Yesterday we looked at
some typically and recently overlooked pterosaur traits in Cosesaurus, a lepidosaur, tritosaur, tanystropheid, fenestrasaur taxon that nests as a pterosaur outgroup in the large reptile tree (LRT, 1401 taxa). Saller 2016 reported a lack of pterosaur traits in his examination of Cosesaurus beneath a microscope. Since Cosesaurus is so small, lacks bones and is printed as a negative in the matrix (holes become bumps), this specimen is best viewed on a computer monitor after dozens of close-ups have been taken using various angles of lighting to bring out one detail or another.
Today we’ll finish examining Cosesaurus
by taking a DGS look at the extremities and soft tissue. GIF animations trace what I see and allow you to see (or not see) pertinent impressions in the grainy matrix.
First a little backstory
Yang et al. 2018 considered pterosaur plumage/fibers homologous with dinosaur/bird feathers—but only by omitting fenestrasaurs like Cosesaurus, Sharovipteryx and Longisquama (Fig. 9), all of which preserve feathery/hairy fibers covering their bodies. We looked at that issue here. At the end of that post, it is worthwhile to review what several pterosaur experts opined on that issue. None reminded us that Cosesaurus and kin were closer relatives of pterosaurs, developing extradermal membranes and plumage by convergence, though all were aware of this hypothesis of relationships.
The dorsal frill of Middle Triassic Cosesaurus
(Figs. 3, 9) finds its greatest expression in Late Triassic Longisquama (Fig. 9), which was named for its long plumes. The relationship Cosesaurus has with Longisquama has also been largely ignored for the last twenty years.
The twin uropatagia of Middle Triassic Cosesaurus
predates similar extradermal membranes on Late Triassic Sharovipteryx and all pterosaurs (even Sordes, which has been traditional and mistakenly given a single uropatagium spanning both hind limbs, disconnected from the tail). Note the uropatagium extend to p5.1 in Cosesaurus, to p5.2 in the obligate biped, Sharovipteryx, and only the tarsus in pterosaurs, which have a much smaller set of uropatagia, but a larger set of forelimb wings.
reported none of these tissues and declared that he could see no pterosaur traits in Cosesaurus. This was picked up by the author of the Wikipedia Cosesaurus page as the latest thinking on this specimen, even though it actually represents only one PhD candidate’s opinion. See how important it is to at least attempt to color trace what one sees on a computer monitor? Some things are just too jumbled and/or too subtle to be ‘seen’ by an eyeball or through a microscope. The DGS method, like cladistic analysis, forces one to thoroughly examine and dissect the data into tiny discrete and segregated bits that can be later analyzed and compared.
whether or not these various soft tissues are present in Cosesaurus. I present and interpret the data. All discoveries must be confirmed or refuted by others.
Dorsal frills are elaborated
in Longisquama. Uropatagia are elaborated in Sharovipteryx. Aktinofibrils are elaborated in pterosaurs like Bergamodactylus, which is similar in size to Cosesaurus (Fig. 8). These indicate the pterosaur wing originated distally (Peters 2002), as in bird feathers, not as a bat-like membrane arising from the torso.
this data was submitted for publication, but rejected, as this hypothesis of relationships continues to be ignored and rejected by pterosaur workers content with the status quo supported by taxon exclusion. That’s why PterosaurHeresies and ReptileEvolution.com continue to document discoveries and post updates nearly every day for the past seven years.
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Yang et al. (8 co-authors) 2018. Pterosaur integumentary structures with complex feather-like branching. Nature ecology & evolution doi:10.1038/s41559-018-0728-7