An Ultimate Guide to Hatzegopteryx: Hatzeg Basin Wing

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Name Meaning“Hateg Basin Wing”Height5.4 meters. (18 feet)
PronunciationHat-zee-gop-ter-ixLength10 to 12 meters (33 to 39 feet)
EraMesozoicLate CretaceousWeight220 to 250 kgs. (440 to 550 lbs.)
ClassificationPterosauria, Pterodactyloidea & AzhdarchidaeLocationHateg Island (Romania)

Hatzegopteryx Pictures

Hatzegopteryx | Sebastian Kaulitzki via GettyImages

The Hatzegopteryx

Gage Beasley Prehistoric's Hatzegopteryx Concept
Gage Beasley Prehistoric’s Hatzegopteryx Concept

The Hatzegopteryx is a species of pterosaur that lived in the Maastrichtian age during the Late Cretaceous period.

The type species Hatzegopteryz thambema is known from a skull and humerus, but there have been other specimens discovered.

The height and wingspan of the Hatzegopteryx are one of the largest of pterosaurs, and they were one of the largest flying animals to ever exist. 

The name Hatzegopteryx is made up of the two words “Hateg” and “pteryx”, which translates to “Hateg basin wing,” and is in reference to the Hateg Basin, where the pterosaur lived and was discovered.

Its specific name thambema is derived from Greek and is the word for “monster”.

Gage Beasley's Prehistoric Shirt Collection
Gage Beasley’s Prehistoric Shirt Collection
Gage Beasley's Prehistoric Plush Collection
Gage Beasley’s Prehistoric Plush Collection

This pterosaur was as tall as a giraffe but still able to fly and weighed nearly 500 lbs.

Pterosaurs in Romania have a history dating back to the early 1900s.

Hatzegopteryx were fierce predators that preyed on various species in the Late Cretaceous of Romania.

This article will cover everything you need to know about the Hatzegopteryx and its discovery.

While little fossils from this pterosaur have been discovered, there are still lots of amazing things to learn about the flying giant, Hatzegopteryx

Physical Characteristics

Gage Beasley Prehistoric's Hatzegopteryx Concept
Gage Beasley Prehistoric’s Hatzegopteryx Concept

Hatzegopteryx is an extremely large pterosaur that has a giant skull, large neck, and giant wingspan used to fly.

Pterosaurs like the Quetzalcoatlus, Nyctosaurus, and Anhanguera are responsible for helping depict the size and appearance of these ancient giants since there is very limited fossil evidence of Hatzegopteryx

Originally the skull of Hatzegopteryx was estimated to have a length of around 3 meters (9.8 ft).

New estimates done by Mátyás Vremir suggested this pterosaur had a short and broader sull, with a length of 1.6 meters. (5.3 ft).

Hatzegopteryx had a short beak with a larger neck.

Their mouths were large enough to swallow a human whole. 

Gage Beasley Prehistoric’s Hatzegopteryx Size Comparison Chart

Comparing the humerus of Hatzegopteryx with Quetzalcotlus is how the size of this pterosaur was estimated.

Hatzegopteryx is estimated to be as tall as a giraffe and has a height of around 18 ft.

Their neck alone measured to be around 1.5 meters long (5 ft).

Being so larger, you may not think this species is able to fly, but they had large wings comparable to other flying pterosaurs

With a wingspan of 10 to 12 meters (33 to 39 ft.), the Hatzegopteryx is one of the largest flying reptiles to exist.

The wings of this pterosaur could have been used with their back legs to help them travel when on the ground.

The head and neck of this pterosaur are its largest feature, as their bodies are much smaller. 

Habitat and Distribution

In the late Cretaceous period, the Hatzegopteryx lived on a large offshore island located in the Tethys Sea called Hateg Island.

This island only existed in the Late Cretaceous period, from the Cenomanian to the Maastrichitain age.

Hateg Island was located in the region of modern Romania, in Hunedora Country.

Tectonic uplift is what created this island, and there have been lots of life found that lived there.

Hateg Island had a subtropical environment, with a temperature range between 0–25 °C (68–77 °F).

Map to show the global distribution of faunas containing small-medium and giant-sized azhdarchids, evidence for niche partioning.
Map to show the global distribution of faunas containing small-medium and giant-sized azhdarchids, evidence for niche partitioning | Mark Witton via Wikipedia CC BY 2.5

Hateg Island had an estimated size of around 80,000 square kilometers (31,000 sq mi) and was about 200 kilometers away from the nearest land mass.

