pteranodon longiceps

Sternberg the Pteranodon

Name: Sternberg

Species: Pteranodon longiceps*

Description: Pteranodon is the archetypal pterosaur in the public eye. With a maximum wingspan of over 6 meters, it’s also a fairly big one. It’s instantly recognizable due to the large head crest on its head and its long toothless beak, both potential display features. Males are larger and have a larger head crest than females. Pteranodon spent much of its time at sea diving for fish, and on land likely lived in large rookeries dominated by highly competitive males.

Location: Pteranodon lives with our other sea-pterosaur, Anhanguera, in the Pterosaur Tides aviary right outside the Aquarium.

Fun Fact: The Pteranodon group is known for projectile vomiting on keepers. Sternberg does it the most.

Personality & History: Pteranodon was among the earlier animals to be greenlighted. The Pteranodon chicks were initially raised behind-the-scenes, and when their wingspan began to exceed 2.5 meters they were introduced into the larger Pterosaur Tides exhibit. Of our Pteranodon trio, Sternberg is the biggest, with a wingspan of about 5.2 meters (17 feet). He’s also slightly younger than the rest, being born from a different clutch.

Sternberg finds it his duty to be on top. He’s claimed the highest rocks for himself and the other Pteranodon, and he often spends time sitting on top of it, triumphantly pointing his beak into the air, red throat in plain sight. At times, he will stand up on hindlimbs for a bit, proudly displaying the underside of his massive wings. We believe this to be another display of dominance. He will not tolerate anyone else on the rock, be they Anhanguera or people. If someone were to get to close, he’ll stamp the ground and groan at them. Most quickly understand it’s better to back down - except inexperienced keepers. We’ve had a number of staff not follow the warning and get a face full of half-digested fish.

One thing he does love is food. When we release fish into the water, he often plunges straight from the top of the rock into the water to grab them (don’t worry, the water is deep). This comes in contrast to the females, who prefer to dip in from a floating position on top of the water. They tend to grab fish quicker and easier than him. We don’t know why he doesn’t also dive from the water surface- maybe he doesn’t think it’s cool enough.

Check out Pteranodon longiceps on this #FossilFriday.
Pterosaur bones were thin and fragile, much like bird bones, and they often drifted apart, shattered, or became scrambled before they could be preserved. As a result, Pterosaur fossils are very rare.
Pteranodon was one of the largest species of pterosaurs, and had a wingspan of up to 20 feet (6 meters). This 85 million-year-old fossil was found in the Niobara Formation in Kansas. Here we see Pteranodon’s head, toothless jaws, and the beginning of of its long, backward-pointing crest (missing) in the upper left corner.

Learn more in Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs. 

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