Ferrodraco, a new Aussie ornithocheirid with gracile wings

Most ornithocheird pterosaurs have robust wings
(Figs. 1–3). This new one from Australia (Pentland et al. 2019) has gracile cervicals and wing bits relative to the normally proportioned crested rostrum, a fact overlooked by the authors. Ferrodraco (Early Cretaceous) has small and gracile cervicals and wing elements relative to other ornithocheirids.

FIgure 1. Apparently overlooked by all eight authors, Ferrodraco has a gracile post-crania compared to its rostrum.

FIgure 1. Apparently overlooked by all eight authors, Ferrodraco has a gracile post-crania compared to its rostrum and relative to related pterosaurs. It is possible that this taxon was another flightless pterosaur, but the distal wing phalanges remain unknown.

It was skinny, but was it flightless?
We don’t have the distal wing phalanges. So whether Ferrodraco was flightless or not cannot be definitively answered. This specimen is extremely gracile compared to sister taxa (Figs. 1-3). Only one other pterosaur, Raeticodactylus (Late Triassic) had such gracile wing elements, but the distal elements were normally proportioned.

The holotype described in situ:
“Several elements, including the skull and mandible and many of the appendicular elements (based on key-fits between adherent matrix on anatomically adjacent elements) were clearly articulated post-fossilisation; however, erosion and soil rotation led to fragmentation of the specimen prior to its excavation.”

Figure 2. Ferrodraco scaled to Arthurdactylus. Note the robust antebrachium in Arthurdactylus vs. the gracile antebrachium in Ferrodraco.

Figure 2. Ferrodraco scaled to Arthurdactylus. Note the robust antebrachium in Arthurdactylus vs. the gracile antebrachium in Ferrodraco.

The new ornithocheirid has been nicknamed ‘Butch’
(AODF 876, Australian Age of Dinosaurs Fossil, Winton, Queensland, Australia).

FIgure 3. Ferrodracto compared to Coloborhynchus to the same scale.

FIgure 3. Ferrodracto compared to Coloborhynchus to the same scale. Note the difference in cervical size.

Every new pterosaur specimen
continues to be amazing in its own way. Fortunately ReptileEvolution.com provides a ready reference for easy comparison within hours of publication for new specimens.

Figure 5. Added late. The cervicals restored and to scale creating a neck of appropriate length.

Figure 4. Added late. The cervicals restored and to scale creating a neck of appropriate length.

Added later the same day:
Here (Fig. 4) are the cervicals restored to scale and 5x larger for detail.


References
Pentland AH et al. (seven co-authors) 2019.
Ferrodraco lentoni gen. et sp. nov., a new ornithocheirid pterosaur from the Winton Formation (Cenomanian–lower Turonian) of Queensland, Australia. Nature.com/scientificreports 9:13454 https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-49789-4

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