Hone 2020 reviews anurognathid pterosaurs

Here’s a new paper from Dr. DWE Hone (2020).
Quoting Hone’s own publicity sheet regarding the paper, “there’s not a huge amount to talk about here since as it’s a review, it doesn’t contain too much that’s new.”

Even so,
Hone manages to promote invalid pterosaur myths, like the pushup-takeoff (Fig. 1) and the presence of a giant eyeball in the front of the skull (Bennett 2007, Fig. 1). That was repaired here and here (Fig. 1) several years ago. The purported scleral (eyeball) ring is in fact the maxilla in the smaller flat-head SMNS 81928 specimen (Fig. 1) incorrectly referred to the genus Anurognathus (Figs. 3a, b) by Bennett 2007 and repeated by Hone 2020. Correcting the eyeball problem resulted in a traditional dimorphodontid/ anurognathid-type skull (Fig. 1 top figures) despite the skull being flatter than tall, a morphology repeated several times in later anurognathid discoveries.

Bennett presented a unique morphology
(not shared with any other pterosaur) that was copied and embraced by Witton and Hone without question. Both PhDs should have done their own scientific research instead of trusting anyone under this simple rule: “Extraordinary claims require ordinary evidence.” Yes, ordinary evidence. Just confirm or refute Bennett’s bizarre observation with your own tracing of the specimen and compare that with other similar taxa. That’s what PhDs are paid to do. To trust unique claims like Bennett 2007 without a second examination is not scientific.

Figure 1. The SMNS 81928 anurognathid specimen.

Figure 1. The SMNS 81928 anurognathid specimen, two interpretations shown slightly larger than life size. This was the first of several ‘flathead’ anurognathids to be discovered. Let’s hope the blue one can open its wings and start flapping before the eventual face plant. And how did such a take-off configuration evolve from bipedal ancestors?

In summary, Hone 2020
reviews the history of anurognathid research and renames a specimen. Hone promotes previous mistakes (Fig. 1) as valid without support from new, confirming tracings or any tracings whatsoever. Only one taxon is reconstructed (Fig. 1). No phylogenetic analysis appears. The IVPP transitional anurognathid embryo is ignored along with several other basal anurognathids (Fig. 4). Some citations are omitted (see way below). All the above shortcomings and mistakes were resolved online here and at links therein several years ago.

From the Hone 2020 Abstract:
“The anurognathids are an enigmatic and distinctive clade of small, non‐pterodactyloid pterosaurs with an unusual combination of anatomical traits in the head, neck, wings and tail.”

No. After precise tracings and phylogenetic analysis in the large pterosaur tree (LPT, 251 taxa), anurognathids are not enigmas, not all are small, the traditional clade Pterodactyloidea is invalid because it is polyphyletic (Peters 2007, LPT) and there is no reason to trust Hone’s description of the head, neck, wings and tail given his use of M Witton’s invalid illustration (Figs. 1, 2).

Compare Hone and Witton’s published anurognathids
(Figs. 1, 2) with more precise tracings (Figs. 1, 3) of the skeletal and soft-tissue elements of the Anurognathus holotype (Figs. 3a, 3b) distinct from the smaller disc-head SMNS 81928 specimen (Figs. 1, 3b), both from Solnhofen limestones.

Figure 1. From Hone 2020, illustration by M Witton of Jeholopterus. Compare to figure 2.

Figure 2. From Hone 2020, illustration by M Witton of Anurognathus, not the holotype, but the SMNS 81928 as in figure 1.

Witton and Bennett 9007 place the eyeball over the maxilla
in the large antorbital fenestra, rather than further back in the orbit, as in all other pterosaurs, over the jugal (Fig. 3a cyan), behind the lacrimal (Fig. 3a pink).

Figure 2. Click to enlarge. DGS tracing of Anurognathus ammonia. Note the placement of the lacrimals in the skull, behind the large antorbital fenestra. That is not the orbit. The small jugal (bright light blue) also indicates the placement of the small orbit in the back half of the skull, as in all other anurognathids. Also note the disappearance of the cervicals beneath the matrix. That may be an embryo by the tail. More on that tomorrow.

Figure 3a. Click to enlarge. DGS tracing of Anurognathus ammonia. Note the placement of the lacrimals in the skull, behind the large antorbital fenestra. That is not the orbit. The small jugal (bright light blue) also indicates the placement of the small orbit in the back half of the skull, as in all other anurognathids. Also note the disappearance of the cervicals beneath the matrix. That may be an embryo by the tail. More on that tomorrow.

Figure 1. The flat-head pterosaur, a private specimen (on the left) attributed by Bennett (2007) to Anurognathus ammoni (on the right).

Figure 3b. The flat-head pterosaur, a private specimen (on the left) attributed by Bennett (2007) to Anurognathus ammoni (on the right). Pedal digit 5 does not frame a membrane. Rotodactylus and other bipedal Jurassic pterosaur  tracks show how it impresses.

Hone 2020 abstract continues:
“They [anurognathids] are known from very limited remains and few have been described in detail, and as a result, much of their biology remains uncertain.

If pterosaur expert, Dr. Hone, doesn’t want to go to the effort, and wants to ignore workers who have gone to the effort years earlier (Figs. 1-4), before too long Dr. Hone will not be known as the expert he trained to be and thinks he is.

“This is despite their importance as potentially one of the earliest branches of pterosaur evolution or even lying close to the origins of pterodactyloids.

Well, which is it? Basal or transitional? A bit of effort, like creating a cladogram, would have resolved this issue. Hone has a PhD in paleontology. He should not leave things vague and unanswered. This is his passion and his job and he is not doing his job or following his passion.

“This review covers the taxonomy and palaeoecology of the anurognathids, which remain an interesting branch of pterosaurian evolution.”

Hone defined the Anurognathidae,
“as all taxa more closely related to Anurognathus than Dimorphodon, Pterodactylus or Scaphognathus.” That would include all of the taxa (and a few more recent ones) shown in figure 4. Many of these did not appear in the Hone 2020 review, which was intended to be comprehensive.

Figure 2. Click to enlarge. Anurognathids to scale. The adult of the IVPP embryo is 8x the size of the embryo, as in all other tested adult/embryo pairings.

Figure 4. Click to enlarge. Anurognathids to scale. The adult of the IVPP embryo is 8x the size of the embryo, as in all other tested adult/embryo pairings.

See below for comments
on Hone’s self-published publicity statement, which summarizes his paper and arrived a few days before the PDF became available.


References
Bennett SC 2007. A second specimen of the pterosaur Anurognathus ammoni. Paläontologische Zeitschrift 81(4):376-398.
Hone DWE 2020. A review of the taxonomy and palaeoecology of the Anurognathidae (Reptilia, Pterosauria). Acta Geologica Sinica (English edition)
https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1111/1755-6724.14585?saml_referrer

From DWE Hone’s publication announcement:
“Revising the frog-mouthed pterosaurs: the anurognathids”

Oops. This paper is not a revision. Hone 2020 is titled, “A review of the taxonomy and palaeoecology of the Anurognathidae”. A revision would revise present thinking. Hone himself notes he makes no attempt to do this. Let’s imagine Hone was thinking of the word ‘reviewing’ when he wrote the PR piece, but inserted the more exciting word ‘revising’ by accident.

