Not all pterosaurs were huge, majestic creatures of the air. Among the smallest and oddest of all flying reptiles was Anurognathus ammoni. It lived in Germany during the Late Jurassic, 149 million years ago. Fossils of this creature have been found in the Solnhofen Limestone Formation, a well-documented series of rock beds that preserve the remains of an island environment reminiscent of the modern Bahamas: low-lying islands separated by warm, shallow seas.
This island chain was dry and rocky with sparse vegetation and Anurognathus was one of many small animals that lived here. The holotype or first fossil remains were uncovered in 1922. The holotype specimen showed an animal that was 9 centimeters (3.5 inches) long and had a wingspan of merely 35 centimeters (14 inches). In 2008, pterosaur specialist Mark Witton estimated the animal’s weight at a mere 40 grams (1.4 ounces). This makes it one of the smallest pterosaurs ever discovered.
Bavarian geologist Ludwig von Ammon had the fossil in his collection in 1922 until it was named the following year. The scientific name Anurognathus ammoni translates to "Ammon's tailless jaw" referencing the absence of a long tail in the fossil. Until then, all short-tailed pterosaurs had been found with long hand bones, long necks, and very long skulls. Anurognathus’ contemporaries Pterodactylus and Rhamphorhynchus, both fish-eaters, are prime examples of more traditional pterosaur morphs. Rhamphorhynchus had a long tail, but like Anurognathus retained short hands and a short neck. Meanwhile, Pterodactylus had a short tail like Anurognathus, but its neck and hands were longer.