"If dinosaurs are badly portrayed in movies, then pterosaurs have an even worse time!"In prehistory, Everything's Better with Dinosaurs. While it is true that our knowledge of prehistoric fauna is steadily improving, the depictions in popular media do not seem to be as up to date with modern science. While dinosaurs are increasingly averting the Science Marches On trope, however, the same cannot be said for the other dominant organisms during their 200-million-year reign. As a case in point, look no further than their close relatives, the pterosaurs — the first vertebrates note to fly. Of course, nothing adds to a prehistoric atmosphere like tossing in some of these "flying reptiles." However, it's a good idea to take most depictions of pterosaurs with a grain of salt. Most media will ratchet them up to being eagles or bats on crack, snatching prey (like tasty humans) for feeding and being far more agile than they were in real life. Keep in mind that as in the case of most other prehistoric animals, Rule of Cool very much applies here. If you see a pterosaur represented in any piece of fiction, the odds are good that it will have at least one of the common stereotypical (and inaccurate) traits listed at these websites. The contents of these lists are summarized in the folder below. This is a subtrope of Artistic License – Paleontology. See Somewhere, an Ornithologist Is Crying for the avian version and Somewhere, a Herpetologist Is Crying for a reptilian version. See also Giant Flyer, All Flyers Are Birds, and Dinosaurs Are Dragons (because pop culture pterodactyls are often surprisingly similar to wyverns).
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List of Common Inaccuracies in Media
- Confusing the names "pterosaur" and "pterodactyl" as if they were synonyms. "Pterosaur" is used for the total group of the Mesozoic flying "reptiles"note . "Pterodactyl" is either a name for a subgroup of pterosaurs or a genus name for a particular pterosaur, Pterodactylus. To put this into perspective, this would be as bad as calling every primate you met a "gorilla," if referring to the genus name, or "ape," if referring to the subgroup name; while it's acceptable to refer to hominoids as apes, it's not acceptable to refer to primates as a whole as apes, since monkeys, lemurs, lorises, tarsiers and bushbabies aren't apes. In a similar manner, pterodactyloids were indeed an advanced group of pterosaurs and the word "pterodactyl" can be used to refer to them, but "pterodactyl" and "pterosaur" do not mean the same thing.note
- Designing the pterosaurs with bat-like wings rather than anatomically correct pterosaur ones. This ranges from having leathery wings made of nothing but skin to having the whole wing membrane being supported by all the fingers. In reality, pterosaur wings were made of tougher, more complicated materials and were supported by one finger. They should also attach at the ankle or at the lower leg, not at the hip, and they should be rounded and smooth, not pointed or angular.
- Essentially, Pterosaurs aren't Dinosaurs. Pterosaurs were closely related to the dinosaurs, being more closely related to each other than to modern crocodiles, but pterosaurs were not dinosaurs themselves. note
- Mix-and-Match Critters. Two pterosaur species will be combined into one hybridised design. This is a particularly good sign that the creators just didn't care, considering how easy it would be to sort out.
- Bigger Is Better. The pterosaurs on show will be truly gigantic, far larger than the fossil record can justify. There is some Truth in Television for this belief, as creatures like Quetzalcoatlus currently hold the record for the largest wingspans ever known. However, this is at best 12 metres, and is based on scanty evidence. In fiction, beasts with much larger wingspans are exaggerations. This is all the more obvious when the species being shown didn't even approach that size.
- Toothy Bird trope applied to pterosaurs. Specifically, this is when a pterosaur (like the iconic Pteranodon) is shown having teeth, sometimes a horrifying set of gnashers, instead of a toothless beak (the name "pteranodon" actually means "wings without teeth"). Occasionally this can be reversed when a normally toothy pterosaur (like Rhamphorhynchus) looks like it had a run-in with an angry dentist.
- On that note, any and all pterosaurs being depicted with crests. While this was one of the things that made Pteranodon so famous, it should be noted that many pterosaurs lacked crests. Additionally, people will often make the mistake of depicting female Pteranodons with crests like their male counterparts. Female Pteranodons actually had much smaller crests, if not no crests at all. Similarly, a pterosaur that should have a crest in real life would be depicted as crestless. Quetzalcoatlus and Pterodactylus are frequent victims of this, mostly due to Science Marches On.
- Pterosaurs in fiction will grab objects with their feet and hoist them into the air, presumably to be carried away and eaten. Pterosaur feet were designed for quadrupedal walking on the ground, or for climbing vertical objects or branch systems depending on the species note . No known pterosaur had prehensile feet with opposable digits, which makes any depiction of pterosaurs picking humans up with their feet inaccurate.
- Giving a pterosaur a bendy, birdlike neck. While the flexibility of a pterosaur's neck varied with the species, none of them had the skinny, pipe-cleaner like necks that birds have.
- Misplaced Wildlife or Anachronism Stew, unless it is crucial to the plot (for instance, a Lost World that contains a Sole Survivor species is discovered and the plot rests on that premise).
- Small Taxonomy Pools, perhaps because the creators wanted to avoid the Viewers Are Geniuses trope, because they simply hadn't heard of them, or because they just didn't bother to do their homework. Pteranodon is easily the most recognisable of all pterosaurs in popular culture, with Rhamphorhynchus coming a close second. Quetzalcoatlus may get a mention, but the chances of meeting any other pterosaur species in fiction is virtually nil.
- Missing pycnofibres (fuzz only known on pterosaurs). Pterosaurs are almost always depicted as scaly, despite the growing evidence that most, if not all, of them had pycnofibres.
- Pterosaurs will have an inexplicable desire to attack or kill humans on sight. This one may be justified if the pterosaur in question is a Papa Wolf or a Mama Bear defending its nest, or has some other biologically plausible behaviour, but usually it's as if the pterosaurs have looked up the Humans Are Bastards page in advance — essentially, Pterosaurs Are Dragons. Some of the largest azhdarchids like Hatzegopteryx were large enough to have snatched up a human and swallowed it whole if it were hungry and nothing else of the right size was around.note
- Speaking of diet, pterosaurs are frequently depicted as exclusive fish- or meat-eaters. As an analogy, modern birds and bats don't ONLY eat fish or other animals, even if some species do. Many of the known pterosaur fossil finds do show that some species ate fish, but pterosaur diets were more diverse; other species fed on insects or smaller land vertebrates (Azdarchids like the aforementioned Hatzegopteryx were in fact most likely terrestrial hunters, rather than vulture-like scavengers as is still suggested in modern media), and some species may have eaten fruit and seeds too.