The island was surrounded by a large marine basin. 

It is likely Hatzegopteryx and other animals that lived on the Island were isolated from other life around the globe.

Hateg Island had a varying climate.

The region had dry woodlands but also waves of monsoons.

The drop of rock layers near the area of the island indicates the region had a slowing of volcanic activity. 

Behavior and Diet

A giant Hatzegopteryx thambema pterosaur overlooks a group of Balaur bondoc dinosaurs fighting for the corpse of a Struthiosaurus.
A giant Hatzegopteryx thambema pterosaur overlooks a group of Balaur bondoc dinosaurs fighting for the corpse of a Struthiosaurus | Sergey Krasovskiy via GettyImages

Hatzegopteryx is a carnivore that feeds on other dinosaurs and smaller animals.

Being a pterosaur, scientists first believed Hatzegopteryx to only feed on small animals, but their size made it possible for them to eat things as large as a horse.

Being so large, this pterosaur could fit an entire human in its mouth.

Other animals, mammals, fish, and insects are some of the things this pterosaur could have eaten.

While other pterosaurs ate other things like fruit or nuts, it is not known whether Hatzegopteryx also ate these things. 

Hatzegopteryx hunting on the ground, a behavior dubbed "terrestrial stalking"
Hatzegopteryx hunting on the ground, a behavior dubbed “terrestrial stalking” | Julio Lacerda via EarthArchives

The size of this pterosaur made it able to take out any prey it lived with, and this pterosaur was an apex predator in its habitat.

There have been several theories as to how such a giant hunted and sustained itself on an island.

At first, scientists believed Hatzegopteryx to be a scavenger, but the building of their bill did not support this theory.

Hatzegopteryx was a terrestrial stalker, as they had the ability to fly but did their hunting on the ground.

Life Cycle

Hatzegopteryx on white background.
Hatzegopteryx on white background | Sebastian Kaulitzki via GettyImage

Due to the very limited fossil evidence of Hatzegopteryx, not much is known about this species’ lifecycle.

Not much is also known about the pterosaur reproduction either, but it is believed these species had similar lifecycles to other dinosaurs.

Pterosaurs, like other dinosaurs, started their life in eggs, which were leathery similar to reptiles like turtles. 

It is now known if pterosaurs watched their young, but they likely only cared for them for a short period.

Their eggs were buried in the sand when laid, and after being born, it was only a short period before they could fly.

If Hatzegopteryx did do prenatal care, it was for the short period before their young learned to fly. 

Because of their size, young Hatzegopteryx were not preyed on by other predators, as they had the size to defend themselves.

Studies suggest that juveniles of larger pterosaurs species played the role that smaller pterosaurs played in their ecosystems. 

Evolution and History

Cast of a Hatzegopteryx thambema wrist bone
Cast of a Hatzegopteryx thambema wrist bone | Tim Evanson via Wikipedia CC BY-SA 2.0

Hatzegopteryx was discovered in the 1970s, found on a student dig.

The fossil found was discovered in the upper Middle Densus Ciula Formation of Valioara.

The holotype of Hatzegopteryx is made up of a back of the skull fragment and a damaged humerus.

When first discovered, this species was believed to be a large theropod because of its size.

Several other fossils have been discovered believed to be of Hatzegopteryx, including a mandible, another femur, and large neck vertebrae.

Hatzegopteryx: A colossal pterosaur with an impressive wingspan, known as the 'king of the Late Cretaceous skies.'
Hatzegopteryx: A colossal pterosaur with an impressive wingspan, known as the ‘king of the Late Cretaceous skies | Image via Wikimedia

The size of these fossils made it likely to belong to Hatzegopeteryx since there have been no other large azhdarchids living in the region. 

2002 is when Hatzegopteryx was described, done so by French paleontologists Eric Buffetaut, Dan Grigorescu, and Zoltan Csiki.

There have been a lot of similarities between the fossils found of Hatzegpoteryx and Quetzalcoatlus, and some considered calling these two synonyms.

The thick neck and jaw of Hatzegopteryx are what separate these two species. 

Interactions with Other Species

The Maastrichtian, Transylvanian giant azhdarchid pterosaur Hatzegopteryx sp. preys on the rhabdodontid iguanodontian Zalmoxes.
The Maastrichtian, Transylvanian giant azhdarchid pterosaur Hatzegopteryx sp. preys on the rhabdodontid iguanodontian Zalmoxes | Mark Witton via Wikipedia CC BY-SA 4.0

In the ecosystem of Hateg Island, Hategopteryx was likely the dominant apex predator of its ecosystem.

