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Marsh, O. C., 1871.

Note on a new and gigantic species of Pterodactyle.

American Journal of Science, Series 3 1(6):472


Copyright ?2003-2009 by Mike Everhart

ePage created 08/09/2003; Last updated 02/14/2009

Wherein O. C. Marsh briefly reports on the first North American discovery of a giant Pterydactylus-like flying reptile from the Smoky Hill Chalk of western Kansas. Initially, he says the these reptiles have teeth, but will correct himself in a later paper. According to Chris Bennett (pers. comm. 2004), the teeth that were collected with the early specimens were fish teeth.


 472                             Scientific Intelligence.

 ...

         6. Note on a new and gigantic Species of Pterodactyle; by O. C. MARSH.- In addition to the Cretaceous fossils described pp. 447-453, the Yale College party obtained several specimens which indicate a huge flying reptile, apparently of the genus Pterodactylus. The remains belonged to two or more individuals. They are fragmentary, but some of them are quite characteristic. The distal ends of two long bones, similar in form to the tibia of a bird, are evidently portions of the peculiar metacarpal of the wing-finger. One of these, which retains the lower part of the shaft, resembles in its proportions the corresponding bone in Pterodactylus Suevicus. The condyles are well developed, and have a sweep of two thirds of a circle. They appear to have been originally somewhat oblique. In size and general form, they are not unlike those of the specimen figured by Owen in his Memoir on Cretaceous Reptiles, 1851 (Sup. I, PI. IV, fig. 9-11), but there was apparently no longitudinal elevation between them. The shaft, where broken, is subtrihedral, with the posterior face concave. The bones are light, with thin compact walls. The long bones are pneumatic. The teeth are smooth, and compressed. The length of the metacarpal with the part of the shaft preserved is six and one-half inches; the fore and aft extent of the condyles fourteen lines; the transverse extent about thirteen lines. This would indicate an expanse of wings of not less than twenty feet! The species, which is the first found in this country, may be named Pterodactylus Oweni, in honor of Professor Richard Owen, of London. The remains now representing it were discovered by the writer, in November last, in the upper Cretaceous formation of Western Kansas.


See also my Pteranodon,   Pteranodon dig page and .... these suggested references:

Anonymous., 1872. On two new Ornithosaurians from Kansas. American Journal of Science, Series 3, 3(17):374-375. (Probably by  O. C. Marsh)

Bennett, S. C., 1987. New evidence on the tail of the pterosaur Pteranodon (Archosauria: Pterosauria). pp. 18-23 In Currie, P. J. and E. H. Koster (eds.), Fourth Symposium on Mesozoic Terrestrial Ecosystems, Short Papers. Occasional Papers of the Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology, #3.

Bennett, S. C., 1990. Inferring stratigraphic position of fossil vertebrates from the Niobrara Chalk of western Kansas. pp. 43-72, In Bennett, S. C. (ed.), Niobrara Chalk Excursion Guidebook, The University of Kansas Museum of Natural History and the Kansas Geological Survey.

Bennett, S. C., 1992. Sexual dimorphism of Pteranodon and other pterosaurs, with comments on cranial crests. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 12 p. 422-434.

Bennett, S. C., 1994. Taxonomy and systematics of the Late Cretaceous pterosaur Pteranodon (Pterosauria, Pterodactyloida). Occasional Papers of the Natural History Museum, University of Kansas. 169:1-70.

Bennett, S. C., 2000. New information on the skeletons of Nyctosaurus. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 20(Supplement to Number 3):29A. (Abstract)

Bennett, S. C.  2003. New crested specimens of the Late Cretaceous pterosaur Nyctosaurus. Pal鋙ntologische Zeitschrift, 77:61-75.

Betts, C. W. 1871. The Yale College Expedition of 1870. Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, 43(257):663-671. (Issue of October, 1871)

Bonner, O. W., 1964. An osteological study of Nyctosaurus and Trinacromerum with a description of a new species of Nyctosaurus. Unpub. Masters Thesis, Fort Hays State University, 63 pages.

Cope, E. D., 1872a. On the geology and paleontology of the Cretaceous strata of Kansas. Annual Report of the U. S. Geological Survey of the Territories 5:318-349 (Report for 1871).

Cope, E. D., 1872b. On two new Ornithosaurians from Kansas. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 12(88):420-422.

Cope, E. D., 1874. Review of the Vertebrata of the Cretaceous period found west of the Mississippi River. U. S. Geological Survey of the Territories Bulletin 1(2):3-48.

Cope, E. D., 1875. The Vertebrata of the Cretaceous formations of the West. Report, U. S. Geological Survey of the Territories (Hayden). 2:302 p, 57 pls.

Eaton, G. F., 1903. The characters of Pteranodon. American Journal of Science, ser. 4, 16(91):82-86, pl. 6-7.

Eaton, G. F., 1904. The characters of Pteranodon (second paper). American Journal of Science, ser. 4, 17(100):318-320, pl. 19-20.

Eaton, G. F. 1908.  The skull of Pteranodon.  Science (n.s.) XXVII 254-255.

Eaton, G. F. 1910.  Osteology of Pteranodon.  Memoirs of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2:1-38, pls. i-xxxi.

Harksen, J. C., 1966. Pteranodon sternbergi, a new fossil pterodactyl from the Niobrara Cretaceous of Kansas. Proceedings South Dakota Academy of  Science 45:74-77.