“The anurognathids are a wonderful group of small non-pterodactyloid pterosaurs known from Europe and various parts of Asia that are perhaps the most distinctive of the early pterosaur groups and probably the latest survivors.

According to the large pterosaur tree (LPT) and simple logic, several clades of Middle and Late Jurassic pterosaurs gave rise to four pterodactyloid-grade clades, some of which extended to the last day of the Cretaceous. You don’t get Cretaceous pterosaurs without Jurassic and Triassic ancestors. Anurognathids also invaded North and South America, according to phylogenetic analysis and footprints.

“They had bizarrely short and broad skulls made of tiny spars of bone and with few teeth and remarkably short tails for non-pterodactyloids. They were mostly small and are interpreted as having been hawking for insect prey on the wing. There are few specimens (even with the recent discoveries) that are hard to tell apart because they are all so similar and yet almost every different specimen has been named as a new species.”

Hone puts no effort (no tracings, a single borrowed reconstruction, no original cladograms) into understanding, reconstructing, modeling, lumping and splitting the several known anurognathid specimens. As in prior studies, Hone stands back when scientific work is required. Hone’s writing is only in service and support to his traditional bias. He avoided citing several peer-reviewed studies that included other anurognathid materials (see below). Bottom line: Hone is supposed to be a scientist, not a journalist. He should be shedding new light on anurognathids, resolving the enigmas, not repeating what others have already published. That’s what journalists do.

“So they are both really unusual and not very well known and that means even if this has taken time to come to fruition, a review of them would be rather handy. And so as you might imagine, this post coincides with a new paper doing exactly that. Somewhat inevitably there’s not a huge amount to talk about here since as it’s a review, it doesn’t contain too much that’s new – the primary role is to bring things together and synthesise them so most of what is there is already known (at least to people who keep up with the pterosaur literature). Reading the review will bring you up speed if you want all the basics, but I do want to talk here about a couple of the more interesting things I have added.”

“The first one is the validity of the various taxa. It’s hardly unknown for pterosaur clades to be made up of lots of species each represented by only a single specimen but the anurognathids are pushing even that. While I can’t immediately think of any calls for synonymy of any taxa, the fact that so few specimens have been described in detail and the poor quality of the preservation of many means that the available lists of diagnoses have been pretty weak to date.

In counterpoint, detailed tracings and reconstructions have been online for every known anurognathid (Fig. 4) for several years. Hone omitted several of these taxa. A cladogram would have helped him separate in-groups from out-groups.

“They are not much better now, but I have at least revised and updated the diagnosis of every taxon. There are two consequences of this that are important. First off, all the current taxa seem valid, and moreover, some of the recently illustrated, but not yet named, specimens also look like they are distinct taxa and there’s probably several new names needed. Secondly, the second species of Dendrorhynchoides, D. mutodongensis is as distinct, if not more so, than many other anurognathid genera and as such needs to be elevated to the genus level… I erected the new genus Luopterus to house the species.

That’s a good name for a specimen needing a new generic name. Well done, Dave!

“Next up, the variation in the different species is quite odd. Anurognathids are weirdly conservative, even compared to other pterosaur groups and while the poor preservation of the specimens hasn’t helped up find distinguishing traits between them, once you sit down and really look it’s hard to find the kinds of traits that you might normally use to separate out genera and species.”

Seeking traits to separate specimens is “Pulling a Larry Martin“. Don’t do that. It leads to madness due to convergence, or, in this case, backing away from what must be done: a comprehensive phylogenetic analysis with all the anurognathid taxa and parts thereof laid out, lumped and separated.

“That said, there are some bits of variation which while commented on before are quite notable in this context (and there is more coming on this in a future paper that I’m involved in). The length of the tail is really variable and while these are as a whole short-tailed (even the longest of them is much shorter than other non-pterodactyloids) there is really quite some difference between the longest and the shortest. I don’t know what this means but it’s an area worthy of greater attention.

Unfortunately, Hone only crudely illustrates the variety found in anurognathid humerus shapes, but omits doing the same for the tails, or any other body parts, especially the skulls. If an amateur can do it (Figs. 1–4), a paid professional and a PhD should be able to do it that much better.

“Similarly, the smaller anurognathids tend to have extraordinarily large heads and the larger ones rather small ones.

This needed to be illustrated and documented. Reconstructions (see Fig. 4) do not reflect and confirm Hone’s observation.

“There could be ontogentic effects here since many of the smaller specimens are juveniles but it stands in contrast with the more general isometry of other pterosaurs, and could be linked to prey sizes or even eye size. If they are, any [sic] many people suspect, nocturnal then juveniles need huge heads to house huge eyes.”

Hone is correct with regard to pterosaur isometry, so why then does he label some pterosaurs ‘juveniles’, rather than small adults of distinct genera? The huge eyes guess is easily resolved by tracing each specimen and locating the eyes, none of which are ‘huge”, with the exceptions of Batrachognathus (Fig. 5) having the most owl-like eyes and most binocular. Even so, those eyes remain in the back half of the skull, as in ALL other pterosaurs.

Dorsal and lateral views of three anurognathid pterosaurs.

Figure 5. Dorsal and lateral views of three anurognathid pterosaurs. From left to right, Dendrorhynchoides, Batrachognathus and Jeholopterus, all crushed dorsoventrally, due to the skull’s greater width.

Hone continues
“Finally, there is the issue of the ‘folded’ wings. While some disarticulation can occur in decaying pterosaurs unless the specimen has disintegrated the various bones of the wing finger stay together. Presumably they are held together by numerous strong ligaments or they would not be able to hold up the forces of flight. It’s a very derived condition since of course all other archosaurs (indeed tetrapods generally) can flex their fingers.

Pterosaurs are not archosaurs. This is yet another myth Hone promotes without citing competing studies. He tried to do so once, but choked on the attempt, kowtowing to the agenda of his professor and mentor, Mike Benton. Hone has not been under the influence of Benton for over a decade, so he should show a little independence now. As a PhD pterosaur expert, knowing what a pterosaur is… that is his job and he is not doing his job. More on the wing issue below.

Anurognathids however, despite having some exquisitely preserved specimens, and nearly all of them being basically articulated, show the joints of the wing finger being flexed. This suggests that they are doing something really rather different with their wings, when flying or even when on the ground.

Not at all. The small size of most anurognathids means the wing finger did not need to be as robust as in the larger clades. That alone could account for the flexion seen in many anurognathid wing phalanges (Figs. 4, 6). There’s also taphonomy. And speaking of wings, no pterosaur fossil shows the wing membrane extending down the thigh to the ankle, as shown in the Witton illustrations (Figs. 1, 2).

