Normannognathus wellnhoferi is known from a single fragmentary snout discovered from the Upper Jurassic Argiles d’Octeville in northern France near Le Havre. It was first named in 1998 by Eric Buffetaut, Jean-Jaques Lepage, and Giles Lepage who considered it a new species of germanodactylid. The name Normannognathus translates to “Normandy jaw” and the species name honors pterosaur paleontologist Peter Wellnhofer.
The remains of Normannognathus are made up of the tips of the upper and lower jaws found in association and assumed to be from the same individual. The upper jaw fragment is about 5.5 cm (2 inches) long, showing that Normannognathus had a long, tapering, and gently upturned snout. There is also a very tall and narrow crest on the top of the snout about 4 cm (1.5 inches) from the ends of the jaw. The crest is at least 2.5x as tall as the underlying rostrum, and rises abruptly. It has a fibrous and striated bone texture with many curving grooves roughly perpendicular to the dorsal surface of the rostrum.
There are 15 tooth positions preserved on either side of the upper jaws, but no teeth. The palate appears to sag below the tooth-row, although this could be a result of crushing. The lower jaw is about 4.5 cm (2 inches) long and preserves 14 tooth positions, but only one tooth. The single tooth is peg-like, with a worn tip. The tooth counts are minimums, as there may have been more teeth in unpreserved portions of the upper and lower jaws.
When originally described by Buffetaut, Lepage, and Lepage, they thought it was a germanodactylid with many similarities to the dsungaripterids. In fact, they thought that it might be a transitional form between the straight-jawed low-crested forms like Germanodactylus and the curved-jawed tall-crested Dsungaripterus. In 2015 Mark Witton, Michael O’Sullivan, and David Martill reanalyzed Normannognathus and could not confidently assign it to any lineage other than Monofenestrata, the group that includes the short-tailed pterodactyloids and transitional wukongopterids. A recent analysis by Nick Longrich and colleagues has found Normannognathus to be a gallodactylid, most closely related to Cycnorhamphus which also had upturned jaw tips, peg-like teeth, a tall crest made from fibrous bone, and a palate dipping below the tooth-row. Unlike Normannognathus, the teeth of Cycnorhamphus were restricted to the very tips of the jaws, and it bore specialized soft tissue extensions on the side of its snout.
Without more complete remains, it’s impossible to determine the phylogenetic relationships of Normannognathus with certainty. Even the size of the skull and wingspan of the living animal are open to interpretation as each of the proposed lineages have substantially different skull proportions. The only known specimen was discovered in marine clays deposited about 155 million years ago when this part of France was under a shallow tropical sea. Normannognathus may have relied on the sea for food, but it is impossible to say much about its diet and habits without more material.