Azhdarchidae (from the Persian word azhdar, اژدر, a dragon-like creature in Persian mythology) is a family of pterosaurs known primarily from the Late Cretaceous Period, though an isolated vertebra apparently from an azhdarchid is known from the Early Cretaceous as well (late Berriasian age, about 140 million years ago). Azhdarchids included some of the largest known flying animals of all time, but smaller cat-size members have also been found. Originally considered a sub-family of Pteranodontidae, Nesov (1984) named the Azhdarchinae to include the pterosaurs Azhdarcho, Quetzalcoatlus, and Titanopteryx (now known as Arambourgiania). They were among the last known surviving members of the pterosaurs, and were a rather successful group with a worldwide distribution. By the time of the end-Cretaceous mass extinction, most pterosaur families except for the Azhdarchidae disappear from the fossil record, but recent studies indicate a wealth of pterosaurian fauna, including pteranodontids, nyctosaurids, tapejarids and several indeterminate forms. In several analyses, some taxa such as Navajodactylus, Bakonydraco and Montanazhdarcho were moved from Azhdarchidae to other clades.
|Reconstructed skeleton of Quetzalcoatlus northropi|