Another Fish-Pterosaur Drama in the Jurassic

Earlier we were delighted to see a Jurassic drama frozen in time as an Aspidorhynchus fish and Rhamphorhynchus pterosaur were fossilized together in an extremely rare fossil. (Fig. 1, Frey and Tischlinger 2012).

Rhamphorhynchus entangled with Aspidorhynchus

Figure 1. Rhamphorhynchus entangled with Aspidorhynchus (WDC CSG 255). Both complete and articulated. Inside the belly of Rhamphorhynchus are several smaller fish. Inside its throat is another. Image from Frey and Tischlinger (2012).

Now there’s a pair of them!
When I first saw the second Aspidorus-Rhamphorhynchus fossil (Fig. 2), at first I thought it was identical. But it is only the same situation and (nearly) the same players. Not the same pose. Well, the fish is looking over its left shoulder again. But now it looks like they’re dancing — slow dancing.

Figure 2. New Rhamphorhynchus-Aspidorhynchus death struggle from the Beat Imhof collection.

Figure 2. New Rhamphorhynchus-Aspidorhynchus death struggle from the Fascination Minerals collection.

Revelation of the fish/pterosaur drama began in 2007 with the exposure of the pterosaur skull. Only a stain marked the position of the fish as shown in this 3 frame movie (click to animate, Fig. 3).

Figure 3. Click to animate. Exposing the Jurassic drama of the fish and pterosaur is shown here, from raw fossil to carefully prepared display. From the Beat Imhof collection.

Figure 3. Click to animate. Exposing the Jurassic drama of the fish and pterosaur is shown here, from raw fossil to carefully prepared display. From the Fascination Minerals collection.

A reconstruction of the Rhamphorhynchus is shown here (Fig. 4). I’ll add it to a phylogenetic analysis later, but it seems to have a distinct rostral profile, long torso, short arms and robust wings. It’s also on the large side.

Figure 4. Rhamphorhynchus from the Imhof collection.

Figure 4. Rhamphorhynchus from the Fascination Minerals collection.

Here (Fig. 5) are the two Rhamphorhynchus specimens featured today along with their 60cm dance partner, all to the same scale.

Fig. 5. Rhamphorhynchus specimens that have been bitten and fossilized with Aspidorhynchus, a Solnhofen fish of 60cm length.

Fig. 5. Two Rhamphorhynchus specimens that have been bitten and fossilized with Aspidorhynchus, a Solnhofen fish of 60cm length. The skull of the Fascination Minerals specimen (at left) is at the bend of the fish. The other is the Thermopolis specimen WDC CGS 255.

It’s rare to find two species interacting in the fossil record.
So it makes news when it happens. The above may be breaking news because the supplier of the photograph, Beat Imhof, tells me it has not been published.

Figure 1. I know, it's not exactly under our charter, but here one amphibian is choking on another smaller one. Sclerocephalus is the genus.

Figure 6. I know, it’s not exactly under our charter, but here one amphibian is choking on another smaller one. Sclerocephalus is the genus.

Not quite along similar lines, earlier we looked at a cynodont and amphibian sharing the same burrow, and one amphibian eaten by the other (Fig. 6).

References
Frey E and Tischlinger H (2012). The Late Jurassic Pterosaur Rhamphorhynchus, a Frequent Victim of the Ganoid Fish Aspidorhynchus? PLoS ONE 7(3): e31945. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0031945, available online

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