Dawndraco was named by Alexander W.A. Kellner in 2010. The type species is Dawndraco kanzai. The generic name combines the Dawn deity of the Iroquois with a Latin draco, "dragon". The specific name refers to the Kanza tribe of Kansas.
Dawndraco is based on holotype UALVP 24238, a partial skeleton including an almost complete skull and lower jaws. It was recovered in 1974 by Richard C. Fox and Allen Lindoe from rocks of the lower part of the Smoky Hill Chalk Member of the Niobrara Formation in Utica, Kansas. These rocks date to the late Coniacian or early Santonian stage, about 86 million years ago.
The specimen was earlier referred to Pteranodon sternbergi. However, when Kellner in 2010 assigned this latter species to the genus Geosternbergia, he concluded that specimen UALVP 24238 was too different from it to be accounted for by individual variation or sexual dimorphism and therefore named a separate genus. A unique trait is that the snout does not strongly taper towards the front as with Pteranodon, the upper and lower margins running almost parallel instead.
Dawndraco was assigned by Kellner to the Pteranodontidae.
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