About that Darwinopterus naris

Some of the Darwinopterus skulls are pretty busted up. This one is nearly pristine: Darwinopterus robustodens (HGM 411HIII-0309A, Lü et al. 2011a). They say the naris is absent or confluent with the antorbital fenestra in this specimen and all wukongopterids.

Let’s see if that’s true.

Figure 1. A careful tracing in color of the skull of Darwinopterus clearly reveals the naris, here with a portion of the broken premaxillary crest having slid behind it.

Figure 1. Click to enlarge. The original tracing (b&w below) did not identify a naris. A careful tracing in color of the skull of Darwinopterus clearly reveals the naris, here with a portion of the broken premaxillary crest having slid behind it. Restoring that part more clearly reveals the naris present. On a side note, the lacrimal is not as large as originally pictured. I’ve never seen a lacrimal roofing the skull, nor have I seen a nasal absent from the skull roof. The quadrate also has some issues. And then you have to ask, what was this clade doing with those giant hyoids? Did it have a giant tongue? or dewlap?

The naris has been overlooked or ignored far too often in many pterosaurs. Here is one more example. And a nice example of how DGS (plus a little experience and reconstructions) can find details that are otherwise overlooked.

Figure 6. Darwinopterus robustodens at the Henan Geological Museum (41HIII-0309A). The teeth tips are described (Lü et al. 2011) as sharper and are swollen between the crown and root. There are nine tooth pairs in the upper and eleven in the lower jaws, which are smaller than in D. modularis.

Figure 2. Darwinopterus robustodens at the Henan Geological Museum (HGM 41HIII-0309A). The naris is clearly present. The reconstruction and phylogenetic analysis are part of the DGS process.

Reference
Lü J, Xu L, Chang H and Zhang X 2011b. A new darwinopterid pterosaur from the Middle Jurassic of Western Liaoning, northeastern China and its ecological implicaitions. Acta Geologica Sinica 85: 507-514.

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