Animal Type: Dietary Type: Size: Weight: Major Fossil Finds:
Ornithocheirus Or - NITH - oh - KEE - rus Bird-hand Pterosaur Carnivore - fish Wingspan - up to 12 metres Body - up to 3.5 metres Head - up to 1.5 metres Up to 100 Kg Europe, Brazil
132 to 100 million years ago Early Cretaceous period.
Evidence The first fossils of Ornithocheirus were found in the Wealden formation in Sussex, England in 1827. They were not formally described as Ornithocheirus until 1869. Despite the fact that only partial remains have been discovered, 36 species have been identified from the assortment of over 1000 bones. Most of these have come from the Cambridge Greensand which is an Upper Cretaceous rock unit found near Cambridge, England.
Ornithocheirus was a large pterosaur with a long slender skull and often a bony crest on its snout. At the beginning of the Cretaceous period, short-tailed pterosaurs like Ornithocheirus replaced the earlier long-tailed varieties. They also started to grow much larger.
Ornithocheirus had the wing area of a small aeroplane, yet because of its hollow bones, its body probably weighed less than a human. It had sharp teeth set in a long tapering jaw designed for catching fish.
Its wings were made of skin stretched between an enormous elongated finger and ankle, supported by the rest of its body and legs. Using rising air currents, or "thermals", Ornithocheirus may have been able to fly hundreds of kilometres without flapping its wings. This could account for the world wide distribution of its fossil remains.