Temporal range: Late Cretaceous, 88–66Ma Probable ghost lineage dating to the Lower Cretaceous
|Mounted female and male Pteranodon or Geosternbergia sternbergi skeletons at the Royal Ontario Museum|
The family was named in 1876 by Othniel Charles Marsh. Pteranodontids had a distinctive, elongated crest jutting from the rear of the head (most famously seen in Pteranodon itself). The spectacularly-crested Nyctosaurus is sometimes included in this family, though usually placed in its own family, the Nyctosauridae (Nicholson & Lydekker, 1889).
Modern researchers differ in their use of the concept. S. Christopher Bennett and Alexander Kellner have concluded that Nyctosaurus was not a pteranodontid. In 1994 Bennett defined a clade Pteranodontidae, also including species of the Anhangueridae. However, this definition has not been accepted by other workers. Alexander Kellner, for example, named several additional species for specimens previously classified as Pteranodon, and placed P. sternbergi in a distinct genus, Geosternbergia. Kellner re-defined Pteranodontidae as the most recent common ancestor of Pteranodon longiceps, Geosternbergia sternbergi and Dawndraco kanzai, and all of its descendants. This clade possibly includes the nyctosaurids. Analyses by David Unwin did indicate a close relationship between Pteranodon and Nyctosaurus, and he used the name Pteranodontia for the clade containing both.
Pteranodontids are primarily known from the Coniacian to Campanian stages of the Cretaceous in North America. However, Maastrichtian remains are also known from several other locations, most notably from the Sânpetru Formation. Additionally, later phylogenetic studies imply that they represent a ghost lineage dating much earlier in the Cretaceous.
- Bennett, S. C. (1994). "Taxonomy and systematics of the Late Cretaceous pterosaur Pteranodon (Pterosauria, Pterodactyloidea)", Occasional Papers of the Museum of Natural History, University of Kansas, Lawrence, 169: 1-70
- Federico L. Agnolin and David Varricchio (2012). "Systematic reinterpretation of Piksi barbarulna Varricchio, 2002 from the Two Medicine Formation (Upper Cretaceous) of Western USA (Montana) as a pterosaur rather than a bird". Geodiversitas 34 (4): 883–894. doi:10.5252/g2012n4a10.
- Witton, Mark P. (2013), Pterosaurs: Natural History, Evolution, Anatomy ("Various remains refrred to Pteranodon, but probably only representing indeterminate pteranodontids, demonstrate that they achieved a global distribution in the closing stages of the Cretaceous (Barrett et al 2008).")
- Andres, B.; Myers, T. S. (2013). "Lone Star Pterosaurs". Earth and Environmental Science Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh: 1. doi:10.1017/S1755691013000303.
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