- Expect any fictional pterosaur that lands on the ground to be hopelessly lost. Real pterosaurs were more than capable of walking on firm ground — not only were some of them were scarily competent at it, but new evidence now suggests that they could even take off from level ground, using their wings to vault themselves into the air rather like vampire bats do today. Similarly, pterosaurs are frequently depicted as being bipedal like birds; in reality, pterosaurs were quadrupedal, as their musculature is focused on their forelimbs, while their hindlimbs are small, positioned at the very back of their bodies, and quite weak.
- On that note, you can expect any fictional pterosaur that finds itself in the water to be rendered temporarily flightless at best, or helplessly drown at worst. This is particularly bad, because not only is it based on nothing, it also has plenty of evidence against it — evidence that isn't even all that recent! In reality, it's been proven by fossilized trackways and oft-forgotten traces of webbing between a fossilized pterosaur's toes that some (though not all) pterosaurs would actually have been very good swimmers, floating on top of the water like ducks or seabirds, with their wings spread flat on the water. In addition, there is ongoing work that strongly suggests most pterosaurs (even those not typically found near aquatic environments) were quite capable of launching from the water if they needed tonote . The worst danger they would face in this situation would be the predatory aquatic reptiles that lurk beneath the surface and while they were probably too top-heavy to hold their heads up the same way birds do when they swim, there's no reason to assume that pterosaurs would be completely helpless if they found themselves in the water.
- Lacking the pteroid bone◊; this bone was found on each wing and controlled the front part of it. It was an anatomical feature unique to pterosaurs, as no other animal (living or extinct) has been discovered with anything even remotely similar.
- Portraying pterosaurs as birds or the ancestors of birds — while pterosaurs did fly, the actual ancestors of birds were true dinosaurs—more specifically, the maniraptor dinosaurs. Also, pterosaurs will often be shown to take good care of their eggs in the same way as birds, though more likely they simply laid their eggs and were done with that, like a modern lizard. There is a theory that larger pterosaurs would protect their eggs while said eggs were incubating and then dig them out of where they were buried, but even then it's believed that they'd leave the minute the eggs hatched.
- Like many dinosaurs (though not as much), pterosaurs in the media slip into Real Is Brown territory. In reality, while (unlike dinosaurs) there is no proof of what colors they were, we can be relatively confident that living pterosaurs would have been brightly and flamboyantly colored. Like most other reptiles, pterosaurs would have had excellent eyesight and been capable of seeing colors, and the ones with crests likely used said crests as visual signals to communicate with other pterosaurs.
- This BC Dairy commercial.
- This Beeline advertisement has a really cool-looking "pterodactyl" hoist a man into the air with its feet and carry him to its nest, wherein he ends up watching dinosaur cartoons with the babies on his portable media player. While the adult pterosaur is naked and bird footed, she also has long, rounded wings with pteroid bones on them and concept art shows that the babies have visible pycnofibres and are quadrupeds. Interestingly, the pterosaurs themselves look vaguely similar to a generic ctenochasmatoid, the kind of pterosaur Pterodactylus was. It's also interesting to note that the pterosaurs are shown nesting on a snowy mountaintop. Meaning that they must be warm-blooded (as real pterosaurs were) because they wouldn't be able to survive the cold if they weren't.
Anime & Manga
- InuYasha had a group of demons called 'demon birds'. Despite being called this, they were clearly pteranodon look-alikes. they certainly acted like birds in the way they perched and called, but they curiously had the diet of a vampire bat. They were fairly anatomically inaccurate for a pterosaur, but this can be forgiven as they were demons, not real animals.
- The 2006 remake of Doraemon: Nobita's Dinosaur featured Pteranodon that can walk on their hind legs and Quetzalcoatlus that hunt in flocks. On the other wing, the Pteranodon were shown diving for food like pelicans or gannets.
- The Magic Tree House film averts this with Henry the Pteranodon. He has the right body proportions and anatomical features (wings supported by one elongated fourth finger, pteroid bone, a correctly shaped skull with a toothless beak, non-grasping feet, and skin described as being similar to velvet meaning pycnofibres), and he even takes off by vaulting. However, he is too big and lives inland, and a book refers to him as a dinosaur despite being properly identified as a pterosaur.
- He's also living in the wrong time period; while Pteranodon did live in the Cretaceous Period, this one was shown at the very end of that time period (right alongside Tyrannosaurus rex). In reality, Pteranodon had already gone extinct by that time.
- Digimon features Pteramon, a digimon resembling a cross between a Pteranodon and a fighter jet.
- Monodramon◊ is mostly meant to look like a dragon, but some of his physical characteristics (beaklike snout, wing finger, single horn on his head resembling a crest, etc.) certainly give off pterosaur vibes. Whether or not this was intentional is not known.
- Zans the young, talking Pteranodon from Jura Tripper. Anatomy-wise he's not bad (toothless, furry, quadrupedal), although he can stand on his hind legs for quite an amount of time. The adult Pteranodon, however, are shown capable of carrying adult humans on their backs.
- Averted with flying colors in Inazuma Eleven GO: Chrono Stone with Torb's..."father", Tochan. He's a very, very accurate Quetzalcoatlus, having the right proportions, size and anatomical features (including wings supported by one finger, pteroid bone, plantigrade/non-grasping feet, etc.). The only major inaccuracies seem to be his pointy wingtips, his apparent lack of fuzz (though that may just be the art style) and mild shrinkwrapping (his temporal fenestra is faintly visible). Also, he can somehow play soccer, but that's an Acceptable Break.
- Godzilland has a Super-Deformed version of Rodan, who has most of the same features as the films such as scaly skin and bipedal stance. Thankfully, he is presented as toothless this time.
