Tupandactylus imperator – Big-headed Pterosaur

Another day and another Pterosaur fact sheet is being prepared by Everything Dinosaur team members.  The flying reptile in question is Tupandactylus imperator, known from the famous Crato Formation in the Araripe Basin of north-eastern Brazil.  Known from only four skulls and a fragmentary jawbone, discovered in commercial limestone quarries, this Pterosaur sported the largest crest of any known flying reptile.  The head crests of the two species so far described (T. imperator and T. navigans) may have been different shapes.  The head crest of Tupandactylus navigans was taller and more sail-like, whilst the crest of T.  imperator was more swept back and broader.  Both crests were huge, with the largest specimens of T. imperator having a head crest that makes up 5/6th the total lateral area of the skull.

Everything Dinosaur’s Illustration of Tupandactylus (T. imperator)

Tupandactylus illustration.

A scale drawing of the tapejarid Pterosaur Tupandactylus imperator.

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Closely Related to Tapejara

When described, back in 1997 (Campos and Kellner), the fossil material was assigned to the Tapejara genus, but subsequent, better preserved skull material showed enough anatomical differences to permit a new genus – Tupandactylus to be established in 2007.  The genus name means “Tupan finger”, a reference to the god of thunder of the indigenous Tupi Indians of north-eastern Brazil.  It may not be part of the Tapejara genus anymore, but it was closely related to Tapejara, although some palaeontologists, using what little stratigraphic evidence associated with the fossil material, suggest that Tupandactylus lived earlier in the Cretaceous than Tapejara (Tapejara wellnhoferi).

What did Tupandactylus Eat?

Fossils of this flying reptile are associated with a lacustrine (lake), inland environment.  A number of sources report that this Pterosaur ate fish (piscivore), although more recent research suggests that this Pterosaur may have feasted on a variety of foods and was probably omnivorous – feeding of fruit and seeds as well as small vertebrates.

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