Tracing of Jeholopterus using DGS.

Figure 6. Click to enlarge. Tracing of Jeholopterus using DGS. Dorsal view of Jeholopterus based on the tracing. Lower left images include an unidentified pair of semi-circles too large to be embryo upper temporal fenestrae (that was the first guess). The tail is not particularly short when stretched to its full length, despite the reduced length of the individual caudals. The red ellipse represents a hypothetical egg shape. The abdomen was not so wide. The ribs would have had a ventral component and direction, which they do not have here. Note the right angle femoral head, ideal for parasagittal locomotion, like a dinosaur.

“One thing to note is that this is also seen in one other set of pterosaur specimens – embryos. That implies that either anurognathids have inherited this trait from their ancestors (if they are, as some suggest, the first branching group of pterosaurs) or have secondarily acquired what is essentially a paedomorphic trait of wing flexion.”

If Hone had produced a valid cladogram, like the LPT, he would have been able to find a solution to his own problem. See figure 4 for a quick graphic review.

“I’ll leave it there for now. There’s plenty more in the paper that you can read and there is obviously more research to come (indeed I’m working on another anurognathid paper that’s come about in part through this work) so don’t want to go over this in detail when it’s already a review. Hopefully this does sort out a few issues and pave the way for a better understanding of these most interesting of pterosaurs.”

In counterpoint, and allowing for a little verbal showmanship on Hone’s part (e.g. using “revising” instead of “reviewing” in his PR ), all pterosaurs should be equally interesting because taxon omission by PhDs is a traditional sin. Granted, Hone is infatuated with anurognathids, like the proud father of any new paper generally should be. Unfortunately, because this paper is already in print, it is now too late to give it the care and attention it should have had when still in his mind and on his monitor.

David Hone is still a young man.
I hope that someday he will see the light, crawl out of Benton’s shadow, do the work he is paid to do, stop hiding behind taxon and citation omission, and ultimately become the pterosaur expert he trained to be.


Papers and abstracts omitted by Hone 2020
Peters D 1995. Wing shape in pterosaurs. Nature 374, 315-316.
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.
Peters D 2002. A New Model for the Evolution of the Pterosaur Wing – with a twist. – Historical Biology 15: 277–301.
Peters D 2003. The Chinese vampire and other overlooked pterosaur ptreasures. ournal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 23(3):87.
Peters D 2007. The origin and radiation of the Pterosauria. In D. Hone ed. Flugsaurier. The Wellnhofer pterosaur meeting, 2007, Munich, Germany. p. 27.
Peters D 2009. A reinterpretation of pteroid articulation in pterosaurs. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 29:1327-1330.
Peters D 2010. In defence of parallel interphalangeal lines.
Historical Biology iFirst article, 2010, 1–6 DOI: 10.1080/08912961003663500
Peters D 2011. A Catalog of Pterosaur Pedes for Trackmaker Identification
Ichnos 18(2):114-141. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10420940.2011.573605

See a pattern here?
Kids, if you want to get cited, get your PhD and go with the traditional bias and flow. Be willing to ignore competing citations if they come from outsiders who are willing to do the work and go the extra mile without getting paid [heavy on the sarcasm here, for those who are thinking about quote-mining this paragraph].

3D pterosaur embryo video on YouTube

Willy Saíz created a 3D model of an unidentified genus pterosaur embryo
that appeared here on YouTube back in 2017. You can click the image to view the short video which silently rotates the image with lap dissolves adding muscles and skin.

It reminds me most
of the IVPP V 3758 specimen of the giant unnamed anurognathid embryo (Fig. 1). The embryo is a giant because it is nearly as large as most adult anurognathids (Fig. 2).

the IVPP egg/embryo

Figure 1. Click to enlarge. A magnitude of more detail was gleaned from this fossil (the IVPP egg/embryo) using the DGS method.

Unlike the Willy Saíz 3D model
the IVPP specimen (Figs. 1, 2) is partly disarticulated, including some of the skull bones. Evidently the leathery egg rolled or was dropped after the egg left the mother’s body, prior to burial and fossilization. Thankfully, due to its leathery shell, every bone stayed inside the ‘package’.

Also unlike the Saíz 3D model
the IVPP embryo had adult proportions (Fig. 2), a characteristic of all pterosaurs and all tritosaur lepidosaurs. Unfortunately, the Saíz 3D model has a large skull, tiny wings and tiny feet, traits not found in the IVPP embryo (Figs. 1, 2) or any other pterosaur embryo.

Figure 2. Click to enlarge. Anurognathids to scale. The adult of the IVPP embryo is 8x the size of the embryo, as in all other tested adult/embryo pairings.

Figure 2. Click to enlarge. Anurognathids to scale. The adult of the IVPP embryo is 8x the size of the embryo, as in all other tested adult/embryo pairings.

Allometric traits are expected
only under the mythical and invalid archosaur hypothesis of pterosaur interrelationships unfortunately supported by the vast majority (= all but 1) of pterosaur workers. For example, Dr. Mark Witton, made the same mistake with a Pterodaustro embryo illustration (Fig. 3). Compare the imagined figure 3 to the traced figures 4 and 5.

Pterodaustro embryo as falsely imagined in Witton 2013. The actual embryo had a small cranium, small eyes and a very long rostrum.

Figure 3. Pterodaustro embryo as falsely imagined in Witton 2013. The actual embryo had a small cranium, small eyes and a very long rostrum. Compare to figures 4 and 5.

Are the Witton and Saíz illustrations examples of pseudoscience? 
They are not based on reality. They cannot be replicated, except by other imaginative artists. In science the intention and effort should always be to trace and replicate real data with precision (Figs. 1, 4) and thereafter create reconstructions from those tracings (Figs. 2, 5) with minimum freehand input. Unfortunately we live in a topsy-turvy world where precise tracings are considered pseudoscience by Dr. Witton (remember, he called me a crank) and other well-intentioned, but sadly mistaken scientists.

Figure 2. Original interpretations (2 frames black/white) vs. new interpretations (color).

Figure 4. Original interpretations (2 frames black/white) vs. new interpretations (color).

Pterodaustro embryo

Figure 5. Pterodaustro embryo. Note the adult proportions in most regards.

Let me know if you ever hear of 
paid professionals, like Dr. Darren Naish chastising and attempting to suppress the complete works of Dr. Mark Witton for promoting imagination in the guise of science. To my knowledge, that has not yet happened, and probably never crossed his mind due to alliances based on university affiliations.

How many referees and editors
tend to ‘let things slide’ based on the presence of a PhD or several co-authors? Several times a week oversights are caught here at PterosaurHeresies. Readers, this criticism of paleontology today is not pseudoscience. This is just the way things really are out there.

