Eudimorphodon

eudimorphodon
Eudimorphodon (Wikimedia Commons).

Name:

Eudimorphodon (Greek for "true dimorphic tooth"); pronounced YOU-die-MORE-fo-don

Habitat:

Shores of Western Europe

Historical Period:

Late Triassic (210 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

Wingspan of two feet and a few pounds

Diet:

Fish, insects and possibly invertebrates

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Small size; over 100 teeth in snout; diamond-shaped flap on end of tail

 

About Eudimorphodon

Although it's not nearly as well known as Pteranodon or even Rhamphorhynchus, Eudimorphodon holds an important place in paleontology as one of the earliest identified pterosaurs: this smallish reptile hopped around the coastlines of Europe a whopping 210 million years ago, during the late Triassic period.

Eudimorphodon had the wing structure (short forelimbs embedded in an extended flap of skin) characteristic of all pterosaurs, as well as a diamond-shaped appendage on the end of its tail that probably helped it to steer or to adjust its course in mid-air. Judging by the structure of its breastbone, paleontologists believe Eudimorphodon may even have had the ability to actively flap its primitive wings. (By the way, despite its name, Eudimorphodon wasn't particularly closely related to the much later Dimorphodon, beyond the fact that both were pterosaurs.)

Given Eudimorphodon's name--Greek for "true dimorphic tooth"--you may surmise that its teeth have been especially diagnostic in tracking the course of pterosaur evolution, and you'd be right. Although the snout of Eudimorphodon measured barely three inches long, it was packed with over a hundred teeth, punctuated by six prominent fangs at the end (four on the top jaw and two on the bottom).

This dental apparatus, combined with the fact that Eudimorphodon could snap its jaws shut without any spaces between its teeth, points to a diet rich in fish--one Eudimorphodon specimen has been identified bearing the fossilized remains of the prehistoric fish Parapholidophorus--probably supplemented by insects or even shelled invertebrates.

One of the interesting things about Eudimorphodon is where its "type species," E. ranzii, was discovered: near Bergamo, Italy, in 1973, making this one of the most notable prehistoric animals native to Italy.  A second named species of this pterosaur, E. rosenfeldi, was later promoted to its own genus, Carniadactylus, while a third, E. cromptonellus, discovered a couple of decades after E. ranzii in Greenland, was subsequently promoted to the obscure Arcticodactylus. (Confused yet? Well, then you'll be glad to know that yet another Eudimorphodon specimen discovered in Italy in the 1990's, which had been tentatively classified as an individual of E. ranzii, was likewise kicked up to the newly designated genus Austriadraco in 2015.)