Formation of western Liaoning, China". Global Geology. Z1: 113–118.
  5. ^ David M. Martill & Steve Etches (2012). "A new monofenestratan pterosaur from the Kimmeridge Clay Formation (Upper Jurassic, Kimmeridgian) of Dorset, England". Acta Palaeontologica Polonica. in press. doi:10.4202/app.2011.0071.