Lane, H. H., 1946, A survey of the fossil vertebrates of Kansas, Part III, The Reptiles, Kansas Academy Science, Transactions 49(3):289-332, figs. 1-7.

Marsh, O. C., 1871a. Scientific expedition to the Rocky Mountains. American Journal of Science ser. 3, 1(6):142-143.

Marsh, O. C. 1871b.  Notice of some new fossil reptiles from the Cretaceous and Tertiary formations.  American Journal of Science, Series 3, 1(6):447-459.

Marsh, O. C., 1871c. Note on a new and gigantic species of Pterodactyle.  American Journal of Science, Series 3, 1(6):472.

Marsh, O. C., 1872. Discovery of additional remains of Pterosauria, with descriptions of two new species. American Journal of Science, Series 3, 3(16) :241-248.

Marsh, O. C., 1876a. Notice of a new sub-order of Pterosauria. American Journal of Science, Series 3, 11(65):507-509. 

Marsh, O. C., 1876b. Principal characters of American pterodactyls. American Journal of Science, Series 3, 12(72):479-480.

Marsh, O. C. 1881.  Note on American pterodactyls.  American Journal of  Science, Series 3, 21(124):342-343.

Marsh, Othniel Charles. 1882.  The wings of Pterodactyles. American Journal of Science, Series 3, 23(136):251-256, pl. III.

Marsh, O. C. 1884.  Principal characters of American Cretaceous pterodactyls. Part I. The skull of Pteranodon.  American Journal of Science, Series 3, 27(161):422-426, pl. 15.

Miller, H. W., 1971a. The taxonomy of the Pteranodon species from Kansas. Kansas Academy of Science, Transactions 74(1):1-19.

Miller, H. W., 1971b. A skull of Pteranodon (Longicepia) longiceps Marsh associated with wing and body parts. Kansas Academy of Science, Transactions 74(10):20-33. 

Russell, D. A., 1988. A check list of North American marine cretaceous vertebrates Including fresh water fishes, Occasional Paper of the Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, (4):57.

Schultze, H.-P., L. Hunt, J. Chorn and A. M. Neuner, 1985. Type and figured specimens of fossil vertebrates in the collection of the University of Kansas Museum of Natural History, Part II. Fossil Amphibians and Reptiles. Miscellaneous Publications of the University of Kansas Museum of Natural History 77:66 pp.

Seeley, Harry G. 1871.  Additional evidence of the structure of the head in ornithosaurs from the Cambridge Upper Greensand; being a supplement to "The Ornithosauria." The Annals and Magazine of Natural History, Series 4, 7:20-36, pls. 2-3. (Discovery of toothless pterosaurs in England)

Shor, E. N., 1971. Fossils and flies; The life of a compleat scientist - Samuel Wendell Williston, 1851-1918, University of Oklahoma Press, 285 pp.

Sternberg, C. H., 1990.  The life of a fossil hunter, Indiana University Press, 286 pp. (Originally published in 1909 by Henry Holt and Company)

Sternberg, G. F. and M. V. Walker, 1958. Observation of articulated limb bones of a recently discovered Pteranodon in the Niobrara Cretaceous of Kansas. Kansas Academy of Science, Transactions, 61(1):81-85.

Stewart, J. D., 1990. Niobrara Formation vertebrate stratigraphy, pages 19-30, In Bennett, S. C. (ed.), Niobrara Chalk Excursion Guidebook, The University of Kansas Museum of Natural History and the Kansas Geological Survey. 

Wellnhofer, P. 1991. The illustrated encyclopedia of pterosaurs. Crescent Books, New York, 192 pp.

Williston, S. W., 1891. The skull and hind extremity of Pteranodon. American Naturalist 25(300):1124-1126.

Williston, S. W., 1892. Kansas pterodactyls. Part I. Kansas University Quarterly 1:1-13, pl. i.

Williston, S. W., 1893. Kansas pterodactyls. Part II. Kansas University Quarterly 2:79-81, with 1 fig.

Williston, S. W., 1895. Note on the mandible of Ornithostoma. Kansas University Quarterly 4:61.

Williston, S. W., 1896. On the skull of Ornithostoma. Kansas University Quarterly 4(4):195-197, with pl. i.

Williston, S. W., 1897. Restoration of Ornithostoma (Pteranodon). Kansas University Quarterly 6:35-51, with pl. ii.

Williston, S. W., 1902a. On the skeleton of Nyctodactylus, with restoration. American Journal of Anatomy. 1:297-305.

Williston, S. W., 1902b. On the skull of Nyctodactylus, an Upper Cretaceous pterodactyl. Journal of Geology, 10:520-531, 2 pls.

Williston, S. W., 1902c. Winged reptiles. Pop. Science Monthly 60:314-322, 2 figs.

Williston, S. W., 1903. On the osteology of Nyctosaurus (Nyctodactylus), with notes on American pterosaurs. Field Mus. Publ. (Geological Ser.) 2(3):125-163, 2 figs., pls. XL-XLIV.

Williston, S. W., 1904.  The fingers of pterodactyls. Geology Magazine, Series 5, 1(2): 5:59-60.

Williston, S. W. 1911 The wing-finger of pterodactyls, with restoration of Nyctosaurus. Journal of Geology. 19:696–705.

Williston, S. W. 1912, A review of G. B. Eaton's "Osteology of Pteranodon". Journal of Geology. 20:288.


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