Postscript
If you have any doubts that Pterodaustro embryos had adult proportions, this growth series (Fig. 6) will quell those doubts.

Figure 1. The V263 specimen compared to other Pterodaustro specimens to scale.

Figure 6. The V263 specimen compared to other Pterodaustro specimens to scale.

The ‘feathery’ anurognathid repaired with higher resolution

No one likes to trace and reconstruct
small, crushed anurognathid pterosaurs. That’s where Digital Graphic Segregation (DGS; Fig. 1) comes into play. Come to think of it, it’s rare that any pterosaur worker attempts to trace an anurognathid in precise detail before going straight to freehand (Fig. 1 upper left by Wang, Zhou, Zhang and Xu 2002; Bennett 2007).

Figure 1.  Comparing data gathering results using first-hand observation with the DGS method on the skull of Jeholopterus.. The digital outlines were then transferred into the reconstruction.

Back in 2006 I made a first attempt
at reconstructing this specimen (CAGS Z070, originally CAGS IG 02-81, Figs. 2–6), back when it was considered Jeholopterus sp. (Lü et al., 2006). That was before any other disc-head anurognathids were known and early in my studies using low-resolution images.

Those mistakes are corrected here
(Figs. 2, 3) with higher resolution images provided by Yang et al. 2018 and a fair amount of practice during the intervening years from several other disc-head pterosaurs, like SMNS 81928 (Bennett 2007) Discodactylus and Vesperopterylus.

Figure 1. The skull of the fuzzy anurognathid CAGS Z020 under DGS.

Figure 2. The skull of the fuzzy anurognathid CAGS Z070 under DGS. This is a ventral exposure. Elements match those of other anurognathids. Colors enable rapid and easy identification of every bone. The mandible is blue, shown together with the palate elements. Below in red are the quadrates. Note how low and wide the skull is.

DGS comes in handy
to segregate and reconstruct the bones of the CAGS Z070 specimen exposed in ventral view. (Fig. 2). All the elements are similar to those in other disc-head anurognathids.

Figure 2. CAGS Z020 anurognathid reconstructed in lateral view. As in other disc-head anurognathids the frog-like eyeballs likely rose above the flat skull.

Figure 3. CAGS Z020 anurognathid reconstructed in lateral view. As in other disc-head anurognathids the frog-like eyeballs likely rose above the flat skull.

Note: There are no giant eyeballs in the front half of the skull here,
nor in any anurognathid pterosaurs (Fig. 4). When Bennett 2007 mistook a maxilla for a giant scleral ring, that became gospel to a generation of lazy anurognathid workers and artists. No giant eye rings have ever been found since in any pterosaur. No matching giant eye ring was ever found on the original Bennett 2007 specimen. Better still, try to trace the bones yourself — because in science anyone can repeat a valid observation.

That being said, this is a difficult skull to trace.
Fortunately evolution works in micro steps and we’ve had several other disc-head anurognathids to look at for the Bauplan (= blueprint). You may need to practice on a few before tackling the CAGS specimen preserved in palatal / ventral view.

FIgure 3. A selection of anurognathid skulls. All follow the pattern of a small eye ring in the posterior half of the skull, except Bennett's 2007 freehand reconstruction.

FIgure 4. A selection of anurognathid skulls from 2013. All follow the pattern of a small eye ring in the posterior half of the skull, except Bennett’s 2007 freehand reconstruction.

You might remember, Yang et al. 2018
used this CAGS specimen to say pterosaurs had something like feathers all over their body. New Scientist  and The Scientist quotes several pterosaur experts in their handling of this story. All of them fell prey to ‘Pulling a Larry Martin‘ by focusing on one trait while ignoring a long list of missing taxa and all their traits. None of the following pterosaur experts traced the materials nor performed the necessary phylogenetic analyses.

  1. “I think it’s now case closed, pterosaurs had feathers.” —Steve Brusatte
  2. “Our interpretation is that these bristle-type structures are the same as the feathers on birds and dinosaurs,” —Mike Benton
  3. “This is a very important discovery, because it shows that integumentary [skin] filaments evolved in both dinosaurs and pterosaurs. That’s not surprising because they are sister groups, but it is good to know.” —Kevin Padian
  4. ”The thing that is cool is that it bolsters the idea that pterosaurs and dinosaurs are sister taxa, if they are correct in interpreting these structures as a type of feather,” —David Martill

Surprisingly taking a more critical point-of-view is Chris Bennett, “The authors’ characterization of the integumentary structures as ‘feather-like’ is inappropriate and unfortunate. It seems to me to be premature to use filamentous integumentary structures to support a close phylogenetic relationship between pterosaurs and dinosaurs.”

The CAGS specimen

Figure 5. The CAGS specimen attributed to Dendrorhyncoides and then to Jeholopterus, but is distinct from both.

In the large reptile tree
(LRT, 1707+ taxa) pterosaurs are fenestrasaur, tritosaur lepidosaurs. In other words, pterosaurs are closer to lizards than to dinosaurs. Overlooked by Benton and the others, several pterosaur outgroups (e.g. Cosesaurus, etc.) also have furry, fuzzy, feathery coverings. Perhaps thinking of the status quo, scientists who collect a paycheck have preferred not to test this twenty-year-old hypothesis of interrelationships (Peters 2000). Sometimes it takes an outsider with gobs of retirement time to expose the fallacies of traditional textbooks (= secondary profit generators).

Figure 2. Interpretation of bony and soft tissue elements in the CAGS specimen. Click to see rollover image.

Figure 6. Interpretation of bony and soft tissue elements in the CAGS specimen. Click to see rollover image.

A note on the ventral view of the CAGS skull:
The reduction of the maxillary palate bones to slender Y-shaped structures (green in Fig. 2) has not been noticed by other workers content with freehand illustrations. Earlier in 2013 the hypothesis was proposed that these slender Y-shaped bones acted like sensors in flight while feeding on flying insects. Once the fly touched the sensor, the open jaws would snap shut. Flies and mosquitos were radiating during the Triassic alongside these aerial insect eaters.

Phylogeny
Despite these several skull score changes, no shift in topology toward the other flat-head anurognathids was recovered.