- Clash of the Dinosaurs has a Quetzalcoatlus that, although featuring some new discoveries about pterosaurs (namely, the catapult way of taking off and the complex nervous system), is also scaly for no good reason, can apparently detect dinosaur urine and other strange fictitious traits that make it look like the pterosaur analogue of a superhero. That's just one of the many problems with this documentary.
- It also portrays it as a soaring, raptor-like predator. Which is... unlikely, to say the least. Although things are looking much better than they once did for the flight capabilities of large azhdarchid pterosaurs, their anatomy — particularly of the rather well-preserved Quetzalcoatlus — is rather incompatible with this method of predation. Instead, it's much more likely they fed like cranes — landing, then using their long neck to snatch up smaller prey while their long legs grant them a superior elevated position for doing so.
- Walking with Dinosaurs fell somewhat to Science Marches On about its pterosaurs, and the way how they bend the wings when on the ground is still anatomically impossible. They still didn't give much effort into their Quetzalcoatlus, which was just a recolored and slightly tweaked version of the Ornithocheirus model (short neck, teeth and all). On the other hand, they did show several lesser known species of pterosaurs, like said Ornithocheirus, the small South American species Tapejara (based on specimens now reassigned to the genus Tupandactylus), or the early Triassic Peteinosaurus (found mainly in modern day Italy and other parts of Europe and somewhat better known to paleontology fans).
- Under-muscled necks and heads- Ear openings in the wrong place- Heads are too small- The Tapejara/Tupandactylus wings are too long- The Tapejara/Tupandactylus crest has weird ridges that aren't known in any fossil- Lack of pycnofibres- Wing membranes look ok to me. Not sure about the way the wing folds up, though.- Ornithocheirus is, at best, 6 m across the wings, not 12. No pterosaur seems to have had a 12 m wingspan.- Body musculature is a bit off- Terrestrial posture is too sprawled- Statement that '6 m spans are common' is wrong for the Lower Cretaceous. There were such animals there, but they are much rarer than smaller species- Flight looks a bit slow
- The Ornithocheirus is oversized to be Quetzalcoatlus-sized, and the Pteranodon is placed in Late Cretaceous South America, when it lived in Late Cretaceous North America.
- They are more correctly placed in Late Cretaceous North America in the Sea Monsters spinoff.
- Ironically, the Ornithocheirus and Pteranodon are the most accurate pterosaurs (for their time, at least) in the franchise; the biggest inaccuracies were the aforementioned Misplaced Wildlife and size exaggeration, lack of pycnofibres and inability to swim.
- There are Mark Witton's (an iconic pterosaur expert) comments:
- The Ornithocheirus is oversized to be Quetzalcoatlus-sized, and the Pteranodon is placed in Late Cretaceous South America, when it lived in Late Cretaceous North America.
- Dinosaur Planet features Quetzalcoatlus that are just long necked Pteranodon that nest inland for no good reason.
- When Dinosaurs Roamed America has a Quetzalcoatlus that is clumsy on the ground and has a flexible, bird-like neck, but again Science Marches On.
- Inverted on Animal Armageddon, where Quetzalcoatlus is among the very few creatures that are not hideous CGI abominations with no connection to reality.
- The documentary Flying Monsters 3D by David Attenborough attempted to be an aversion of this trope. Unfortunately, several mistakes made through to the final version. At least the visuals are nice.
- They also got the quadrupedal launch and pycnofibres right, so there's a plus.
- It also quite possibly the only documentary to remember that pterosaurs could swim◊.
- Poor Quetzalcoatlus can never catch a break. Even the '11 documentary movie, March of the Dinosaurs managed to badly screw up its anatomy. Besides the usual scales, it was depicted as a biped, and actually lacked its three small wing fingers. On top of that, the narrator claimed it was a scavenger, which is a notion which should have long been forgotten by docu-makers. note
- Dinosaur Revolution is a precious aversion of this when it comes to its pterodactyloids; both the Anhanguera and the generic azhdarchids are possibly the most accurate pterosaurs in fictionland after the Pteranodon/Geostenbergia in Disney's Dinosaur (see below); unfortunately, its Rhamphorhynchus is still an ugly abomination barely resembling the real animal.
- The third episode had another sequence that briefly showed azhdarchids scavenging. Again, the notion that azdarchids were specialized scavengers is not likely true, but it's more likely that they were engaging in opportunistic carrion feeding, like some storks do today.
- Planet Dinosaur features Hatzegopteryx, chaoyangopterids and more unidentified pterosaurs. Behaviour-wise, they are accurate (Hatzegopteryx being depicted as a terrestrial predator for example), despite both azhdarchoids being shown scavenging, but one critical error, thanks to Science Marches On, still applies. Hatzegopteryx, despite being depicted as a terrifying terrestrial predator, was not as scary as the real thing, because it was armed with a larger head and a much shorter, thicker neck, plus a muscular build, for taking down and ripping apart the adult dinosaurs, while in the show it ate only prey it could swallow whole.There are also a few small anatomical errors, such as pointy wings.
- In Dragons: A Fantasy Made Real, Pteranodon-like pterosaurs appear as scavengers trying to dine on the baby prehistoric dragon's deceased mother. There is so much wrong with this, but a particularly glaring aspect is that Pteranodon and its ilk were simply not built to be specialized scavengers (they didn't have the right mouths for it). It may have occasionally scavenged if the opportunity arose, but even then it would almost certainly do so on beached sea creatures instead of dead inland animals.
- Justified with Adam Squall/Terrordactyl, the protagonist in Rise of the Galeforces. His pterosaur form is based on a Pteranodon with a misshapen, toothy beak, a Cartoony Tail looking rather like a dragon's, prehensile feet, and bat-like wings; this is handwaved by the fact that the local genetics companies meddled with his DNA, as with the Jurassic Park examples below which also appear in several chapters. Thankfully, he has ptero-fuzz, walks on all fours, has wing membranes supported by only one finger, and even uses the quadrupedal launch. Notably, he dislikes being called a dinosaur, but he's cool with being called a pterodactyl, probably because he believes it refers to the subfamily rather than the specific genus.
