Skull Crests

Crests are found on the skulls of many pterosaur species.  They can be at the jaw tip, on the top of the skull or at the back of the skull in many forms.


Germanodactylus and Dsungeripterus display a crest on the top of the skull, above the nares bones.  The function of the crest is uncertain, but is likely to be involved in display.  It is known that Darwinopterus has such a crest in males, but not in females.

Pteranodon is a toothless species which has a counter balance occipital crest on the posterior of the skull.  This varies in shape between different species and some think it may be smaller in one of the sexes, but there is no supporting evidence to suggest which.

One species of Nyctosaurus shows a strange skull sale which is almost equal in height to the span of one wing.  This form of skull must have an aerodynamic or survival advantage in order to be so well developed.

Tapejara has a skull form with a forward crest and a much reduced skull length.  Some Tapejarids have very large crests and there are also some forms with longer snouts and correspondingly longer crests.  This form of crest may be used for manoeuvring in tight turns as it is aerodynamically a forward rudder.  Tapejarids have sturdy neck bones and muscle attachments.

By far the most interesting anterior crest is seen on Ornithocheirus and several other Ornithocheirids.  This type of crest may be aero-dynamic, but it is more likely to be an aqua-dynamic structure for feeding from the surface of water whilst on the wing.  Most of the pterosaurs that have this skull-form are large species.  This adaptation may have evolved in marine feeding species.