The news that the Chinese pterosaur, Guidraco, was most closely related to the South American Ludodactylus points to the worldwide distribution of the Ornithocheiridae, a clade of long-ranging pterosaurs. Probably not such a surprise for such wide-ranging albatross-like flyers. We also have North and South American anurognathids, Chinese Rhamphorhynchus, African dsungaripterids and South American ctenochasmatids, to name a few. We’re not coming up with anything outlandish anymore.
A Complete Pterosaur Tree
The Guidraco news points to the virtual completeness of the pterosaur family tree. Despite its unusual and exaggerated traits, Guidraco nested well within established clades. No presently known pterosaur is an outlier taxon. All are nested. I haven’t found an oddball in the bunch. Other than the terminal taxa (those that left no descendants), all pterosaurs fit somewhere between two others.
Reason to Celebrate? Depends on Your Attitude.
One of the drivers of science is the search for answers and the revelation of mysteries. So what happens when virtually all of those mysteries are already solved? Does that take all the fun out? Have we already seen the Golden Age of enthusiasm and insight? Like a jigsaw puzzle that is almost done and missing just a few pieces, the present family trees indicate that future discoveries are likely to be more or less predictable ~ with new discoveries nesting between something we already are familiar with.
Works With Less Than Complete Specimens too.
The present trees are filled with skull only and skull-less taxa, as well as a few others of lesser quality. Even so, the data provides enough resolution to resolve long-standing mysteries and upset traditional paradigms (enabled by lack of testing better candidates).
The New Trees Work Like Clockwork, But That Doesn’t Take All the Fun Out. Predictability is generally agreed to be a good trait in science, as in the Periodic Table of Elements. The new large tree provides that sort of predictability and complete resolution. The only frustration now is general adoption (hopefully by testing!!).
While others struggle with their own (let’s face it: botched) pterosaur and reptile trees, fraught with resolution problems and sisters that don’t look similar, I encourage workers to add more and more taxa to replicate the full resolution recovered in the trees presented in reptileevolution.com, because…
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.