- The Ornithocheirus that show up in later chapters behave a lot like the Cearadactylus in the first Jurassic Park novel, being unusually aggressive and strong. At least they pick things up with their beaks instead of their feet like the Pteranodons do.
- Matt Frank's Godzilla Neo Universe gives us a more realistic take on Rodan (see the Film folder below). He still has leathery wings and bird-like feet, but at least he's toothless and (again) has wings supported by the one finger.
- The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic Pinkassic Park somewhat averts this trope in that it presents dinosaurs and pterosaurs as different types of animals and makes the pterosaurs fuzzy, although Pteranodon is somewhat aggressive. In a Crowning Moment of Awesome, Pinkie Pie actually tames and rides a Quetzalcoatlus.
- The Massive Multiplayer Crossover Fic The World of the Creatures contains a number of pterosaurs, which the text specifies as having stiff, complex wing membranes and pycnofibers. Seeing as how Tetrapod Zoology author, Darren Naish is a character, it's not surprising that the author has done their research.
- Big Name Pokémon Fan Arvalis did a more realistic take on Aerodactyl; instead of having a batlike extra wing finger, its wings are supported by a second pteroid bone (referred to as an "aeroid") and its beak has Ornithocheirus-like crests on the jaws. Interestingly, it also has a sail on its back like a Spinosaurus.
Films — Animated
- Ice Age 3: Dawn of the Dinosaurs has the stereotypical cartoony pterodactyls; about the only thing remotely accurate was that the animal's wing was somewhat rounded in shape, instead of the pointy wings seen in other mediocre depictions (flight would be impossible if the wings were that pointy in Real Life). Also, they were quadrupedal on the ground, but they use the bipedal launch.
- Dinosaur features perhaps a rare aversion; here, a very anatomically accurate Pteranodon sternbergi (or Geosternbergia) carries Aladar's egg in the beginning.
- The Rite of Spring segmant of Fantasia showed what for the time and even by today's standards are pretty accurate Pteranodon that were shown as quadrupeds, eating fish and squid and picking them up with their mouths. On the flip side however, they are still extremely skinny and according to recent studies, they vaulted off the ground and did not roost on cliffs like gulls. Several of them are also seen hanging upside down from cliffs in a bat-like fashion, something that most modern paleontologists believe pterosaurs were probably incapable of.
- Elsa from We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story is a Pterodactyl with a long tail who hates being called a bat. And, well, she has a monstrously inaccurate wing structure. She really DOES look more like a bat.
- Petrie in The Land Before Time looks like a seventies Pteranodon, but at least the animators tried to lessen the blow by giving him subtle influence from theories that were new back then and eventually turned out true, like making him walk on all fours most of the time and not mentioning his diet. The sequels, however, threw these hints to the garbage can and made all pterosaurs vulture expies that eat leaves. They do manage to get some things right, though. For example, it is probably the only piece of dinosaur media to remember the Bizarre Sexual Dimorphism of Pteranodon (Petrie's mother has a stumpy crest and is rather short, his uncle has a massive crest and is really tall).
- The "Pterodactyls" from the Pixar movie The Good Dinosaur are quite the hodgepodge of stereotypes, although they receive some credit for averting Stock Pterosaurs. The main one, Thunderclap, looks like a Nyctosaurus but he's too big, has grasping talons, a too-small crest, teeth, wing claws (which wouldn't be a problem if it was any other type of pterosaur, but Nyctosaurus is the only known pterosaur that lacked any wing claws), is extremely scrawny and is a vicious predator as opposed to the fish-eater that Nyctosaurus was in real life. The other pterosaurs appear to be Caulkicephalus, Ludodactylus, and Guidraco, and they share the same grasping talons and scrawny frames as Thunderclap as well as also being portrayed as predators instead of fish-eaters. On the other hand, all of them are portrayed as quadrupeds like real pterosaurs, but they walk on their knuckles instead of flat on their fingers. Fortunately, there is one tie-in coloring book which states they are not dinosaurs but flying reptiles.
- The Christmas Dinosaur – a cute but forgettable Christmas Special from 2004 focusing on two boys who accidentally hatch a baby Pteranodon on Christmas—has quite a bit of this. For starters, the Pteranodon has the usual grasping feet and is able to carry the two boys at once, and it's also seemingly lacking wingclaws like a Nyctosaurus. At least they got its diet correct; it's depicted as loving to eat fish and shrimp, something a Pteranodon would enjoy. Confusingly, both the title and characters refer to it as a dinosaur, but it's also more accurately called a pterosaur.
Films — Live-Action
- The Jurassic Park sequels famously depict Pteranodon longiceps as the token non-dinosaur prehistoric thing; of the two varieties, none is accurate. The first, which appears in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, is exactly like the Pteranodon of the seventies; leathery winged, bird necked, naked, can perch on trees. The second in Jurassic Park III looks slightly more like a real pterosaur, but it is again naked, its wings also seem leathery, and it has freaking teeth ("Pteranodon" means toothless wing) and again grasping feet. Possibly justified as they could be mutants, like other cloned prehistoric reptiles in the movies.
- The YA novelization of Jurassic Park III actually does state that the Pteranodons were genetically altered to be bigger/more impressive and are not the genuine prehistoric animal.
- They have bird-like nests in III. Pterosaurs do not raise their young in that way!
- This is played straight, to various degrees, in the spinoff video-games too. In episode 2 of Telltale's Jurassic Park: The Game, a Pteranodon (based on JPIII's version, down to having teeth) attacks a rescue helicopter for no apparent reason.
- It just unintentionally bumped the chopper while chasing that flock of birds. But that in itself is another mistake: Pteranodons were fish-eaters, and probably wouldn't be too interested in birds. Azhdarchids, on the other hand, may have hunted terrestrial prey, but mostly ground-dwelling animals like small reptiles, mammals, and maybe dinosaur hatchlings.
- In Jurassic World, the Pteranodon (which are toothless this time, thankfully) are not only still portrayed as Death from Above, but also joined by a different pterosaur: Dimorphodon. The Dimorphodons themselves, however, are depicted as aerial predators (the real life Dimorphodon was a harmless insectivore/hunter of small animals), but they are fortunately portrayed with pycnofibres in contrast to the once again naked Pteranodons. Interestingly, this film is probably the first pop culture work note to depict Pteranodons plunge diving for food like pelicans or gannets, something they likely did in real life, and it also remembers their sexual dimorphism (having short, stumpy crests when female).
