What is Cuspicephalus?

Cuspicephalus scarfi (MJML K1918, Martill and Etches 2011, prepublished online) is a new “monofenestratan pterosaur from the Kimmeridge Clay Formation (Upper Jurassic, Kimmeridgian) of Dorset, England.” While noting resemblances to Germanodactylus, those were dismissed by “the presence of teeth on the distal rostrum” (but see below). They reported, “The dentition and posterior skull morphology suggest affinities with Darwinopterus, but a close relationship cannot be proved.”

Tracing and reconstruction of Cuspicephalus

Figure1. Tracing and reconstruction of Cuspicephalus according to Martill and Etches (2011). Only a bare outline was recovered despite having first-hand access to the specimen.

Cuspicephalus scarfi

Figure 1. Cuspicephalus scarfi. Click to enlarge. Originally described without the mandible. Was it overlooked? Here more details was recovered using the DGS method. I had no access to the fossil itself. This appears to be the most gracile skull and mandible of any known germanodactylid or perhaps any known pterosaur.

Here, added to the large pterosaur study, Cuspicephalus nested within the genus Germanodactylus at the base of the division between the No. 61 specimen, G. cristatus on one branch, and Elanodactylus + Prejanopterus on the other. The expanded exoccipital/squamosal “ear” is a key trait found in sisters, plus the rostral and cranial crest are common in this clade. The supposition that no teeth appear on the distal rostrum of other Germanodactylus is false. The authors also overlooked a narrow mandible present on the fossil and discovered using DGS (digital graphic segregation). Cuspicephalus has the longest antorbital fenestra and the most gracile mandible of the germanodactylids. I would expect the post-crania to be likewise gracile.

As always, I encourage readers to see specimens, make observations and come to your own conclusions. Test. Test. And test again.

Evidence and support in the form of nexus, pdf and jpeg files will be sent to all who request additional data.

Martill DM and Etches S 2011. A new monofenestratan pterosaur from the Kimmeridge Clay Formation (Upper Jurassic, Kimmeridgian) of Dorset, England”. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica in press. doi:10.4202/app.2011.0071.  online pdf


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