Thursday, 28 November 2013


The name Ornithocheirus ("Bird hand") was coined by paleontologist Harry G. Seeley in 1869 to describe a number of pterosaurs fragmentary bones found in the Early Cretaceous Cambridge Greensand, England. He placed the different pieces up to 28 species of Ornithocheirus. Since then, the genus has become a terrible wastebasket taxon with over 40 species described from fragmentary fossils from the Early Cretaceous of Europe (England, France, Czech Republic) and South America (Brazil).

To add to the confusion, several species were transfered to a number of different genera including Criorhynchus, Coloborhynchus, Lonchodectes, Anhanghera and Tropeognathus. At the end, it is possible that none of the numerous species of Ornithocheirus is valid. A generic portrait of Ornithocheirus described it as a medium to large size pterosaur with a wingspan of 4 to meters. characterized by a long narrow and toothed jaws with a crest on top of the anterior portion of the snout.

Ornithocheirus simus, mesembrinus
simus (Seeley, 1869)
mesembrinus (Wellnhofer, 1987)
Meaning of generic name
Bird Hand
Wingspan: 2.5 m
Several jaw fragments, fragmentary skeletons and isolated bones and teeth.
Age and Distribution
Upper Cretaceous Greensand Formation (Cenomanian), Cambridge, England.

Upper Cretaceous Santana Formation (Cenomanian), Brazil.
Pterosauria Pterodactyloidea Ornithocheiridae
Further Reading
Unwin, David M. (2006). The Pterosaurs: From Deep Time. New York: Pi Press. pp. 246.
Image by Nobu Tamura (click to enlarge):
Ornithocheirus simus:

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