- Then again, it has been said in the canon a million times that the many animals that appeared in the Jurassic Park films are just man-made abominations that barely resemble their Real Life counterparts.
- In the Prehysteria trilogy, we have a miniature Pteranodon sternbergi (now "Geosternbergia sternbergi") named after Madonna. Anatomy-wise, she's actually quite accurate, being correctly proportioned, quadrupedal, toothless and unable to carry things with her feet. She also, however, lacks the sexual dimorphism pteranodontid pterosaurs had (her crest is supposed to be much smaller) and is shown eating raisins when she should be eating fish (though the Tyrannosaurus rex is also shown eating raisins). Curiously, she's also depicted as being able to mimic human speech like a parrot.
- The movie Pterodactyl. Imagine if the second variety of JP Pteranodons took steroids and decided to go bipedal. Granted, this is a movie that has one slice a man in half with its wing.
- This trope technically first appeared in early movies like King Kong (1933), back when not much was known about prehistoric animals in general. At least, unlike below, the wings are those of a pterosaur...
- One Million Years B.C. has Loanna captured by an immense, bat-winged Pteranodon to be fed to its young. The Pteranodon and its young then get killed by an oversized, short-tailed, and also bat-winged Rhamphorhynchus.
- A New Zealand version of Journey to the Center of the Earth has pterodactyls that represent everything that is wrong with cultural perception of pterosaurs. Then again, the movie is really just horrible.
- The giant pterosaur Rodan is a mutated Pteranodon (Its Japanese name "Radon", is a play on the name "Pte-RA-no-DON") that is scaly, walks on its hind legs, has teeth, and can grab things with its talons. Considering Rodan is supposed to be a fictional movie monster and not a realistic portrayal of a Pterosaur, this is intentional. He is, after all, played by a man in a suit, and his next appearance has him hanging out with Godzilla.
- The Star Wars prequel Revenge of the Sith featured a cameo from a large winged creature called a Dactillion (the name should be an indicator), which was basically a cross between a pterosaur, a dragon and a lizard.
- This music video, despite making the valiant effort to point out that pterosaurs and dinosaurs are not the same thing, is enough to make any pterosaur fan scream out in frustration; it claims that pterosaurs and birds are closely related (they're not), that pterosaurs laid their eggs in nests and took care of them (they didn't), that Quetzalcoatlus ate fish while flying (it didn't) and that most/all pterosaurs had teeth (only some did). Typical errors like pointy, batlike wings and tendency to use the word "pterodactyl" as if it's interchangeable with pterosaur note are also present. At least the song is catchy.
- West of Eden features scaly, cold blooded pterosaurs that can't even take off from the ground. It completely illustrates what this trope is about, as it was written in the '80s and features things that would make even the paleontologists of the '70s cry.
- The original Jurassic Park novel featured an aviary full of Cearadactylus. While they were depicted as furry, quadrupedal fish-eaters, they also filled the "airborne terror" role. Granted, the reason they were so aggressive was much more plausible than most portrayals (they were naturally territorial). They're also erroneously referred to as "birds" and "flying dinosaurs".
- Dinoverse has Janine Farehouse Body Swap into a Quetzalcoatlus. A bipedal one with a short neck and no crest, who lives off fish and is inexplicably able to hang upside down on a cliff face. She also has surprising dexterity, but then again so do the kids who became a tyrannosaur and a Leptoceratops, respectively.
- Dinotopia's Skybax, which are essentially an undiscovered species of Quetzalcoatlus ridden by this canon's equivalent to Dragon Riders, are about as accurate as most of the other prehistoric creatures. Granted, they don't have fur and their necks are quite flexible, but once again, Science Marches On.
- Dinosaurology (the 2013 installment of the series started by Dragonology) features pterosaurs that soundly avert this trope. The Pteranodons are correctly depicted as harmless fish-eaters. The azhdarchid (implied to be a Hatzegopteryx) is correctly depicted as a terrestrial macro-predator, and just to show how much research they've done, isn't even recognized by the scientists who meet it due to the story taking place in 1907 (Hatzegopteryx itself was not discovered and recognized by science until 2002). All of the pterosaurs are furry, quadrupedal, have pteroid bones, vault from level ground with their wings and are heavily muscled.
- The companion book for King Kong (2005) featured a speculative flightless pterosaur called a "Scissor-Head", which gave up flight and took up wading and diving. The main problem is that the Scissor-Head's body plan◊ is way too birdlike to match with a flightless pterosaur and it lacks pycnofibres with no explanation of where they went (to be fair, none of the dinosaurs seem to have plumage either). The authors and artist get points for creativity, though.
- Although he provides the page quote, Dougal Dixon is himself guilty of this trope, most evidently in his Speculative Documentary book The New Dinosaurs An Alternative Evolution, where most of the pterosaurs resemble some unholy amalgam between mammal and bird, with rampant heterodont dentition, bipedalism, and use of the wing finger for walking on. This is mostly due to science marching on however, as the book was written in the 1980s when pterosaur knowledge was still very new.
- Primeval's Pteranodon is fairly standard — nothing especially wrong with it, but not exactly a transcendent portrayal — but the Anurognathus in the same episode are bipedal scrawny things with the Piranha Problem. Both lack pycnofibres.
- Its spinoff, New World, features a pteranodon that's anatomically accurate (even with a straggly covering of pycnofibres), but bigger and meaner.
- The Torchwood pterodactyls look like a slightly less mediocre version of Jurassic Park III's second pterosaur variety. By "less mediocre", its just because it lacks teeth. Sans the appearance, Myfanwy also seems to be a super predator when even its anatomy dictates that injuring partially-converted Cybermen and Apatosaurus-aliens would be a fairly hard task.
