If you want to learn about pterosaurs, start with this one.

Still unnamed
the privately-held ‘Painten pterodactyl’ (Tischlinger and Frey 2013) is a perfectly articulated small specimen (Figs. 1-4). Phylogenetically it nests in the large pterosaur tree (LPT, 232 taxa) at the base of the clade that leads to Pterodactylus (Fig. 5), just off the path toward Germanodactylus…and it’s not too far removed from its Scaphognathus ancestors (Fig. 5).

If you want to learn about pterosaurs,
start with this one (Figs. 1-4). The Painten pterodactyl makes it easy to see all the bones in natural (undisturbed) articulation. Even the sternal complex (magenta) is visible below all the other pectoral bones.

Figure 1. The Painten pterosaur specimen in situ under visible and UV light, then under DGS to identify the bones with colors.

Figure 1. The Painten pterosaur specimen in situ under visible and UV light, then under DGS to identify the bones with colors.

The skull
has the standard premaxilla with four teeth per side. Traditionally overlooked tiny secondary nares are visible. The temporal arch is very low on the skull.

Figure 2. Painten pterosaur skull.

Figure 2. Painten pterosaur skull. Only the palate remains buried in this excellent example of a preparator’s skill and perfect preservation.

The wrist
(Fig. 3) includes an excellent vestigial manual digit 5 curled up on the palmar side of the left hand. That is an unexpected taphonomic displacement because in vivo digit 5 would be on the axially torsioned dorsal side of the manus. The vestige appears to be coming up around the crushed edge where metacarpal 5 is buried underneath. The carpals and digit 5 show some dislocation, which may explain how the remains of digit 5 ended up on the palmar side of the manus.

Figure 3. The wrist of the Painten pterosaur. Here the vestige of manual digit 5 (blue) is clearly visible on the palmar side of the left wrist.

Figure 3. The wrist of the Painten pterosaur. Here the vestige of manual digit 5 (blue) is clearly visible on the palmar side of the left wrist.

The feet, tail and wingtips
include a disarticulated bone from the base of the tail. Unguals tipped all five pedal digits. one wing bone (m4.4) was broken and healed in life.

Figure 4. The feet and tail of the Painten pterosaur with colors applied to bones. One loose proximal tail bone (red) is displaced at left. Left manual 4.4 is broken and re-healed in a jagged fashion. The wing tips are large, pulley-like joints. The wing unguals (dark blue) are displaced.

Figure 4. The feet and tail of the Painten pterosaur with colors applied to bones. One loose proximal tail bone (red) is displaced at left. Left manual 4.4 is broken and re-healed in a jagged fashion. The wing tips are large, pulley-like joints…or are those round unguals now lacking tips? Only a closer look will tell, but the tips seem to have neck-like indentations.

We first looked at
the Painten pro-pterodactylid here in March, 2014.

The disappearance of the maxilla ascending process
and the appearance of the tiny secondary naris and nasal descending process appear during phylogenetic miniaturization in this clade.

Figure 6. Painten pterosaur ancestors and descendants.

Figure 5. Painten pterosaur ancestors and descendants. The development of  the secondary naris is documented in the smaller Scaphognathus, which needs a new generic name.  The naris becomes confluent with the antorbital fenestra when the ascending process of the maxilla disappears and the descending stem of the nasal is retained (in some taxa). Other pterodactyloid-grade pterosaurs had a convergent apparent confluence of the naris.

With the majority of the confluent fenestra
devoted to the naris, perhaps we should think of this opening differently.

Figure 6. The Painten pterosaur phylogenetically nests between two smaller specimens in the LPT. 

Figure 6. The Painten pterosaur phylogenetically nests between two smaller specimens in the LPT.

Big compared to its sisters,
the Painten pterosaur is the last in this lineage to have robust cervicals, based on comparison to Ningchengopterus (Fig. 6), a taxon closer to the many Solnhofen pterodactylids in museum collections (Fig. 7). This phylogenetic variety exhibited with Solnhofen and Chinese pterosaurs suggests a wide distribution for this clade in the Late Jurassic.

The Pterodactylus lineage and mislabeled specimens formerly attributed to this "wastebasket" genus

Figure 7 Click to enlarge. The Pterodactylus lineage and mislabeled specimens formerly attributed to this “wastebasket” genus

In summary
This pterosaur is an ideal teaching  specimen because it has all of its bones in articulation and nests at a transitional node in pterosaur phylogeny.

References
Tischlinger H and Frey E 2013.  Ein neuer Pterosaurier mit Mosaikmerkmalen basaler und pterodactyloider Pterosauria aus dem Ober-Kimmeridgium von Painten (Oberpfalz, Deutschland) — A new pterosaur with mosaic characters of basal and pterodactyloid pterosauria from the Upper Kimmeridgian of Painten (Upper Palatinate, Germany) Archaeopteryx 31:1-13.

 

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