Petrodactyle wellnhoferi - say hello to Stonefinger!

Skye McDavid, July 16, 2023

Say hello to Stonefinger! Or, more formally, Petrodactyle wellnhoferi, a new genus and species of large crested pterosaur from the Late Jurassic of Germany. Stonefinger is the literal translation of the genus name, which has the rare distinction of using a French rather than Latin ending on an Ancient Greek root. The first pterosaur to be intensely studied didn't have a scientific name until 1812. The famous French anatomist Georges Cuvier studied it, calling it 'le pterodactyle' - a French common noun equivalent to the English 'pterodactyl', yet either he or his printer made an error and this word was rendered as 'petro-dactyle' on the cover. Yet, this typo unintentionally had the meaning of 'stone finger', an apt name for an animal with a very long wing finger found in limestone.

You probably only clicked on this for the high resolution version of the skeletal diagram, so here it is. You can download it in high resolution lossless PNG glory here

This illustration was commissioned by Dr Dave Hone and René and Bruce Lauer of the Lauer Foundation for use in the description of Petrodactyle wellnhoferi. I want to express my thanks to them for commissioning me, especially Dave, whom I worked with most closely, and René, whose multi-gigabyte folder of high resolution photos under various light types made my work much easier. An anonymous reviewer on the manuscript made a suggestion which improved the illustration. As the paper containing the illustration is available under CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0, I am releasing the high-resolution version here under the same license. If you use it, please attribute to 'Skye McDavid' or 'Skye McDavid for the Lauer Foundation'. 

Now, Petrodactyle is from the vicinity of Eichstätt, famous for its Late Jurassic fossils from the Altmühltal Formation, popularly known as the Solnhofen Limestone. But Petrodactyle is not from the Altmühltal formation, but the overlying Mörnsheim Formation. The slightly different geology of the Mörnsheim formation has resulted in an uncommon state of preservation where some traces of soft tissue are present but also some bones are seemingly disintegrated. The diagram is primarily based on the specimen itself, though for missing or poorly preserved parts I had to fill in from close relatives. As such, some parts are adapted from Mark Witton's skeletal diagram of Cycnorhamphus. Though Ctenochasmatoid skulls are highly variable, both between species and through ontogeny, their trunks are remarkably similar, and their limbs vary mostly in proportions, so I'm confident in the accuracy of this diagram.  

Holotype of Petrodactyle wellnhoferi.Photo by René Lauer.

I'll finish this off by saying that, yes, I think Petrodactyle is very cute, and yes, I would like to give him a fish. 


Hone DWE, Lauer R, Lauer B, Spindler F (2023) Petrodactyle wellnhoferi gen. et sp. nov.: a new and large ctenochasmatid pterosaur from the Late Jurassic of Germany. Palaeontologia Electronica 26(2):a25 doi: 10.26879/1251

Witton MP (2013) Pterosaurs. Princeton University Press