Cardozo, Sobral and Rodriques 2019 bring us
a new look at the vision of Solnhofen (Late Jurassic) pterosaurs.
From the abstract:
“Recent taxonomic reviews suggest that up to twelve genera of pterosaurs might have been present there.”
Traditional workers don’t count the little ones. Specialists don’t look closely at all the specimens. They ignore many. Some distinct taxa are found within traditional taxa like, Pterodactylus, Rhamphorhynchus and other generic wastebaskets. According to the LPT, no two pterosaurs scoring the same except for a juvenile/adult pairing in the Rhamphorhynchus wastebasket (Fig. 1).
Figure 1. Bennett 1975 determined that all these Rhamphorhynchus specimens were conspecific and that all differences could be attributed to ontogeny, otherwise known as growth to maturity and old age. Thus only the two largest specimens were adults. O’Sullivan and Martill took the brave step of erecting a new species. The n52 specimen is at the lower right. Click to enlarge.
Cardoza et al. continue:
“Even though many have been recovered from different chronostratigraphic units, the high taxonomic diversity and morphological disparity still suggest specializations that reflect distinct ecological roles. An endocast analysis of Pterodactylus antiquus, together with a literature review of the anatomy and ecology of these taxa, suggest interesting niche partitions.”
“Pterodactylus, Scaphognathus, and Rhamphorhynchus were generalist taxa that lived on
coastal areas and fed on fishes and small invertebrates.”
The authors are ignoring the distinct morphologies of these three genera and are not splitting up the small, medium and large taxa. Nor are they considering the distinct niches between adults and their 8x smaller hatchlings.
Fig. 2. The descendants of Scaphognathus. Note the size reduction followed by a size increase.
Cardoza et al. continue:
Their niche, however, did not overlap completely: our analysis corroborates a previous study that Pterodactylus had photopic [daylight] vision, in contrast to the scotopic [dusk/night vision] type of Rhamphorhynchus. Scaphognathus was also photopic, but the different dentition indicates it was not preying on the same items as Pterodactylus.
Other taxa have been regarded as more specialists.
“Germanodactylus has been proposed as a durophage, based mostly on the lack of teeth on the tips of the rostrum and mandible, and therefore also likely preyed on different items than Pterodactylus. Anurognathus, Ctenochasma, Gnathosaurus, and Cycnorhamphus represent highly specialized taxa. Anurognathus was probably an aerial insectivore, with moderately curved unguals that are consistent with a scansorial habit, thus suggesting it inhabited forested areas. Ctenochasma and Gnathosaurus were filter feeders and their different sizes might have prevented, at least to some extent, niche overlap. The diet of
Cycnorhamphus is more disputed: it has been proposed as a durophage, a jellyfish specialist, or a generalist feeding on fishes and insects. In any case, its uniquely curved mandible with teeth only on the distal tip implies a different feeding niche from Solnhofen generalist pterosaurs. Lastly, the endocast of Diopecephalus kochi, a taxon that has been proposed as synonymous with Pterodactylus, was analyzed but poor preservation prevented adequate assumptions on niche specializations.”
This is a list of old news, old traditions and old excuses. Where is the original thinking? Where are the pithy insights?
“Our preliminary analyses suggest that, although the Solnhofen archipelago was a rich pterosaur site, these taxa were not in direct competition, separated either by functional
anatomy or time. More data on paleoneurology is still needed to better understand niche occupation by Pterodactylus.”
In other words, we have nothing new to say, but wanted to come to Australia to make a presentation.
Cardozo FG, Sobral G and Rodriques T 2019. Ecological niches among pterosaurs from the Solnhofen archipelago. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology abstracts.