Chomp chomp

Look: With a mouth full of teeth, this Pterosaur ate like a whale

Filter-feeding isn’t a new invention.

Megan Jacobs

Sergey Krasovskiy/Stocktrek Images/Getty Images

Pterosaurs are well known for their colossal wingspans and decorative head crests.

But rarely do they boast impressive mouthfuls of pearly whites.

A newly-discovered pterosaur species had at least 480 teeth in its long, spatula-shaped beak.

Megan Jacobs

Martill et. al/PalZ

Writing last week in the journal Paläontologische Zeitschrift, researchers detail the discovery of its nearly complete skeleton from a quarry in Germany.

Called Balaenognathus maeuseri, the species’ generic (first) name means “bowhead whale jaw” in Latin.

Megan Jacobs

It was discovered by accident. Researchers were digging for crocodile bones when they stumbled upon the pterosaur.

kampee patisena/Moment/Getty Images

Its remains were tucked inside a limestone slab and date back to the Late Jurassic period.

Martill et. al/PalZ

Martill et. al/PalZ

The pterosaur’s teeth were long and skinny, which helped it feed like bowheads and other species of baleen whales.

Chase Dekker Wild-Life Images/Moment/Getty Images

Baleen whales do not have teeth, but rather rows of fine bristles made of keratin.

They feed by filtering out mouthfuls of water to trap prey — which would have been a similar technique to Balaenognathus.

Ashley Cooper/Corbis/Getty Images

Some ducks are also filter-feeders, holding onto prey with teeth-like structures called lamellae.

The opening at the end of Balaenognathus’ beak would have allowed it to suck up water and expel it out the sides.

Martill et. al/PalZ

Martill et. al/PalZ

“...some of the teeth have a hook on the end, which we’ve never seen before in a pterosaur ever.

These small hooks would have been used to catch the tiny shrimp the pterosaur likely fed on – making sure they went down its throat and weren’t squeezed between the teeth.”

-David Martill, primary study author, in a press release.

Only one other pterosaur species is known to have more teeth than Balaenognathus.

Pterodaustro, which lived in modern-day Argentina, boasted a mouthful of 1,000 chompers.


Megan Jacobs

But Balaenognathus’ skinny, hooked teeth are unique to its species — and showcase a feeding style that still exists in many animals today.