Lü et al. (2012) recently reported on a new Gallodactylus (= Cycnorhamphus)-type of Ctenochasmatoid (cycnorhamphidae + ctenochasmatidae + Pterodactylus). Unfortunately these three clades are not related in the large pterosaur tree that tests many more possibilities.
Meet Gladocephaloideus jingangshanensis
This long rostrum ctenochasmatid did not have as many teeth as Ctenochasma, nor did it have the spoon-bill of Gnathosaurus. But it did have the slightly curved rostrum, widely spaced teeth and elongated neck vertebrae of Gegepterus. Gladocephaloideus lived during the Barremian stage of the Early Cretaceous some 125 million years ago, so it was a contemporary of Gegepterus from the same formation. From information presented so far, Gladocephaloideus may be a species within the genus Gegepterus.
The back of the Gladocephaloideus skull includes, “Filamentous structures are preserved near the dorsal and posterior margins of the posterior portion of the skull (above the orbit), and similar structures are also preserved near the back side of the cervical vertebra. It also supports the idea that at least some relatively small pterosaurs were warm-blooded, active fliers.” As mentioned above, the cheek area is also covered by skin that obscures the underlying bones.
The Feet Tell the Tale
No doubt the skulls of Gladocephaloideus and the cycnorhamphid, Feilongus (Fig.4), converge upon each other. Even so, the feet of Gladocephaloideus are much closer to those of other ctenochasmatids, like Ctenochasma elegans (Fig. 2) and AMNH 5147, a primitive gnathosaurid. The feet of cycnorhamphids are distinctly different with a longer metatarsal 1. Scaphonathids (including cycnorhamphids and ornithocheirids) also share a metatarsal 1 longer than the others.
Lü et al. (2012) reported an extremely low crest on Gladocephaloideus (Fig. 1). To me, that doesn’t look like much of a crest. Instead that zone may represent the crushed and broken occiput of a rounder skull, as in ctenochasmatids.
In the large pterosaur tree, Gladocephaloideus nests as a sister to Gegepterus and may be a species of that genus. To move Gladocephaloideus to the cycnorhamphids requires 28 more steps.
Lü J-C, Ji Q, Wei X-F and Liu Y-Q 2011. A new ctenochasmatoid pterosaur from the Early Cretaceous Yixian Formation of western Liaoning, China. Cretaceous Research in press. doi:10.1016/j.cretres.2011.09.010.