- The rhamphorynchid antagonists in episode 3 of Terra Nova. To be exact, they lack pycnofibres and also have the Piranha Problem. Not to mention that "rhamphorhynchoids" are believed to have been extinct by the show's 85 million-year-old datenote . There is a larger and (slightly) better-looking pterodactyloid species that has a few cameos in one or two episodes, although it also commits the crime of being naked with pointed wings.
- The Doctor Who episode "Dinosaurs on a Spaceship" features abnormally aggressive Pteranodons (called "Pterodactyls" by The Doctor) attacking The Doctor, Rory, and Brian (Rory's dad) in one scene. Granted, the Pterosaurs don't try to grab anyone with their feet, but that still doesn't excuse the writers for having them try to stab the heroes with their beaks. Pteranodon ate fish, it would have no reason to attack people. Oh, and they don't hunt in packs either.
- The often overlooked (or purposely ignored?) U.K.R.D. released a number of dinosaur toys in the beginning of the nineties, among them a Pteranodon with an "interesting" approach. While its torso was correctly covered in "hair", it had the stubby legs of a goat, a tiny head and short beak/crest, and bat wings covered in thick scales.
- Chinasaurs. The term refers to toys that don't give any indication as to which manufacturer made them, only have the word CHINA stamped onto their underside. Though dinosaurs are more common, a couple of these secretive Chinese companies released a number of pterosaur toys as well, among them a sculpt that can only be described as the following: the figure looks like an Archaeopteryx (which wasn't a pterosaur, but a bird-like dinosaur) from above, save for its head, with a nicely sculpted plumage. Though the undersides of its wings are flat and bare, and its head resembles that of a heron, with a Pteranodon-like crest extending from its back.
- There have been a few pterosaur-based Transformers toys throughout the years, some less stellar than others. The original Dinobot Swoop was a boxy-looking metal Pteranodon that rested on its hind legs. Can be forgiven, as he was never meant to represent a realistic animal. The standard Pteranodon mold from Beast Wars, however, was, and fared badly — huge crocodilian scales, a bird-like stance, prominent teeth. Skysaur, the Japanese-exclusive Quetzalcoatlus was similar, although he even had a bird-like beak and an incredibly short neck to boot. The Mini-Con Pteranodon mold and Transformers Animated's Swoop-redesign were also old-school, biped pterosaurs, though like the original Swoop, they too were meant to be more mechanical-looking, so there is some leeway.
- The Dino Riders toy line had for the good guys Quetzalcoatlus, Pterodactylus, and several small Rhamphorhynchus which came with the Brontosaurus set. The villains had Pteranodon, and as late addition also a Quetzalcoatlus. A leopard-patterned one.
- While the pterosaurs are out of scale (sans Rhamphorhynchus who is properly small), they are surprisingly anatomically accurate for their time. Quetzalcoatlus and Pterodactylus are both portrayed as crested (surprising for the latter as it was not known to have a crest until 2004), and in the cartoon all the pterosaur genera are portrayed as quadrupeds.
- The Cuddlekins toy line (a line of plush toys by Wild Republic) includes a fairly accurate Pteranodon plush. It's got a furry body, no teeth, non-grasping feet (and webbed feet at that, implying a swimming ability—something even fully educational venues are prone to forgetting), and its wings are supported by a single finger rather than being bat-like. Granted, it does have its share of flaws, but it's pretty impressive in its accuracy nonetheless.
- The Jurassic Park toyline has had pterosaurs (mostly Pteranodons, but there's a Quetzalcoatlus and a Tapejara as well) since before they appeared in the movies. They have their wings correctly supported by a single finger, but all have grasping feet and their wings are connected to the hips instead of legs, and in some toys not connected to the body at all (though this is most likely for the sake of articulation). At least all Pteranodon toys, even the ones based on Jurassic Park III, are properly toothless.
- Surprisingly averted with this LEGO playset; while the wings are not connected correctly (and like the above mentioned Jurassic Park examples, this is probably just for the sake of articulation), the Pteranodon in the kit is very accurate. It's toothless, eats fish and even has rounded wingtips! It's still referred to as a dinosaur, though.
- Beanie Babies had Swoop the "Pterodactyl" (who looks like this◊), who was a classic example. He has pointy, batlike wings, a bipedal birdlike stance, and a prominent tail (despite evidently being based on a Pteranodon). Probably the only accurate thing about him is that he doesn't have teeth. At least he's cute.
- The Japanese toy line Colorata beautifully averts this with both their figurines and their Pteranodon plush.
- Turok follows the Jurassic Park pterosaur model once more.
- Terry in Banjo-Tooie definitely has teeth, and no end of mucus. For a male, he's awfully possessive about his eggs.
- A baddie encountered in that same world is the Soarasaurus. It resembles a cartoony green pteranodon.
- In Dungeon Siege II, there is a type of enemy called the Terrak, which (except for the small tail) looks very much like Pteranodon. What makes the paleontologists and dinosaur enthusiasts cry is the violation of the Rule of Cool that comes with these animals, which can be summed up in this question: "If they have wings, why are they always walking?"
- The first Ecco the Dolphin game features a helpful Pteranodon in the Prehistoria levels who was essentially copy/pasted from an old artist's rendering of the species. He somehow manages to carry a bull bottlenose dolphin with no grasping hind feet.
- Aerodactyl, the Fossil Pokémon, plays this trope as straight as can be. This is justified, however, in that it isn't meant to represent any known species to begin with, and also because it takes elements from the two-legged, two-winged wyvern (which may explain why the Dragon-type specialist Lance has one on his team). As of 2014, there is a pterosaur species named after Aerodactyl, Aerodactylus scolopaciceps. in a bizarre way, this technically means that Aerodactyl has been Defictionalizednote
- The Pteranodons from Primal Carnage follow the Jurassic Park recipe as per usual, though in this case it's outright stated that all of the dniosaurs were genetically altered. Earlier designs in particular had misshapen wings and disproportionately small, short heads, though later models remedied these flaws and kept the animals toothless. Commendably, they are one of the few examples that use the quadrupedal launch as real pterosaurs probably did.
