The Cambridge Greensand Formation is one of the most speciose pterosaur-bearing fossil formations in the world and most of these species are known from isolated snout tips. But many of these snout tips show unique features that allow them to be recognized as distinct species. And of all these snout taxa, Aerodraco is certainly one of them.
Although only known from a 7.5 cm (3 inch) portion of the upper snout, Aerodraco shows a distinctive set of features. Like many ornithocheirids, the front of the jaws had a spoonlike expansion, but in Aerodraco it abruptly ends after the third tooth pair. The third tooth pair was also proportionally larger in Aerodraco compared to all other ornithocheirids.
Beyond this, the tip of the snout appears to have been directed straight and had a distinctly rounded anterior margin. There is no sign of a crest, and all the teeth are missing in the holotype. Although nothing else is known of its skeleton, based on comparisons with close relatives, it may have had a skull around 50 cm (20 inches) long and a wingspan of about 3 meters (10 feet).
The species was first named as Pterodactylus sedgwickii by Richard Owen in 1859, a time when almost every pterosaur was a species of Pterodactylus. It was later passed between the genera Ornithocheirus and Coloborhynchus by numerous authors until 2013, when Taissa Rodrigues and Alexander Kellner reviewed the “Ornithocheirus complex”. Rodrigues and Kellner tentatively reassigned the species to the genus Camposipterus on account of sharing a distinctly rounded rostrum and lacking a crest.
A 2020 phylogenetic analysis by Borja Holgado and Rodrigo Pêgas changed things, however. They recovered C. sedgwickii as being quite distantly related from actual Camposipterus; while that genus was recovered within Targaryendraconia, sedgwickii was found to be a coloborhynchine ornithocheirid. Thus, Holgado and Pêgas gave the species a new genus name: Aerodraco. The name, which translates to “wind dragon”, alludes to Dragons of the Air, one of the first popular books about pterosaurs, written by Harry Seeley in 1901.
The Cambridge Greensand Formation represents what was once a seashore approximately 100 million years ago. Aerodraco was one of the many fish-eating pterosaurs that lived in this environment. The snout expansion and large front teeth would have formed an enclosed “fish grab”, which is also found in many related pterosaurs.