Evolution of the Pterosaur Palate – part 7: Pterodactylus and Germanodactylus

Earlier we looked at basal pterosaur palatesdimorphodontoid palatescampylognathoid palates, pre-azhdarchid palates, pre-ctenochasmatids and pre-ornithocheirids. Here in part 7 we’ll look at the pterosaur palate from Scaphognathus to Pterodactylus longicollum (aka: Diopecephalus, Fig. 1) and to Germanodactylus rhamphastinus, following the phylogenetic order recovered in the large pterosaur tree). As previously mentioned, the pterosaur palate has been largely overlooked, unless it was specifically exposed.

Figure 1. Click to enlarge. Evolution of the pterosaur palate from Scaphognathus to Pterodactylus and Germanodactylus.

Figure 1. Click to enlarge. Evolution of the pterosaur palate from Scaphognathus to Pterodactylus and Germanodactylus.

No. 31
Distinct from the Maxburg specimen of Scaphognathus (No. 110 in the Wellnhofer 1970 catalog), No. 31 was smaller overall with a sharper premaxilla. The medial two premaxillary teeth extend anteriorly. The teeth are smaller and more homodont. The lateral process of the ectopalatine was more robust. The pterygoids were straighter.

Distinct from No. 31, the palate of Ningchengopterus was longer posteriorly with more gracile elements, especially the pterygoid.

Pterodactylus scolopacicps, specimen No. 21
Distinct from Ningchengopterus, the palate of the No. 21 specimen of Pterodactylus was longer still with a more robust vomer. The pterygoids were essentially straight and underlapping the ectopalatines.

Pterodactylus antiquus, specimen No. 4
Distinct from P. scolopaciceps, the palate of the No. 4 specimen of Pterodactylus had smaller teeth and a rounder premaxilla tip. The pterygoid (still hidden beneath a thin layer of limestone) was more robust.

Pterodactylus longicollum, specimen No. 58
Distinct from P. antiquus, the palate of the No. 58 specimen of Pterodactylus (Diopecephalus) had larger teeth, a broader set of vomers, a broader palate and the pterygoids extended over the maxilla (but these may be only the anterior processes of the ectopalatine). The lateral process of the ectopalatine was fenestrated.

No. 12
At the base of the Germanodactylia and derived from a sister to the Maxburg specimen of Scaphognathus (Fig. 1), is tiny No. 12. There is very little difference in the palate, except the medial pterygoid is bifurcated. The lateral process of the medially turned pterygoid became a new anterior process in the Maxburg specimen of Scaphognathus. In No. 12, that process is much longer, reflecting the increased length of the rostrum.

Germanodactylus rhamphastinus, specimen No. 64
Overall larger than and distinct from No. 12, the No. 64 specimen of Germanodactylus rhamphastinus has a larger maxilla palate area. The anterior medial process is longer, but the lateral process, if present, was not identified.

In this clade the trend was toward a larger contribution to the palate by the maxilla and layering of the pterygoid beneath the ectopalatine. In the Pterodactylus lineage the pterygoids were parallel to each other. In the Germanodactylus lineage the pterygoids formed a triangle.

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.

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