References
Bennett SC 2007. A second specimen of the pterosaur Anurognathus ammoni. Paläontologische Zeitschrift 81(4):376-398.
Lü J-C, Ji S, Yuan C-X and Ji Q 2006. Pterosaurs from China. Geological Publishing House, Beijing, 147 pp.
Wang X, Zhou Z, Zhang F and Xu X 2002. A nearly completely articulated rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur with exceptionally well-preserved wing membranes and “hairs” from Inner Mongolia, northeast China. Chinese Science Bulletin 47(3): 226-230.
Yang et al. (8 co-authors including Benton MJ) 2018. Pterosaur integumentary structures with complefeather-like branching. Nature ecology & evolution

wiki/Jeholopterus

The sculpture shown on the Jeholopterus wiki page is based on my model, but they changed the skull to reflect the Bennett 2007 type skull… which is a mistake.

https://pterosaurheresies.wordpress.com/2018/12/18/pterosaur-pycnofibres-revisited-yang-et-al-2018/

https://pterosaurheresies.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/anurognathid-eyes-the-evidence-for-a-small-sclerotic-ring/

https://pterosaurheresies.wordpress.com/2013/06/21/anurognathids-and-their-snare-drum-palates/

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2188405-stunning-fossils-show-pterosaurs-had-primitive-feathers-like-dinosaurs/

https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/pterosaurs-sported-feathers–claim-scientists-65220

 

First non-pterodactyloid pterosaurian trackways ever described? …No

Updated April 18. 2020
The four-fingered manus tracks (identified below out of context as a rhamphorhynchid pes track) belong to a tenrec, not a pterosaur. Details here. 

Mazin and Pouech 2020
report on basal pterosaur tracks from the “Pterosaur Beach of Crayssac” (Upper Jurassic), which they consider novel.

From the abstract:
“New discoveries on the ichnological site known as “the Pterosaur Beach of Crayssac” (lower Tithonian, Upper Jurassic; south-western France) answer the question of terrestrial capabilities of non-pterodactyloid pterosaurs. If the terrestrial type of locomotion of pterodactyloid pterosaurs has been solved from ichnological evidence for more than twenty years, no tracks and trackways referable to non-pterodactyloid pterosaurs have ever been described.”

Not true. Peters 2011 included several anurognathid tracks and matched them to trackmakers (Fig. 1). We looked at the so-called ‘Sauria aberrante‘ from Patagonia earlier here in 2011.

Digitigrade pterosaur tracks

Figure 1. A pterosaur pes belonging to a large anurognathid, “Dimorphodon weintraubi,” alongside three digitigrade anurognathid tracks and a graphic representation of the phalanges within the Sauria aberrante track.in

Continuing from the abstract:
“Thus, the debate on terrestrial capabilities of these non-pterodactyloids was based on morpho-functional studies, with the main conclusion that those pterosaurs were arboreal dwellers and bad walkers.”

Not true. Peters 2000a, b, 2011, demonstrated a bipedal ability in pterosaurs superior to that of extant bipedal lizards, (e.g. Chlamydosaurus).

The ‘bad-walker myth’ results from mythology promoted by Unwin and Bakhurina1994 with regard to several misinterpretations of Sordes pilosus. including the invalid binding of the hind limbs with a uropatagium along with the invalid continuation of the brachiopatagium trailing edge to the ankle.

Dimorphodon pes with shadows.

Figure 2. Dimorphodon pes with shadows. Pedal digit 5 can swing beneath the metatarsus. Note elevated proximal phalanges.

“Six trackways referable to three non-pterodactyloid new ichnotaxa, maybe closely related to Rhamphorhynchidae, are described in this work. Their study leads to the conclusion that grounded non-pterodatyloids, at least during the Late Jurassic, were quadrupedal with digitigrade manus and plantigrade to digitigrade pes.”

This confirms work by Peters 2000a, b, 2011.

“They were clearly good walkers, even if hindlimbs are supposed to be hampered by the uropatagium, what could have constrained the terrestrial agility of these animals.”

A single binding uropatagium is a myth invalidated several years ago. See above.

“Thus, from ichnological evidence and contrary to the current hypotheses, non-pterodactyloid pterosaurs seem to have been good walkers even though their trackways are very rare or unidentified to date.”

This also confirms work by Peters 2000a, b, 2011.

Cosesaurus matched to Rotodactylus from Peters 2000.

Figuue 3.  Cosesaurus matched to Rotodactylus from Peters 2000.

Continuing from the abstract:
“This rarity could be due to behaviour rather than to functional capacities, many non-pterodactyloids being considered both littoral fishers and arboreal or cliff dwellers. However, the concept of non-pterodactyloid “good climbers and bad walkers” has to be modified to “good climbers and rare walkers”, unless many non-pterodactyloid ichnites have yet to be discovered.”

Many non-pterodactyloid ichnites have been discovered (Fig. 1). Unfortunately, they have been ignored and omitted by authors, including Mazin and Pouech. It’s never a good time to remember Dr. S. Christopher Bennett’s infamous threat, “You will not be published. And if you are published, you will not be cited.”

Pes of Rhamphorhynchus and matching track

Figure 4. Crayssac track different from all others. Inset: Pes of Rhamphorhynchus muensteri JME-SOS 4009, no. 62 in the Wellnhofer catalog. NOTE ADDED APRIL 18, 2020. The Martin-Silverstone paper (link above) identifies this as a manus track. It belongs to a tenrec, not a pterosaur. 

This used to be considered
crankery. Now they confirm the heretical hypotheses, but claim them as their own.

Unique among Rhamphorhynchus specimens, Rhamphorhynchus muensteri (Wellnhofer 1975) JME-SOS 4009, no. 62 in the Wellnhofer catalog has a long digit 4.

Figur 5. Unique among Rhamphorhynchus specimens, Rhamphorhynchus muensteri (Wellnhofer 1975) JME-SOS 4009, no. 62 in the Wellnhofer catalog has a long digit 4.

BTW
Earlier a published Craysaac a basal pterosaur track was matched to the pes of a particular Rhamphorhynchus (no. 62, JME-SOS-4009; Figs. 4, 5) in a 2011 blogpost on digitigrade pterosaur footprints. I heard of the Crayssac rhamph-tracks years ago and am glad to see their present publication. Still awaiting the paper. When it comes: more details.

NOTE ADDED APRIL 18, 2020. The Martin-Silverstone paper (link above) identifies this as a manus track. It belongs to a tenrec, not a pterosaur.

Cosesaurus and Rotodactylus, a perfect match.

Figure 6. Cosesaurus and Rotodactylus, a perfect match. Elevate the proximal phalanges along with the metatarsus, bend back digit 5 and Cosesaurus (left) fits perfectly into Rotodactylus (right).

We also have tracks made by pre-pterosaur fenestrasaurs.
Rotodactylus, UCB 38023, Moenkopi Formation (Peabody,1948; Peters, 2000a; Figs. 3, 6)


References
Casamiquela RM 1962. Sobre la pisada de un presunto sauria aberrante en el Liassico del Neuquen (Patagonia). Ameghiniana, 2(10): 183–186.
Mazin J-M and Pouech J 2020. The first non-pterodactyloid pterosaurian trackways and the terrestrial ability of non-pterodactyloid pterosaurs. Geobios 16 January 2020. PDF
Peabody FE 1948.Reptile and amphibian trackways from the Lower Triassic Moenkopi formation of Arizona and Utah.  University of California Publications, Bulletin of the  Department of Geological Sciences 27: 295-468.
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.
Peters, D. 2011. A Catalog of Pterosaur Pedes for Trackmaker Identification
Ichnos 18(2):114-141. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10420940.2011.573605
Unwin DM and Bakhurina NN 1994. Sordes pilosus and the nature of the pterosaur flight apparatus. Nature 371: 62-64.

