The Latest Pterosaur Family Tree (Lü et al. 2012)

A New Pterosaur Tree
In their report on Moganopterus, Lü et al. (2012) nested it (Fig. 1) with Feilongus, another pterosaur with slender teeth and an extraordinarily long rostrum.

The Lü et al. (2012) family tree of the Pterosauria.

Figure 1. Click to enlarge. The Lü et al. (2012) family tree of the Pterosauria. Colors added to clades also recovered by the large pterosaur tree. Arrows point to nestings recovered by the large study that were missed by Lü et al (2012) principally because they did not employ tiny pterosaurs, but were biased towards larger specimens. 33,500 most parsimonious trees resulted.

Several Clades Here Match the Large Pterosaur Study
The Lü et al. (2012) study nested Anurognathids and Dimorphodontids with the Triassic pteorsaurs. Scaphognathus, Dorygnathus, Sordes and Rhamphorhynchus nested together. The Ornithocheirids nested together, as did most of the Tapejarids and Azhdarchids. The Ctenochasmatids nested together as did the Nyctosaurus and Pteranodon. Missing from this study were several dozen key taxa.

Several Clades Don’t Fare So Well
Lü et al (2012) failed to nest Austriadactylus and Raeticodactylus at the base of the Pterosauria. Perhaps that’s because they chose the neutral taxon “OUTGROUP” to root their tree. Were they not happy with the traditional paradigm, the Phytosauria? Rhamphorhynchus, Dorygnathus and Sordes should have nested a little closer to Campylognathoides and Nesodactylus should have nested as the closest sister. Darwinopterus should have nested closer to Pterorhynchus. The Ornithocheirds, Cycnorhyamphids, Pterodactylus and Germanodactylus should have nested closer to Scaphognathus. The Ctenochasmatids and Azhdarchids should have nested closer to Dorygnathus. Not sure how Nyctosaurus + Pteranodon nested so far from Germanodactylus. Why did Tupuxuara and Thalassodromeus nest so far from Tapejara? So many nestings here just don’t make sense. Perhaps that’s why Lü et al. (2012) ended up with tens of thousands of trees, rather than the one (or the few if you include certain largely incomplete taxa) in the large pterosaur family tree.

Getting back to Moganopterus
Moganopterus was correctly nested with Feilongus, but both were incorrectly nested with the ornithocheirds, Boreopterus and Zhenyuanopterus. Even so basal ornithocheirids and cycnorhamphids are close to one another. Cycnorhamphids inexplicably nested farther away alongside the ornithocheird, Cearadactylus, the ctenochasmatids and a large Pterodactylus longicollum.

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.

Lü J, Pu H-Y, Xu L, Wu Y-H and Wei X-F 2012.
 Largest Toothed Pterosaur Skull from the Early Cretaceous Yixian Formation of Western Liaoning, China, with Comments On the Family Boreopteridae. Acta Geologica Sinica 86 (2): 287-293. online.

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