Dimorphodon macronyx

The first fossil of Dimorphodon was discovered in 1828 by Mary Anning (1799–1847).

It was the first UK pterosaur to be scientifically described, and only the third in the whole world.

It had a large head and pointed teeth which were longer at the front of the jaws, hence its name - Dimorphodon, meaning ‘two-form tooth’.

The species name macronyx refers to the large claws on the forelimbs. The long stiff tail may have been involved in flight stability. The wingspan was approximately 1.4 metres.

The Natural History Museum collection includes three skeletons. The headless one found by Mary Anning in 1828 was described by William Buckland, a geologist at Oxford University, as Pterodactylus macronyx in 1829.

Later finds showed that the skull was very different to Pterodactylus, so Richard Owen, who later became the director of the Museum, changed the name to Dimorphodon in 1858.

Other specimens at the Museum include isolated lower jaws, a half-metre long tail and other parts of the skeleton.

Very few specimens exist outside the Natural History Museum.

Species detail

  • Church Cliffs at Lyme Regis
    Distribution

    The pterosaurs probably lived inland, but ventured out over the sea to catch fish. Find out more.

  • Dimorphodon in flight
    Biology

    Other pterosaur fossils have helped scientists build a picture of Dimorphodon’s life history. Find out what we know.

  • Skeleton of Dimorphodon walking on all fours.
    Behaviour

    Fossil footprints tell us that pterosaurs walked on all fours. What else do we know about their behaviour?

  • Fossil skull and lower jaw of Dimorphodon
    References

    More sources of information on Dimorphodon macronyx.

Images

An artist's restoration of Dimorphodon

An artist's restoration of Dimorphodon 

© John Sibbick
Artist's impression of Dimorphodon in flight

Artist's impression of Dimorphodon in flight

© Dmitry Bogdanov
A well-preserved skull of Dimorphodon

A well-preserved skull of Dimorphodon

Fossil skull and lower jaw of Dimorphodon

The fossil skull and lower jaw belonging to Dimorphodon macronyx.

© Natural History Museum
Dimorphodon walking as a quadraped

Restoration of Dimorphodon walking as a quadraped, from Dragons of the Air 1901 United States, pre-1923.

Dimorphodon in flight

Detailed artists's depiction of Dimorphodon in flight

An artist's restoration of Dimorphodon

An artist's restoration of Dimorphodon

© Luis Rey
Large head and long wing bones of Dimorphodon

This almost-complete skeleton shows the large head and the long wing bones.

© Natural History Museum
Church Cliffs at Lyme Regis

Church Cliffs at Lyme Regis, where Mary Anning collected fossils. 

© Martin Munt, NHM Palaeo
Drawing of Dimorphodon macronyx walking

Drawing of Dimorphodon macronyx walking

© John Sibbick
Drawing of Dimorphodon macronyx

Drawing of Dimorphodon macronyx

© John Sibbick
Dimorphodon macronyx in flight

Drawing of Dimorphodon macronyx in flight

© John Sibbick
West of Lyme Regis, Dorset Coast

Early Jurassic cliffs, West of Lyme Regis, Dorset Coast

© Susanne Feist-Burkhardt
Fossilised skeleton of Dimorphodon macronyx

Fossilised skeleton of Dimorphodon macronyx, collected by Mary Anning in Dorset.

© Natural History Museum

About the author

Lorna Steel
Dr Lorna Steel

Curator, Palaeontology Vertebrates Curation Group.

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