Sauria aberrante MLP 61-IX-4-1 (Casamiquela, 1962)
Track D, Sundance Formation (Harris and Lacovara, 2004)
Track C, Sundance Formation (Harris and Lacovara, 2004)

https://pterosaurheresies.wordpress.com/2012/03/02/the-case-against-bipedal-pterosaurs

https://pterosaurheresies.wordpress.com/2011/08/09/pterosaurs-bipedal-quadrupedal-or-both/

A paper model of the ‘Discodactylus’ skull

Earlier a flat, but layered Adobe Photoshop plan of the skull of Discodactylus’ was presented (Fig. 1) and nested with the very similar anurognathid pterosaur, Vesperopterylus.

Figure 3. The skull of NJU-57003 reconstructed in animated layers for clarity. This is something the print media just cannot do as well. All elements are similar to those found earlier in other anurognathids.

Figure 1. The skull of NJU-57003 reconstructed in animated layers for clarity. This is something the print media just cannot do as well. All elements are similar to those found earlier in other anurognathids.

Here
a paper, paste and tape model of this plan is presented (Figs. 2, 3), made from a print out of the elements in figure 1.

Figure 1. Paper reconstruction of the Discodactylus skull and mandibles.

Figure 2. Paper reconstruction of the Discodactylus skull and mandibles. Yes, the dentary teeth don’t make sense. They are scattered in situ and this is not corrected here.

The extremely fragile skull
held together from below by slender palatal bones (maxillary palatal rods and hyoids not shown) provides a solution for a flying animal with a wide, rattlesnake-like gape.

Figure 3. Another view of the paper reconstruction of the skull and mandibles of Discodactylus.

Figure 3. Another view of the paper reconstruction of the skull and mandibles of Discodactylus.

Discodactylus megasterna (Yang et al. 2018; Middle-Late Jurassic; NJU-57003) is a complete skeleton of a disc-skull anurognathid with soft tissue related to Vesperopterylus (below). The sternal complex is quite large to match the wider than tall torso. Distinct from other anurognathids, m4.1 does not reach the elbow when folded.

This specimen was featured in a report (Yang et al. 2018) on pterosaur filaments that incorrectly aligned pterosaurs with feathered dinosaurs, rather than their true ancestors, the filamentous fenestrasaurs, Sharovipteryx and Longisquama.

Figure 4. Vesperopterylus skull reconstructed from color data traced in figure 3.

Figure 4. Vesperopterylus skull reconstructed 

Figure 2. Vesperopterylus reconstructed using original drawings which were originally traced from the photo. Manual digit 4.4 is buried beneath other bones and reemerges to give its length. Pedal digit 1 turns laterally due to metacarpal arcing and taphonomic crushing. There is nothing reversed about it. 

Figure 5. Vesperopterylus reconstructed using original drawings which were originally traced from the photo. Manual digit 4.4 is buried beneath other bones and reemerges to give its length. Pedal digit 1 turns laterally due to metacarpal arcing and taphonomic crushing. There is nothing reversed about it.

References
Yang et al. (8 co-authors) 2018. Pterosaur integumentary structures with complex feather-like branching. Nature ecology & evolution.

 

 

Another disc-head anurognathid from Jurassic China

Yesterday Yang et al. 2018 presented NJU-57003 (Figs. 1–3), a small anurognathid pterosaur with a great deal of soft tissue preservation, including feather-like filaments, said to be homologous with feathers. That was shown to be invalid by taxon exclusion here.

Today we’ll reconstruct
the crushed skull using DGS and nest this specimen in a cladogram using phylogenetic analysis (Fig. 4) in a few hours. Yang et al. were unable or unwilling to do either, even with firsthand access to the fossil and nine co-authors.

Figure 1. The NJU-57003 specimen and outline drawing, both from Yang et al. 2018. Various membranes and the overlooked sternal complex are colored in here.

Figure 1. The NJU-57003 specimen and outline drawing, both from Yang et al. 2018. Various membranes and the overlooked sternal complex and prepubes are colored in here. Clearly the uropatagia are separated here, as in Sharovipteryx. No wing membrane attaches below the knee.

Overlooked by Yang et al.
the sternal complex is quite large beneath the wide-spread ribs, a trait common to anurognathids. The torso, like the skull, would have been much wider than deep in vivo.

Figure 2. The skull elements of NJU-57003 colored to help alleviate the chaos of the crushed specimen. See figure 3 for the same elements reconstructed.

Figure 2. The skull elements of NJU-57003 colored to help alleviate the chaos of the crushed specimen. I can’t imagine betting able to interpret this skull without segregating each piece with a different color. See figure 3 for the same elements reconstructed with these colors.

As in other disc/flathead anurognathids
the palatal processes of the maxilla (red in Figs. 2, 3) radiate across the light-weight palate.  Yang et al. mislabeled these struts the ‘palatine’ (Fig. 1) following in the error-filled footsteps of other pterosaur workers who did not put forth the effort to figure things out.

The skull
is likewise supported by relatively few and very narrow struts. Contra Yang et al. 2018, who once again, mistakenly identify the toothy maxilla as an scleral ring (Fig. 1), the actual scleral rings (Figs. 2, 3) are complete and smaller within a large squarish orbit bounded ventrally by a deep jugal.

Figure 3. The skull of NJU-57003 reconstructed in animated layers for clarity. This is something the print media just cannot do as well. All elements are similar to those found earlier in other anurognathids.

Figure 3. The skull of NJU-57003 reconstructed in animated layers for clarity. This is something the print media just cannot do as well. All elements are similar to those found earlier in other anurognathids. Note the eyes, as in ALL pterosaurs, are in the back half of the skull.

Discodactylus megasterna (Yang et al. 2018; Middle-Late Jurassic, Yanlio biota, 165-160mya; NJU-57003) is a complete skeleton of a disc-skull anurognathid with soft tissue related to Vesperopterylus. The sternal complex is quite large to match the wider than tall torso. Distinct from other anurognathids, m4.1 does not reach the elbow when folded.

Figure 4. Subset of the LPT nesting Discodactylus with Vesperopterylus within the Anurognathidae.

Figure 4. Subset of the LPT nesting Discodactylus with Vesperopterylus within the Anurognathidae.

This specimen was introduced without a name
in a paper that incorrectly linked pterosaur filaments to dinosaur feathers (Yang et al. 2018), rather than with their true ancestor/relatives, the filamentous fenestrasaurs, Sharovipteryx and Longisquama, taxa omitted in Yang et al. and all workers listed below. Details here. The authors were unable to score traits for the skull and did not mention Vesperopterylus in their text.

Apparently the same artist
who originally traced the skull of Jeholopterus in 2003 (Fig. 5) also traced the present specimen (Fig. 1) with the same level of disinterest and inaccuracy. Compare the original image (Fig. 5 left) to a DGS image (Fig. 5 right). 