- The Quetzalcoatlus from The Hunter Primal while reasonably accurate (they have Pycnofibers and a realistic skull shape) show a Kidnapping Bird of Prey like behaviour similar to the ones seen in Primal Carnage and Dino Crisis in which they grab the player's character with their feet (which is anatomically impossible) to then letting you free causing to suffer a swift death by showing you how gravity works. Ironically and in spite of the fact that Quetzalcoatlus was one of the most terrestrial species of Pterosaur, they are never seen on the ground.
- The first Silent Hill featured two monsters, the Air Screamer and the Night Flutter. Those creatures were based on illustrations from one of Alessa's favourite book, The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. This being Silent Hill, the flying horrors haven been twisted by the town, with the Air Screamer resembling a hideously emaciated pterodactyl/bat hybrid and the Night Flutter possessing a human-like body and a wriggling mass of worms for a head.
- Dino Crisis also has pretty stock pterosaurs, which are apparently supposed to be Pteranodon. They lack "fur" and are only seen on the ground when they die, flapping pathetically (although they landed in a bipedal stance at one point). They also attack Regina by — you guessed it — hoisting her up into the air with their feet, with one death scene showing them carrying away her 100+ pound corpse. Granted, if they did not attack her it would be a fairly boring game and would make them a pointless enemy, but their motivation is apparently to eat her. Oddly enough, at least one strategy guide points out the errors of a Pteranodon predating on a human and speculates that they are attacking her for territorial reasons.
- Pteranodons are enemies in the Amazon level in Strider, and they look sort of allright outside of their leathery pointy wings. The fact they exist in the year 2048 is justified as they (like all other dinosaurs in the stage) were bio-engineered by the Big Bad as one of his experiments.
- Pi'illodactyls in Mario & Luigi: Dream Team. Still, you could at least argue they're a fictional species from a fantasy world.
- From earlier in the series, you have Blablanadon, fittingly named for his chatty nature. The brothers rescue him from a monster atop Hoohoo Mountain named Dragohoho (really Prince Peasley having been cursed into that form by Cackletta), and, at the end of the game, he takes them to and from Bowser's flying castle (now being manned by Bowletta).
- Star Fox Adventures gives us the CloudRunner Tribe, which are bipedal Pteranodon with long tails and single-clawed wings that fold like birds.
- Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage! has "pterodactyls" that look like birds, grasp like birds, and make hawk-like noises.
- Spyro: Enter the Dragonfly featured "Flying Riptocs", which resemble bat-winged Pteranodon.
- Monster Hunters Qurupeco is obviously partly based on pterosaurs, but as a birdwyvern, it still walks on its hindlegs with a very bird-like body and sports some feathers instead of pycnofibres. Justified because it's not really a pterosaur but a bird-wyvern, which are more like theropods than pterosaurs.
- Averted with the Quetzalcoatlus in Saurian, which is quadrupedal, covered in pycnofibers, and catches prey in its beak instead of its talons.
- Star Control gives us both the Yehat, an alien race whose members look like 3 meters-tall, bumblebee-colored Pteranodons (supplementary material describes them as a mix between an old-Earth pterosaur and a bumblebee and game dialog has them refering themselves as "birds of prey", feathers being also mentioned), with bat-like and three-clawed wings, and forward-looking bright eyes with a small sphere above them, and the Pkunk, an offshot of them seemingly wingless and with a toucan-like beak.
- Mortasheen gives us the Pteracide. Granted, its skull looks nothing like any real pterosaur, it's next to naked, and it leaks acid from its chest, but hey, at least it's quadrupedal and supports each wing with one finger.
- To be fair, it's obviously supposed to be over-the-top.
- Naturally, Prehistoric TV Reconstruction Kitteh has some fun with this.
- The whole idea of fictional pterosaurs being dragons with the numbers filed off is parodied with relish near the bottom of this comic.
- SCP-346, a miniature pterodactyl one of the researchers keeps as a pet.
- Neopets features the Pteri. As its name suggests, its design is very reminiscent of a really small, adorable pterodactyl◊ and it is native to Tyrannia, but it's commonly referred to as a bird.
- Also from Neopets, the "Lair of the Beast" (also in Tyrannia) is a standard scary pterodactyl.
- Subverted in the Welcome to Night Vale, where a PTA meeting gets attacked by what The Narrator pteranodons/flying dinosaurs. Later, however, he issues this correction:
"Secret police are now reporting that the offending beasts were not pteranodons after all, but pterodactyls. Also, pteranodons aren't even dinosaurs, as the station had previously stated— just winged reptiles that lived about 70 million years after pterodactyls."
- Subverted again in a later episode. Pteranodons aren't dinosaurs; they're arachnids.
- Discussed and defied in this video, part of a series discussing inaccurate dinosaur toys.
- Parodied along with many other paleo-inaccuracies in "Meet the Pseudosaurs".
- Good luck finding a cartoon whose pterosaurs aren't seventies-style Pteranodons with long tails. The Flintstones is the primary example of the typical western pterosaur.
- The Secret Saturdays averts this with Zon. For one side, she has fur and wings somewhat shaped like a real pterosaur's and she walks on all fours. On the other hand, the wing structure itself is wrong, she is cold-blooded, she has five fingers (including an additional thumb), she can stand on two legs for quite some time and that is how she takes off. It is possible that the anatomical mistakes are just to make her appropriately "cartoony" for the show, as the authors do seem to actually do research.
- Turu the trained (and toothed) Pteranodon on Jonny Quest. (To be fair, the "teeth" are presented as a serrated bill◊ — but that is hardly accurate, either.) Turu is depicted as gigantic, bipedal and scaly, and is shown grabbing Dr. Quest with his feet and carrying him away through the air. He is also unrealistically durable, surviving multiple hits from bazooka rounds (although they eventually send him plummeting to his doom into a tar pit).
Dr. Venture: Is Turu a pterodactyl?
- Turu reappears briefly on The Venture Bros., since it was inspired by and occasionally crosses over with Jonny Quest. In "Venture Libre", Turu is Dr. Venture's first taste of the weirdness going on in the jungle of Puerta Bahia, which his own rogue creation has turned into a refuge for victims of unethical super science. Though still enormous, grasping and damaging a jet the size of a Concorde, this incarnation of Turu has no teeth-like serrations on his bill. The tendency to mix up pterosaur species is lampshaded when one of the refugees demands that Dr. Venture be killed for being a super scientist and for murdering Turu:
Carl the Cheetah-Man: Pteranodon, you monster!
