The other big pterosaur of Early Cretaceous England, Istiodactylus lent its name to an entire family of broad-headed and heavily-built flying reptiles. Its broad snout was once thought to be a duck-like fisherman but scientists now think it lived more like a vulture.
Istiodactylus had a set of large, slicing teeth at the front of its heavy jaws, possibly used to eat bones and other carrion. This allowed for some niche differentiation between Istiodactylus and its contemporary Caulkicephalus and allowed for lesser competition between the two animals.
Istiodactylus was described in 1887 as a species of the now invalid genus Ornithodesmus cluniculus. Ornithodesmus was once a large and very old wastebasket taxon used to encompass a variety of Cretaceous European pterosaurs. In 1913, these remains were redescribed by Waalter Reginald Hooley under the name of Ornithodesmus latidens.
This large wastebasket genus was split apart later by succeeding workers. The animal was renamed Istiodactylus in 2001 by David Martill, Andrew Milner and Stafford Howse. Another species, I. sinensis, was described a few years later from China. The second species is much smaller than the first one.