Reports of a Giant Bird
A recent paper by Naish et al. (2011) reported the discovery of a “gigantic bird” from the middle of the Late Cretaceous based on a posterior mandible (Fig. 1). They named the specimen Samrukia nessovi.
May Instead Represent a Large Pterosaur
Dr. Eric Buffetaut argued that Samrukia was a pterosaur, not a giant bird, but did not assign a specific genus to it. He criticized the Naish et al. (2011) analysis for not including pterosaurs, only birds and dinosaurs [ed. note: Nice to hear someone else also criticizing inclusion/exclusion problems.]
If Indeed a Pterosaur, What Kind?
Very few large Cretaceous pterosaurs have a mandible with a convex dorsal rim, a concave ventral rim, a transverse ridge anterior to the jaw joint and a very short retroarticular process (in addition to several other traits). Criorhynchus appears to be the best match for Samrukia.
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.
Naish D, Dyke G, Cau A, Escuillié F and Godefroit P 2011. A gigantic bird from the Upper Cretaceous of Central Asia. Biology Letters in press. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2011.0683.
Naish D (August 9, 2011). Big birds in the Cretaceous of Central Asia: say hello to Samrukia. Tetrapod Zoology. online blog
Buffetaut E (in press). Samrukia nessovi, from the Late Cretaceous of Kazakhstan: A large pterosaur, not a giant bird. Annales de Paléontologie, published online before print 10-NOV-2011. doi:10.1016/j.annpal.2011.10.001