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Any member of the pterosaur suborder Pterodactyloidea, known from Late Jurassic and Cretaceous fossils (159–65 million years ago) in eastern Africa and Europe. Members of the typical genus, Pterodactylus, ranged from the size of a sparrow to that of an albatross. Pterodactyls had slender, delicate teeth that were angled forward (possibly for use as straining devices), long metacarpal bones, and a short tail. They were probably able gliders but not efficient as active fliers, and they apparently lacked feathers. Unlike the archaeopteryx, the pterodactyl was not an ancestor of the birds.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on pterodactyl, visit Britannica.com.