Venturestein: See, he not even good at science.
- Terrorsaur's alt-mode in Beast Wars is a hairless Pteranodon with a beak full of teeth, and a scaly skin. He moved on the ground by hopping on his tiny back legs. A funny sight, actually.
- Dinosaur Train has traditional cartoony Pteranodon as among the main cast, being scaly, cold-blooded, green, bipedal creatures with bat wings. Thankfully, at least the pterosaurs have wings that were supported by one finger, can fly actively and efficiently, and are acknowledged as not being dinosaurs, the Pteranodons do not have teeth, and several dinosaurs like the Tyrannosaurus rex and the Troodon are equally more cartoony than realistic.
- Terrible Dactyl from Dinosaucers was said to be a Pteranodon, but his actual design was mostly Rhamphorhynchus.
- One episode of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius had a scaly Pteranodon that was able carry Sheen to its nest using it's feet. At least it didn't have teeth or a long tail...
- Im A Dinosaur has a feathered Sordes and a Pteranodon that lives inland. Both perch in trees, are bipedal & and have three fingers (including the wing finger).
- Bullzeye from Extreme Dinosaurs is a toothed Pteranodon with bat-wings, and he gains an additional set of arms upon mutation. As a result, he was mistaken for a dragon in one episode.
- Dactar from the Rugrats special "Runaway Reptar" is this by virtue of being a Rodan Expy. Ironically, he looks more like an actual Pteranodon than Rodan himself did (aside from the teeth and long tail).
- The "pterodactyl" from the Gravity Falls episode "The Land Before Swine", which looks like an unholy mixture of all stereotypes, down to the scaly skin, being called a "dinosaur", having eagle-like hindlimbs and a bird neck, leathery wings, having a Pteranodon crest alongside rather mismatched teeth, making chicken-like nests and having zero body fat. Strangely enough, though, it walks quadrupedally, like a real pterosaur.
- Jet from Kung Fu Dino Posse has the same problem as Bullzeye: he has bat-wings and an additional set of arms. He also has a long tail, although it at least lacks the diamond-shaped tip.
- The beginning of the Adventure Time episode "Play Date" had a Pteranodon that carried Finn and Jake with its small wing fingers. At least it wasn't its feet for once...
- Pretty much any episode of The Fairly Oddparents that involves dinosaurs or Time Travel will have pterosaurs that pretty much fit the entire criterion of inaccuracies listed on this page: bat wings, scaly skin, feet that grab humans from midair, desire to hunt humans for no reason, gigantic, etc.
- In Teen Titans, a cartoon style "Pteranodon" (consistently referred to as a "pterodactyl") is one of Beast Boy's many animal forms.
- One of the strangest examples is present in Littlest Pet Shop's "A Day At The Museum", where creatures resembling stereotypical Pteranodon appear... except that they are clearly birds, with feathery wings, eagle-like talons and overall avian design, resembling eagles except for the head and tail.
- In one episode of Arthur, Buster states that he's always wanted a pterosaur (referred to as, surprise surprise, a "pterodactyl") as a pet, rationalizing that it would be "like having a parrot that can give him rides to the movies". This is accompanied by an Imagine Spot (which pretty much justifies all of its numerous inaccuracies by default) of Buster riding a fairly generic looking pterosaur into the air. In another episode, a much less accurate one (bipedal, bat-winged, bird footed, scaly, etc.) also appeared in an Imagine Spot.
- One episode of The Simpsons, "The Book Job", featured an animatronic Pteranodon which looks relatively decent in anatomy (wing supported by fourth finger, toothless bill, non-grasping feet, etc.) with the only flaws being too skinny and apparent lack of fur or pteroid bone (although it may be because of the art style). "Days of Future Future" featured a living Pteranodon identical to the aforementioned animatronic, which grabs a dollar from a woman in the audience using its beak instead of its feet.
- David Peters, an artist, is infamous for having rather...controversial portrayals of pterosaurs that he is absolutely convinced are scientific fact. Among other things, he's convinced that pterosaurs were lizards or related to lizards, that all pterosaurs were bipedal and that the quadrupedal launch was physically impossible (instead, he thinks they launched like this◊), that Jeholopterus was a vampire bat analogue with many unnecessary appendages on its body◊ and that so many well-known scientists are wrong. His evidence for pterosaur anatomy as he sees it? Taking extremely poor photographs and putting them through photoshop and coloring every random crack he can find, claiming that that's some sort of feature that those ignorant scientists clearly never caught. Yeah.
- Ludodactylus, which was one of the first crested and toothed pterosaurs to be discovered, got its name to reference this trope (its name means "Toy Finger"). The name was basically a Real Life lampshading of the fact that, at the time, such a combination was considered almost paradoxical outside fictionland.
- Harpactognathus was probably the only known pterosaur to even remotely resemble one of the ones seen in the cartoons and movies; it was a rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur with sharp teeth, a long tail and a crest and was also a predator, hunting and eating small animals from above. Even then, however, it lacks several other qualities of this trope (for example, it couldn't pick things up with its feet).
- While the Axtell Expressions puppet "Terry Dactyl" is most likely not supposed to be accurate, the company was at least willing to add fur to the puppet, even pointing out that they did it for the sake of accuracy.
- Justified with the Pterodactylus sculptures at the famous Crystal Palace garden in London; they're scaly and have flexible birdlike necks, but for their time, they were accurate. Additionally, they're shown as typically quadrupedal, with a few of them rearing up and spreading their wings just to look more impressive.
- A full-sized Pteranodon model hangs in the Milwaukee Airport, just in front of the food court. It's actually very accurate, with one wing-finger, no teeth, ptero-fuzz and even webbed feet!
- The entire trope can be traced to Victorian era science when pterosaurs were just discovered. Of course, since scientists had poor understanding of the animals, they portrayed them as the eagle-like monster so commonly shown in fiction. In fact a lot of Artistic License – Paleontology related tropes can be traced back to Victorian era science when dinosaurs first captured the public imagination.