In 2003 paleontologists Zhou Zhong-He and Wang Xiao-Lin described a new species of pterosaur, Liaoningopterus gui from rocks in northeastern China. Liaoningopterus was discovered in Lower Cretaceous sediments of the Jiufotang Formation in Liaoning Province, which gave the animal its scientific name.
Liaoningopterus is so far only known from a single partial specimen consisting of the majority of the skull, a single neck vertebra, and a fragment from the wing finger. The complete skull measures 61 cm (24 inches) in length, and is both robust and quite long and narrow. Liaoningopterus bore semi-circular crests near the tips of both the upper and lower jaws.
Its teeth are limited to the anterior half of both upper and lower jaws, with the largest teeth near the tips. They are robust, conical, and slightly curving. The teeth near the tips of the upper jaws are the longest teeth ever reported in a pterosaur, at 81 mm (3 ¼ inches) long.
The remainder of the skeleton is very poorly known, but shows that Liaoningopterus was quite robust. Comparisons to similar pterosaurs suggest that the wingspan was 5 meters (17 feet).
The narrow snout, and robust teeth indicate that Liaoningopterus was a fish eater, probably snatching fish from near the surface while flying. 120 million years ago, the area in which Liaoningopterus lived was a forested plain with many lakes, rivers, and swampy areas, providing it with plenty of prey.
When initially described, Wang and Zhou noted similarities between Liaoningopterus and the Brazilian genus Anhanguera. Both genera have long and robust snouts with semi-circular crests near, but not at, the tips of the jaws. Additionally, they are both robust aerial fishers, with long teeth near the ends of the jaw.
Subsequent studies have confirmed that Liaoningopterus and Anhanguera are most closely related to each other in the family Anhaugueridae. Anhanguerids are most closely related to the ornithocheirids, also robust aerial fishers with semi-circular crests at the tip of their snouts.
These two families as well as the istiodactylids, pteranodontids, and nyctosaurids are part of a large group of short-tailed pterosaurs known as ornithocheiroids. All ornithocheiroids have fairly robust bodies, somewhat short necks, and very long narrow wings, and are thought to have been aerial fishers.