Sculptor and blogger Helder da Rocha posted this photo of a new Early Cretaceous pterosaur from South America. He wrote: “This fossil was on sale at Paleodirect but not anymore. Either it was sold or (hopefully) acquired by a paleontological institution.”
De Rocha noted the similarity of this specimen to Tapejara (downturned rostrum) and to Tupuxuara (vertically expanded crest and lack of a dentary keel). Th rostral crest was larger than in any tupuxuarid, but the frontal/parietal crest did not extend posteriorly like a tapejarid. So it’s worth examining. The skull appears to be complete lacking a postorbital, bits of crest, a dentary tip and there is a peculiar slit of missing bone anterior to the antorbital fenestra.
To no one’s surprise, this specimen nests in the large pterosaur tree between the tapejarids and the tupuxuarids, both having descended from a sister to Huaxiapterus, but in different directions.
And its worthwhile to check out Huaxiapterus (Fig. 2) in greater detail as a starting point and a good guess as to what the post-crania might look like. In Huaxiapterus the mandible is too deep and the premaxilla extends too far back to be ancestral to the new specimen (but perfectly suitable to be ancestral to Tapejara). In our search for ancestors we can only get close and very rarely (almost never) pinpoint an actual ancestor.
If we go back one step further we find a better ancestor to the new pterosaur skull. Here’s Sinopterus.
No reference for the new skull, which might now reside either with a private collector or a public institution.
Evolution produces a bush of variation, not just the two lineages (tapejarids and tupuxuarids) we had seen up until this point.