Yixianopterus – Chimaeras and Fakes – Part 6

Yixianopterus jingangshanensis JZMP-V12 (Lü et al. 2006) ~20 cm skull length, Barremian/Aptian Early Cretaceous ~125 mya, was correctly considered an ornithocheirid pterosaur like Haopterus. With a keen eye, Lü et al. (2006) reported, “The posterior portion of the skull is a forgery, which was made by glueing together some fragments to create a composite “complete” skull.”

Chinese farmers have found many fabulous fossils, but they have also made certain fossils even more fabulous by adding bones (a skull in this case) or rearranging the bones to increase its value.

Yixianopterus. The white boxed area is where the forgers attempted to create a complete skull from disassociated fossil bones.

Figure 1. Yixianopterus. Click to enlarge. The white boxed area is where the forgers attempted to create a complete skull from disassociated fossil bones. Roadkill fossils like this are typically not reconstructed, but DGS permits the identification of most traits. The colors are applied here using DGS to help identify bones and to make sure none are duplicated more than left/right.

Surprised to see I haven’t featured this specimen earlier.
Despite its roadkill appearance and lack of outstanding traits, Yixianopterus turns out to be a very important taxon because it nested at the base of the ornithocheirid family tree close to the JZMP embryo and not far from large and small basal cycnorhamphids and tiny derived scaphognathids from which it evolved. See the pterosaur family tree here.

Other pterosaur workers have apparently ignored this taxon in their phylogenetic trees — and that’s a problem. As I’ve said on many occasions, these plain-looking roadkill fossils are the ones that open most of the doors that answer the mysteries of paleontology. They should not be overlooked.

Figure 2. Reconstruction of Yixianopterus. Roadkill fossils really need at least this much reconstruction to make then intelligible. And don't ignore them in phylogenetic studies. Nothing spectacular here, which means it is more likely to be phylogenetically important.

Figure 2. Reconstruction of Yixianopterus. Roadkill fossils really need at least this much reconstruction to make then intelligible. And don’t ignore them in phylogenetic studies. Nothing spectacular here, which means it is more likely to be phylogenetically important.

References
Lü J, Ji S, Yuan C, Gao Y, Sun Z and Ji Q 2006. New pterodactyloid pterosaur from the Lower Cretaceous Yixian Formation of Western Liaoning. In J. Lü, Y. Kobayashi, D. Huang, Y.-N. Lee (eds.), Papers from the 2005 Heyuan International Dinosaur Symposium. Geological Publishing House, Beijing 195-203.

wiki/Yixianopterus

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s