A new anurognathid, Sinomacrops, traced and reconstructed

Due to the large number of mistakes made
by Wei et al. 2021 in their description of their new anurognathid, Sinomacrops (Figs. 1–4) we’ll divide discussion of this specimen into two parts. Part 1 (below) discusses the abstract and anatomy. Part 2 (click here) will discuss taxonomy.

The Wei et al. 2021 abstract does not start off promising:
“Anurognathids are an elusive group of diminutive, potentially arboreal pterosaurs.”

Anurognathids are not elusive here.

“Even though their monophyly has been well-supported, their intrarelationships have been obscure, and their phylogenetic placement even more.”

Anurognathids are not obscure here.

“In the present work, we present a new genus and species from the Middle-Late Jurassic Tiaojishan Formation, the third nominal anurognathid species from the Jurassic of China. The new species provides new information concerning morphological diversity for the group. “

That’s always good news.

Furthermore, we provide a new phylogenetic analysis incorporating into a single data set characters from diverging phylogenetic proposals.”

This sounds like a supertree still suffering from taxon exclusion, because other the large pterosaur tree (LPT, 256 taxa) no other workers employ tiny Solnhofen pterosaurs or multiple specimens of Dorygnathus, Campylognathoides, Scaphognathus, etc. These unused elsewhere taxa invalidate the traditioinal clades Darwinoptera, Pterodactyloidea and Monofenestrata. PhDs do not want to add these taxa to their analyses.

“Our results place them as the sister-group of Darwinoptera + Pterodactyloidea, as basal members of the Monofenestrata.

The LPT invalidates these three clades simply by adding taxa.

So let’s look at the specimen today,
the same day the PeerJ paper came out online. It only takes a few hours to produce a digital graphic segregatin (DGS) tracing. Let’s save interrelationships and comparisons for tomorrow, but to anurognathid lovers everywhere, it should be obvious where Sinomacrops nests.

Unfortunately
it turns out the Wei et al. team of paid and educated professionals put in just as little effort into interpreting what they had seen firsthand, following the tradition of earlier PhD pterosaur workers from England and Germany who also overlooked the details and left the precision work to amateurs. You’ll see what I mean with side-by-side comparisons (Figs. 1–4) of the new anurognathid, Sinomacrops under DGS vs. pen and paper. You’ll see that firsthand access to the fossil must be a handicap, because Photoshop and a monitor works much better than a microscope and a pen.

Figure 1. Sinomacrops in situ. At left using DGS tracings here brings out more bones and soft tissue than the original Wei et al. 2021 tracing at right. ca in the right diagram imagined caudal vertebrae where there are none.
Figure 2. Larger image of Sinomacrops in situ with DGS tracing of the bone and soft tissue elements. See figure 3 for skull tracing. Note the wing membrane is just like that found in all other pterosaurs, enabling wing folding that minimizes membrane exposure and keeps the wing taut between only two points, the wing tip and elbow. PhD pterosaur workers prefer the bat-wing model despite having never seen even one example that was not subsequently invalidated.
Figure 3. Sinomacrops skull interpretations using traditional pen and ink vs. DGS, a technique in use here since 2003 and promoted to pterosaur academics back then. Now many other paleo workers are coloring bones in situ, but few to no other pterosaur workers do this. Note the ?po is here identified as the squamosal. The ‘scr'(scleral ring) is part pterygoid, part ectopalatine. The la/na is the ascending process of the maxilla. The ‘j’ jugal is the dentary.
Figure 4. The second half of the DGS method is to create a rough rconstruction from traced elements, avoiding the mishaps that occur with freehand drawings. Here the bones themselves determine the shape of the skull and width of the palate

Sadly,
Wei et al. did not attempt a reconstruction of their new specimen, Sinomacrops. That’s too bad. Most of the pterosaur community has rejected this method of coloring bones, even as it is becoming widely accepted in other paleo disciplines. The DGS method employed here permits one to identify one element, then another, then another and mark each element with a color. If you’re just looking at a specimen in a microscope, you cannot segregate elements you and you cannot readily identify those bones just peaking out beneath other overlying bones. Roadkill specimens, like Sinomacrops, are particularly difficult to ‘see’ without a little help from some color overlays together with a catalog of previously reconstructed anurognathids that has been online for the few years to a decade. Franky, I was not able to ‘see’ Sinomacrops until the reconstruction was well underway. It’s just a limitation of the human brain that we can overcome using DGS.

Figure 5.Pes in close up. At right is the Wei et al tracing. At left is the DGS version traced here.

Those who still think anurognathids have a giant scleral ring
in the anterior half of the skull, blindly following the many mistakes of Bennett 2007, are welcome to show that big eyeball to all of us in this specimen. It’s not there. The eyeball is in the back of the skull, as in ALL other pterosaurs. Let’s put an end to that myth now.

References
Bennett SC 2007. A second specimen of the pterosaur Anurognathus ammoni. Paläontologische Zeitschrift 81(4):376-398.
Wei X, Pêgas RV, Shen C, Guo Y, Ma W, Sun D, Zhou X. 2021. Sinomacrops bondei, a new anurognathid pterosaur from the Jurassic of China and comments on the group. PeerJ 9:e11161 https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.11161

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