Figure 5. The original 2003 tracing of Jeholopterus (upper left) was inaccurate, uninformed and uninformative despite first hand access compared to the more informative and informed tracing created using DGS methods.

Why did these anurognathids have such long filaments?
Owls use similar fluffy feathers to silence their passage through air, first discussed earlier here.

The pterosaur experts weigh in the-scientist.com/news:
“I would challenge nearly all their interpretations of the structures. They are not hairs at all, but structural fibers found inside the wings of pterosaurs, also known aktinofibrils,” says pterosaur researcher David Unwin at the University of Leicester in the UK who was not part of the study. “They discovered lots of hair-like structures, but [don’t report any] wing fibers. I find that problematic.” Unwin suspects these fibers are likely to be present but have been mislabeled as feathers.  

This is a very important discovery,” says Kevin Padian, a palaeontologist at the University of California, Berkeley, “because it shows that integumentary [skin] filaments evolved in both dinosaurs and pterosaurs. That’s not surprising because they are sister groups, but it is good to know.”  

Padian draws attention to the pycnofibers’ “hair-like structure” as illustrating that they served as insulation. This is yet another characteristic of dinosaur and pterosaurs, along with high growth rate, pointing to their common ancestor as warm blooded.  “I wish the illustrations in the paper were better, but there is no reason to doubt them,” he adds.

Dr. Padian knows better.
He’s keeping the family secret by not mentioning fenestrasaurs (Peters 2000).

“The thing that is cool is that it bolsters the idea that pterosaurs and dinosaurs are sister taxa, if they are correct in interpreting these structures as a type of feather,” writes paleobiologist David Martill of the University of Plymouth in the UK, in an email. 

Dr. Martill knows better.
He’s keeping the family secret by not mentioning fenestrasaurs.

The specimens described in the paper are very interesting, agrees Chris Bennett, a palaeontologist at Fort Hays State University in Kansas, but in an emailed comment he describes the interpretation of the structures as problematic. “The authors’ characterization of the integumentary structures as ‘feather-like’ is inappropriate and unfortunate,” he writes. Some of the structures look like they could be from fraying or other decomposition, rather than feathers. Bennett adds that filamentous structures for insulation and sensation are fairly common, from hairy spiders to caterpillars to furry moths. “It seems to me to be premature to use filamentous integumentary structures to support a close phylogenetic relationship between pterosaurs and dinosaurs,” says Bennett. 

Dr. Bennett knows better.
He’s keeping the family secret by not mentioning fenestrasaurs.

Benton stands by his conclusion that pterosaurs wore plumage. Asked about the suggestion that the feathers could be wing fibers, he writes in an email, “Actinofibrils occur only in the wing membranes, whereas the structures we describe occur sparsely on the wings, but primarily over the rest of the body.”

Dr. Benton knows better.
He’s keeping the family secret by not mentioning fenestrasaurs. More details here.

References
Bennett SC 1996. The phylogenetic position of the Pterosauria within the Archosauromorpha. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 118:261-308.
Hone DWE and Benton MJ 2007.
An evaluation of the phylogenetic relationships of the pterosaurs to the archosauromorph reptiles. Journal of Systematic Palaeontology 5:465–469.
Hone DWE and Benton MJ 2009.
Contrasting supertree and total evidence methods: the origin of the pterosaurs. Zitteliana B28:35–60.
Peters D 2000. 
A Redescription of Four Prolacertiform Genera and Implications for Pterosaur Phylogenesis. Rivista Italiana di Paleontologia e Stratigrafia 106 (3): 293–336.
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

 

Is Jeholopterus pregnant? And what’s hiding in plain sight beneath that left wing?

There seems to be an overlooked egg shape
inside Jeholopterus, the vampire pterosaur, at just the right place (Figs. 1, 2; IVPP V12705). It’s not full term, so embryo/hatchling bones are not readily visible (= fully ossified) and currently impossible to reconstruct. Then again, that patch could be just a scuff mark.

Figure 1. Jeholopterus GIF animation showing new left wing shape plus underlying debris, perhaps in the form of theropod feathers.

Figure 1. Jeholopterus GIF animation showing new left wing shape plus underlying debris, some in the form of theropod feathers. Folded wings on pterosaurs should essentially disappear. This new interpretation follows that hypothesis. Click for an enlarged image.

Remember
pterosaurs are fenestrasaur – tritosaurlepidosaurs, so they are able to retain eggs within the mother’s body until just before hatching. Even their super-thin, lizard-like egg shells (or lack thereof) supports the present tree topology of pterosaurs as lepidosaurs in the large reptile tree (LRT, 1315 taxa) and disputes traditional models of archosaurian origin first invalidated by Peters 2000 by phylogenetic testing. Pterosaur eggs found alone (not near the mother) outside the body (like the IVPP anurognathid) include full term embryos. The Hamipterus egg accumulation chronicles a mass death of pregnant mothers, probably by lake burping.

Moreover
Jeholopterus seems to have landed on (= sunk on to after death) some theropod/bird feathers or similarly shaped pond plants. I suspected there was something wrong with that way-too-broad-while-folded wing. Pterosaur wings typically fold up to near nothingness, like bat wings do, when folded. It turns out, that’s the case here, too. There is a fringed trailing edge where the current and correct blue area ends. Make sure you click for a larger image.

Figure 2. Possible Jeholopterus premature egg in which embryo bones are not well calcified. Ribs and gastralia on a separate frame.

Figure 2. Possible Jeholopterus premature egg in which embryo bones are not well calcified. Ribs and gastralia on separate frames.

Look up at the left hand
of Jeholopterus and you’ll see there is some sort of fossilized matter (greenish color added on overlay) on the stratum that the specimen sank to. The same appears to be happening near the left wing tip, where something like feathers or long leaves appear, giving the illusion of a little too much pterosaur wing chord, especially in comparison to the right wing, which appears ‘normal.’

Figure 3. Jeholopterus counter plate in UV with brachiopatagium traced.

Figure 3. Jeholopterus counter plate in UV with brachiopatagium traced. UV image from Kellner et al. 2010.

Jeholopterus ninchengensis (Wang, Zhou, Zhang and Xu 2002) Middle to Late Jurassic, ~ 160 mya, [IVPP V 12705] was exquisitely preserved with wing membranes and pycnofibers on a complete and articulated skeleton (see below). Unfortunately the fragile and crushed skull was undecipherable to those who observed it first hand. Using methods described here, Peters (2003) deciphered the skull and identified the IVPP specimen of Jeholopterus as a vampire. In that hypothesis, Jeholopterus stabbed dinosaurs with its fangs, then drank their blood by squeezing the wound with its plier-like jaws while hanging on with its robust limbs and surgically sharp, curved and elongated claws. From head to toe, Jeholopterus stood apart morphologically. It was not your typical anurognathid. Derived from a sister to the CAGS specimen attributed to Jeholopterus, the holotype of Jeholopterus was a phylogenetic sister to Batrachognathus.

