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Temporal range: Albian-Aptian
Thalassodromeus in Japan.jpg
Restored skeleton
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Pterosauria
Suborder: Pterodactyloidea
Clade: Dsungaripteromorpha
Family: Thalassodromidae
Genus: Thalassodromeus
Kellner & Campos, 2002
Species: T. sethi
Binomial name
Thalassodromeus sethi
Kellner & Campos, 2002

Thalassodromeus is a genus of large pterodactyloid pterosaur found in northeastern Brazil.


Diagram of the holotype DGM 1476-R, a skull

The genus was named in 2002 by Alexander Kellner and Diogenes de Almeida Campos. The type species is Thalassodromeus sethi. The genus name is derived from Greek thalasse, "sea" and dromaios, "runner", in reference to its presumed life style as a skimmer. The specific name refers to the Egyptian god Seth because of the similarity in head form. In 2006 André Jacques Veldmeijer suggested Kellner had confused Seth with the god Amun whose crown shows a remarkable resemblance with the Thalassodromeus head crest.[1]

The genus is based on the holotype DGM 1476-R, a damaged partial skull, found in the Santana Formation. Thalassodromeus lived in the Early Cretaceous (Aptian to Albian). It shared the skies with its smaller cousin Tapejara. It is particularly notable for its immense head crest, beginning at the tip of the snout and ending far behind the braincase, which accounts for seventy-five percent of the surface of its 1.42 metre (4.6 ft) long skull. The jaws were pointed and toothless. It had a wing span of roughly 4.5 metres (14.7 ft).[2] The function of the crest is unknown, but it may have been used for sexual display, species recognition, or thermoregulation. A lower jaw fragment referred to Thalassodromeus, DGM 1476-M, indicates a larger example with a wingspan of 5.3 metres (17.4 ft).

Another jaw fragment, SAO 251093, was unofficially suggested to be a new species, "Thalassodromeus oberli" (referring to the Urs Oberli collection), by Veldmeijer in 2006,[1] after having referred the specimen to T. sethi in 2005.[3] In 2014 this was made a separate genus Banguela.[4]


Life restoration of a grounded specimen
Restoration of flying individuals

Thalassodromeus was believed by Kellner to have fed in a similar way to modern skimmers; trailing its lower jaw in the water while it flew. However, later research on its jaw and neck anatomy suggested that for this and other larger pterosaurs it would not be feasible to skim because of the drag: the energy expenditure would be too high.[5] Rather, Thalassodromeus appears to have had specialisation for terrestrial foraging like Azhdarchidae, even converging on leg proportions, and its powerful jaws might suggest raptorial tendencies akin to those of phorusrhacids.[6]


Kellner assigned Thalassodromeus to the Tapejaridae. Other analyses however, showed that it was, joined with Tupuxuara in a Thalassodrominae, more closely related to the Azhdarchidae.

The cladogram below follows the 2011 analysis of Felipe Pinheiro and colleagues.[7]




Thalassodromeus sethi

Tupuxuara deliradamus

Tupuxuara leonardii


Jidapterus edentus

Shenzhoupterus chaoyangensis

Chaoyangopterus zhangi


Sinopterus jii

Sinopterus dongi

Huaxiapterus benxiensis

Huaxiapterus corollatus

Tapejara wellnhoferi

Tupandactylus navigans

Tupandactylus imperator

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Veldmeijer, A. J. (2006). "Toothed pterosaurs from the Santana Formation (Cretaceous; Aptian–Albian) of northeastern Brazil". Proefschrift Universiteit Utrecht: 1–269. 
  2. ^ Kellner, A. W. A.; Campos, D. A. (19 July 2002). "The function of the cranial crest and jaws of a unique pterosaur from the early Cretaceous of Brazil". Science. 297 (5580): 389–392. doi:10.1126/science.1073186. PMID 12130783. 
  3. ^ Veldmeijer, A.J.; Signore, M.; Meijer, H.J.M. (2005). "Description of two pterosaur (Pterodactyloidea) mandibles from the upper Cretaceous Santana Formation, Brazil". DEINSEA. 11: 67–86. 
  4. ^ Headden, Jaime A.; Campos, Hebert B.N. (2014). "An unusual edentulous pterosaur from the Early Cretaceous Romualdo Formation of Brazil". Historical Biology: 1–12. doi:10.1080/08912963.2014.904302. 
  5. ^ Humphries, Stuart; Bonser, Richard H. C.; Witton, Mark P.; Martill, David M. (July 24, 2007). "Did Pterosaurs Feed by Skimming? Physical Modelling and Anatomical Evaluation of an Unusual Feeding Method". PLOS Biology. 5 (8): e204. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0050204. PMC 1925135Freely accessible. PMID 17676976. 
  6. ^ Witton, Mark P. Pterosaurs: Natural History, Evolution, Anatomy. ISBN 9780691150611. 
  7. ^ Pinheiro, Felipe L.; Fortier, Daniel C.; Schultz, Cesar L.; De Andrade, José Artur F.G.; Bantim, Renan A.M. (3 January 2011). "New information on Tupandactylus imperator, with comments on the relationships of Tapejaridae (Pterosauria)" (PDF). Acta Palaeontologica Polonica. 56: 567–580. doi:10.4202/app.2010.0057. 

External links[edit]