There have been several fossils found on Hateg Island, but none as large as the Hatzegopteryx.

Dinosaurs on the island actually took a different route and, instead of experiencing island gigantism, evolved to be smaller. 

Species like the Titanosaur and Magyarosaurus exhibited island dwarfism and were much smaller than the ones that lived on the mainland.

The lack of large predators and other animals getting smaller made Hatzegopteryx the dominant species in its home.

Art of Pablo Rivera
Art of Pablo Rivera | Image via PabloNotPicasso

Other animals found on Hateg Island include:

  • Aprosuchus 
  • Albadraco
  • Magyarosaurus
  • Struthiosaurus
  • Telmatosaurus
  • Transylvanosaurus
  • Zalmoxes
  • Rhabdodon
  • Paludititan
  • Kogaionon

While most pterosaurs hunted smaller prey, Hatzegopteryx could have hunted animals the same size or even larger than that.

The lack of large predators of this pterosaur likely gave them an aggressive nature.

The neck size of Hatzegopteryx made them sturdier than other pterosaurs and capable of going toe to toe with even large theropods. 

Cultural Significance

Witness the magnificence of Hatzegopteryx, an enormous flying reptile with a formidable presence and powerful beak.
Witness the magnificence of Hatzegopteryx, an enormous flying reptile with a formidable presence and powerful beak | DemonicManchot via DeviantArt

The discovery of Hatzegopteryx helped scientists better understand the paleofauna that inhabited Hateg Island during the last 20 million years of the Mesozoic era.

Hatzegopteryx is one of the largest known pterosaurs and was the apex predator in their habitats.

Thanks to other similar pterosaur, the Hatzegopteryx was able to be described and depicted.

The large size and ability to fly are why this pterosaur was so dominant in its habitat and why so many have taken an interest in this giant. 

Hatzegopteryx was an important pterosaur and is one of the main reasons why Hateg Country Dinosaurs Geopark was created.

This park was made to preserve and maintain the region’s culture and is located where the prehistoric Hateg Island was located. 


The Hatzegopteryx is one of the largest flying animals to ever existed and was a fierce predator of its time.

This species lived on Hateg Island, which today is located in Romania, and is a site known for its culture and ancient history.

Hatzegopteryx had a mouth large enough to fit a human and had the strength to charge and take down prey larger than itself.

Pterosaurs were known to only eat the smaller prey, but Hatzeopteryx is one that was able to go after prey bigger than them.

Other dinosaurs and better-studied species are how scientists put the mystery of this ancient giant together.

With such little evidence left behind from Hatzegopteryx, as more discoveries are may, lots may change about this species.

Dinosaurs like pterosaurs are theorized to have evolved to grow bigger since birds were able to outcompete them.

Their larger size is what made them vulnerable to mass extinction, but as more is learned, this theory could change. 

It feels like fantasy thinking of animals as large as a giraffe able to fly, but long ago, Hatzegopteryx dominated a small island in what is now Romania.

There have been over 150 species of pterosaurs discovered, and few come close to the size and ferocity of Hatzegopteryx


Are Hatzegopteryx and Quetzalcoatlus the same dinosaur?

Hatzegopteryx and Quetzalcoatlus are very similar pterosaurs, and both are members of the Pterodactyloidae suborder.

These two pterosaurs look very similar, and Quetzalcoatlus fossils helped identify and reconstruct the Hatzegopteryx when first discovered.

Hatzegopteryx is different from Quetzalcoatlus and has a  stouter jaw and a more heavily built skull.

It can be easy to confuse these two species, but Hatzegopteryx lived in Europe, while Quetzalcoatlus inhabited what is now the United States. 

Why did Hatzegopteryx grow to be so large?

One theory as two, why Hatzegopteryx grew to be so large is because of island gigantism.

This phenomenon occurs when an animal isolated on an island grows to be very larger compared with other relatives that live on the mainland.

This evolutionary trend occurs since there is little competition and predation for island animals.

Hatzegopteryx could have been an example of island gigantism, and it was stockier and had a larger wingspan than most other pterosaurs. 

When did Hatzegopteryx go extinct? 

The Hatzegopteryx went extinct at the end of the Late Cretaceous period, along with the other dinosaurs.

This pterosaur went extinct around 66 million years ago when the Chicxulub asteroid killed around 75% of all species, including most dinosaurs on Earth.

Birds are the only species to survive the asteroid. 


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