Temporal range: Late Cretaceous, 108–65Ma Possibly earlier
|Reconstructed skeleton of Quetzalcoatlus northropi|
Azhdarchidae (from اژدرها (Aždarha), the Persian word for dragon) is a family of pterosaurs known primarily from the late Cretaceous Period, though an isolated vertebrae apparently from an azhdarchid is known from the early Cretaceous as well (late Berriasian age, about 140Ma ago). Azhdarchids included some of the largest known flying animals of all time. Originally considered a sub-family of Pteranodontidae, Nesov (1984) named the azhdarchinae to include the pterosaurs Azhdarcho, Quetzalcoatlus, and "Titanopteryx" (now known as Arambourgiania).
Azhdarchids are characterized by their long legs and extremely long necks, made up of elongated neck vertebrae which are round in cross section. Most species of azhdarchids are still known mainly from their distinctive neck bones and not much else. The few azhdarchids that are known from reasonably good skeletons include Zhejiangopterus and Quetzalcoatlus. Azhdarchids are also distinguished by their relatively large heads and long, spear-like jaws. It had been suggested azhdarchids were skimmers, but further research has cast doubt on this idea, demonstrating that azhdarchids lacked the necessary adaptations for a skim-feeding lifestyle, and that they may have led a more terrestrial existence similar to modern storks.
Azhdarchids were originally classified as close relatives of Pteranodon due to their long, toothless beaks. Others have suggested they were more closely related to the toothy Ctenochasmatids (which include filter-feeders like Ctenochasma and Pterodaustro). Currently it is widely agreed that azhdarchids were closely related to pterosaurs such as Tupuxuara and Tapejara.
Classification after Unwin 2006, except where noted.
- Family Azhdarchidae
- "Ornithocheirus" bunzeli
- Possible valid azhdarchid genera
- Dyke, G., Benton, M., Posmosanu, E. and Naish, D. (2010). "Early Cretaceous (Berriasian) birds and pterosaurs from the Cornet bauxite mine, Romania." Palaeontology, published online before print 15 September 2010. doi:10.1111/j.1475-4983.2010.00997.x
- Nesov, L. A. (1984). "Upper Cretaceous pterosaurs and birds from Central Asia.". Paleontologicheskii Zhurnal 1984 (1): 47–57.
- Kellner, A. W. A.; Langston, W. (1996). "Cranial remains of Quetzalcoatlus (Pterosauria, Azhdarchidae) from Late Cretaceous sediments of Big Bend National Park, Texas". Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 16 (2): 222–231. doi:10.1080/02724634.1996.10011310.
- Chatterjee, S.; Templin, R. J. (2004). "Posture, locomotion, and paleoecology of pterosaurs". Geological Society of America Special Publication 376: 1–64.
- Ősi, A.; Weishampel, D.B.; Jianu, C.M. (2005). "First evidence of azhdarchid pterosaurs from the Late Cretaceous of Hungary". Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 50 (4): 777–787.
- Humphries, S.; Bonser, R.H.C.; Witton, M.P.; Martill, D.M. (2007). "Did pterosaurs feed by skimming? Physical modelling and anatomical evaluation of an unusual feeding method" (PDF). PLoS Biology 5 (8): e204. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0050204.
- Witton, Mark P.; Naish, Darren; McClain, Craig R. (28 May 2008). "A Reappraisal of Azhdarchid Pterosaur Functional Morphology and Paleoecology". PLoS ONE 3 (5): e2271. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0002271.
- Unwin, David M. (2006). The Pterosaurs: From Deep Time. New York: Pi Press. p. 273. ISBN 0-13-146308-X.
- Ibrahim, N.; Unwin, D.M.; Martill, D.M.; Baidder, L.; Zouhri, S. (2010). "A New Pterosaur (Pterodactyloidea: Azhdarchidae) from the Upper Cretaceous of Morocco". In Farke, Andrew Allen. PLoS ONE 5 (5): e10875. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0010875. PMC 2877115. PMID 20520782.
- Averianov, A.O. (2007). "New records of azhdarchids (Pterosauria, Azhdarchidae) from the late Cretaceous of Russia, Kazakhstan, and Central Asia". Paleontological Journal 41 (2): 189–197. doi:10.1134/S0031030107020098.
- Averianov, A.O. (2010). "The osteology of Azhdarcho lancicollis Nessov, 1984 (Pterosauria, Azhdarchidae) from the Late Cretaceous of Uzbekistan." Proceedings of the Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, 314(3): 246-317.
- Vremir, M. T. S.; Kellner, A. W. A.; Naish, D.; Dyke, G. J. (2013). "A New Azhdarchid Pterosaur from the Late Cretaceous of the Transylvanian Basin, Romania: Implications for Azhdarchid Diversity and Distribution". In Viriot, Laurent. PLoS ONE 8: e54268. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0054268.
- Averianov, A.O.; Arkhangelsky, M.S.; and Pervushov, E.M. (2008). "A New Late Cretaceous Azhdarchid (Pterosauria, Azhdarchidae) from the Volga Region". Paleontological Journal 42 (6): 634–642. doi:10.1134/S0031030108060099.
- Astibia, H.; Buffetaut, E.; Buscalioni, A.D.; Cappetta, H.; Corral, C.; Estes, R.; Garcia-Garmilla, F.; Jaeger, Mazin; Jimenez-Fuentes, J.J. et al.; Loeuff, J. Le; Mazin, J.M.; Orue-Etxebarria, X.; Pereda-Suberbiola, J.; Powell, J.E.; Rage, J.C.; Rodriguez-Lazaro, J.; Sanz, J.L.; Tong, H. (1991). "The fossil vertebrates from Lafio (Basque Country, Spain); new evidence on the composition and affinities of the Late Cretaceous continental fauna of Europe". Terra Nova 2 (5): 460–466. doi:10.1111/j.1365-3121.1990.tb00103.x.
- Bennett, S. C. (2000). "Pterosaur flight: the role of actinofibrils in wing function". Historical Biology 14 (4): 255–284. doi:10.1080/10292380009380572.
- Nesov, L.A. (1990). "Flying reptiles of the Jurassic and Cretaceous of the USSR and the significance of their remains for the reconstruction of palaeogeographic conditions". Bulletin of Leningrad University, Series 7, Geology and Geography (in Russian) 4 (28): 3–10.
- Nesov, L.A. (1991). "Giant flying reptiles of the family Azhdarchidae: 11. Environment, sedirnentological conditions and preservation of remains". Bulletin of Leningrad Universitv Series 7, Geology and Geography (in Russian) 3 (21): 16–24.