Meet Seazzadactylus, the newest Late Triassic pterosaur

Dalla Vecchia 2019 introduces us to
Seazzadactylus venieri (Figs. 1–3; MFSN 21545), a small Late Triassic pterosaur known from a nearly complete, disarticulated skeleton (Fig. 2). The tail is supposed to be absent, but enough is there to show it was very gracile. The gracile feet are supposed to be absent, but they were overlooked. The rostrum was artificially elongated, but a new reconstruction (Fig. 3) takes care of that. A jumble of tiny bones in the throat (Fig. 4) were misidentified as a theropod-like curvy ectopterygoid, but the real ectopterygoid fused to the palatine as an L-shaped ectopalatine was identified (Figs. 3,4). 

Figure 1. Seazzadactylus nests between the two Austriadactylus specimens in the LPT.
Figure 1. Seazzadactylus (at far right) nests between the two Austriadactylus specimens in the LPT.

Seazzadactylus is a wonderful find,
and DGS methodology (Fig. 1) pulled additional data out of it than firsthand observation, which was otherwise quite thorough (with certain exceptions).

Figure 2. Seazzadactylus in situ and tracing from Dalla Vecchia 2019. Colors added here.
Figure 2. Seazzadactylus in situ and tracing from Dalla Vecchia 2019. Colors added here.

Dalla Vecchia reports

  1. The premaxillary teeth are limited to the front half of the bone. Dalla Vecchia did not realize that is so because, like other Triassic pterosaurs, the premaxilla forms the ventral margin of the naris, dorsal to the maxilla (Fig. 3).
  2. A misidentified theropod-like ectopterygoid and pterygoid. Dalla Vecchia should have known no pterosaur has an ectopterygoid shaped like this. Rather the curvy shape represents a jumble of bones (Fig. 4). The real ectopalatine in Seazzadactylus has the typical L-shape (Figs. 3, 4) found in other pterosaurs.
  3. The scapula is indeed a distinctively wide fan-shape.
  4. The proximal caudal vertebrae are present, as are several more distal causals. All are tiny.
Figure 3. Seazzadactylus reconstructed using DGS methods.
Figure 3. Seazzadactylus reconstructed using DGS methods. No such reconstruction was produced by Dalla Vecchia. This is a primitive taxon precocially and by convergence displaying several traits found in more derived taxa.
Figure 4. Seazzadactylus bone jumble, including the L-shaped ectopalatine (orange + tan).
Figure 4. Seazzadactylus bone jumble, including the L-shaped ectopalatine (orange + tan). No pterosaur has a theropod-like ectopterygoid. That’s a loose jumble of bone spurs and shards.

It is easy to see how mistakes were made.
Colors, rather than lines tracing the bones, would have helped. Using a cladogram with validated outgroup taxa and more taxa otherwise were avoided by Dalla Vecchia for reason only he understands.

Figure 5. Seazzadactylus pectoral girdle.
Figure 5. Seazzadactylus pectoral girdle.

Phylogenetically Dalla Vecchia reports,
Macrocnemus bassaniiPostosuchus kirkpatricki and Herrerasaurus ischigualastensis were chosen as outgroup taxa.” (Fig. 6)

Funny thing…
none of these taxa are closely related to each other or to pterosaurs (Macrocnemus the possible distant exception) in the large reptile tree (LRT, 1549 taxa) where no one chooses outgroup taxa for pterosaurs. PAUP makes that choice from 1500+ candidates.

Figure 5. Cladogram by Dalla Vecchia 2019 showing where Seazzadactylus nests
Figure 6. Cladogram by Dalla Vecchia 2019 showing where Seazzadactylus nests. Their is little to no congruence between this cladogram and the LPT (subset Fig. 7), exception in the anurognathids. This cladogram needs about 200 more taxa to approach the number in the LPT.

Within the Pterosauria,
Dalla Vecchia nests his new Seazzadactylus between Austriadraco and Carniadactylus within a larger clade of Triassic pterosaurs that does not include Preondactylus, Austriadactylus or Peteinosaurus. Dalla Vecchia’s cladogram includes 27 taxa (not including the above mentioned outgroup taxa). In the large pterosaur tree (LPT, 239 taxa) Austriadraco (BSp 1994, Fig. 8) is a eudimorphodontid basal to all but two members of this clade. Carniadactylus (Fig. 8) is a dimorphodontid closer to Peteinosaurus. So there is little to no consensus between the two cladograms.

Figure 7. Subset of the LPT focusing on Triassic pterosaurs.
Figure 7. Subset of the LPT focusing on Triassic pterosaurs and their many LRT validated outgroups.

Publishing in PeerJ may cost authors $1400-$1700 (or so I understand).
Dalla Vecchia asked his Facebook friends for monetary help to get this paper published. I offered $900, but only on the proviso that the traditional outgroup taxa (listed above and unknown to me at the time) not be employed. You can understand why I cannot support those invalidated (Peters 2000) outgroups. Dr. Dalla Vecchia’s rejected my offer with a humorless invective of chastisement that likened my offer to one traditionally made by the Mafia. A more polite, ‘no thank-you,’ would have sufficed. Just today I learned of Dalla Vecchia’s ‘chosen’ outgroups (see list above). Kids, that’s not good science.

Figure 8. Seazzadactylus sister taxa in the Dalla Vechhia 2019 cladogram to scale.

Bottom line:
A great new Triassic pterosaur! We’ll hash out the details as time goes by.


References
Dalla Vecchia FM 2019. Seazzadactylus venieri gen. et sp. nov., a new pterosaur (Diapsida: Pterosauria) from the Upper Triassic (Norian) of northeastern Italy. PeerJ 7:e7363 DOI 10.7717/peerj.7363
Peters D 2000a. Description and Interpretation of Interphalangeal Lines in Tetrapods.  Ichnos 7:11-41.
Peters D 2000b. A Redescription of Four Prolacertiform Genera and Implications for Pterosaur Phylogenesis. Rivista Italiana di Paleontologia e Stratigrafia 106 (3): 293–336.

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