Figure 2. Reconstruction of Jeholopterus. This owl-like bloodslurper was covered with super soft pycnofibers to make it a silent flyer.

Figure 4. Reconstruction of Jeholopterus. This owl-like bloodslurper was covered with super soft pycnofibers to make it a silent flyer. Note the wider than tall torso and super long, super sharp claws.

These Jeholopterus wing images support
the narrow chord wing membrane stretched between elbow and wing tip (Peters 2002) and ignored by all subsequent workers. Note: Peters 2002 did not understand that something else made the left wing of Jeholopterus appear to have a deeper chord at mid wing. The illusion is that complete!

References
Cheng X, Wang X, Jiang S and Kellner AWA 2014. Short note on a non-pterodactyloid pterosaur from Upper Jurassic deposits of Inner Mongolia, China. Historical Biology (advance online publication) DOI:10.1080/08912963.2014.974038
Kellner AWA, Wang X, Tischlinger H, Campos DA, Hone DWE and Meng X 2010. The soft tissue of Jeholopterus (Pterosauria, Anurognathidae, Batrachognathinae) and the structure of the pterosaur wing membrane. Proc Royal Soc B 277: 321–329.
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.
Peters D 2002. A New Model for the Evolution of the Pterosaur Wing – with a twist. – Historical Biology 15: 277–301.
Peters D 2003. The Chinese vampire and other overlooked pterosaur ptreasures. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 23(3): 87A.
Wang X, Zhou Z, Zhang F and Xu X 2002. A nearly completely articulated rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur with exceptionally well-preserved wing membranes and “hairs” from Inner Mongolia, northeast China. Chinese Science Bulletin 47(3): 226-230.

wiki/Jeholopterus

SVP 2018: Resolving the Mesadactylus complex of individual bones

Figure 1. Mesadactylus restored from available data as an anurognathid.

Figure 1. Mesadactylus restored from available data as an anurognathid.

The BYU specimens attributed to 
Mesadactylus 
nest with anurognathids like ?Dimorphodon weintraubi (coeval and also from North America) in the large pterosaur tree (LPT). The specimen is Late Jurassic (Morrison Formation) in age.

Sprague and McLain 2018 conclude, “the taxonomic affinity of the genus is uncertain.” So why did they title their talk “Resolving…”

All they had to do
was Google “Mesadactylus.” Or run a phylogenetic analysis. The affinities of this specimen have been known here at the LPT since 2012.

References
Spratue M and McLain MA 2018. Resolving the Mesadactylus complex of Dry Mesa Quarry, Morrison Formation, Colorado. SVP Abstracts.

Flugsaurier 2018: Anurognathid JPM 2012-001

Updated April 1, 2021
with hi-rez data from Zhou et al. 2021 and a new name for this specimen, Sinomacrops. See that data in part 1 here and part 2 here.

Flugsaurier 2018 part 3
Since the purpose of the symposium is increase understanding of pterosaurs, I hope this small contribution helps.

Lü et al. 2018 report on two new and unnamed anurognathid pterosaurs
from China. I’m guessing the one featured today has been known for six years based on its number: JPM-2012-001.

Figure 1. 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 2. 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 3.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
Figure 4. Left: Life restoration of Sinomacrops from Wei et al. 2019 filled with problems. Center: Skeletal of Sinomacrops from fossil tracings. Right: Anurognathus holotype for comparison to scale. Note the smaller feet and more robust humerus in Sinomacrops.

According to Lü et al. 2018
“Based on body morphologies, anurognathid pterosaurs can be classified into two subgroups: long-tailed anurognathids (length ratio of tail to femur is greater or equal to 1) and short-tailed anurognathids (length ratio of tail to femur is smaller than 1).” The JPM specimen is a long-tailed type.

The second Chinese anurognathid, BPMC-0009,
is not shown in its entirety in Lü et al. 2018. Rather the authors focus on the tiny fourth phalanx at the wing tip (which also includes an ungual!). Lü et al. 2018 report, “The extremely reduced wing phalange 4 (its length is 4.6mm) may indicate that the so-called three wing-phalanged pterosaurs: Anurognathus (Bennett, 2007) and Beipiaopterus (Lü, 2003) may be caused by extremely reduced wing phalanx 4 and this phalanges did not preserve, and the expanded distal end of the wing phalanx 3 perhaps confirm this possibility (this distal of wing phalanx 4 is sharp and pointed).”

Unfortunately,
the basal azhdarchid, Beipiaopterus, has four wing phalanges. So does the flathead anurognathid SMNS 81928(not congeneric with the holotype Anurognathus), which also has four wing phalanges. See them in situ here and here. All anurognathids have four wing phalanges. Regarding BPMC-0009Jeholopterus also has a relatively small m4.4, so it may be related to the BPMC-0009 specimen. We’ll have to see the complete specimen to make that determination.

Not listed by the authors,
the UNSM 93000 specimen of Nyctosaurus does have only three wing phalanges, discussed earlier here.

The JPM specimen
has a long tail —but it nests with the short tailed Anurognathus (holotype, Fig. 3). So there goes the earlier Lü et al. hypothesis about splitting anurognathids. Under the Lü et al. hypothesis, you will have to know that every tiny caudal bone was on the matrix surface, preserved and able to be seen. Think how easy it would be for such tiny, pollen-sized, distal caudals to be buried… or lost during taphonomy. Besides, no one wants to pull a Larry Martin, splitting or lumping taxa based on one  trait. Use all 180+ traits in the large pterosaur tree (LPT). And make reconstructions to test your observations!

Figure 1. Clck to enlarge and animate. Here the buried wing phalanges are shown along with more tail vertebrae and wing membranes. Boosting the contrast brings some close-to-the-surface parts to more prominence.

Figure 4. Clck to enlarge and animate. Here the buried wing phalanges are shown along with more tail vertebrae and wing membranes. Boosting the contrast brings some close-to-the-surface parts to more prominence.

Anurognathids have a long history
of bad reconstruction. So does Anurognathus. Note, as in Vesperopterylus and all other anurognathids (Fig. 5), there is no trace of a giant scleral ring in the anterior half of the JPM specimen skull (Figs. 1–3, contra Bennett 2007 and the current fashion among pterosaur workers and artists). Rather, and just like related Dimorphodon, the antorbital fenestra is quite large and the orbit is right behind it.

Figure 1. Anurognathid skulls in phylogenetic order.

Figure 5. Anurognathid skulls in phylogenetic order. None have a giant sclerotic ring in the anterior of the skull. Rather, all have a large antorbital fenestra.

Like the holotype Anurognathus,
(Fig. 3) the JPM-2012-0001 specimen has longer dentary teeth (deeper than the mandible), an antorbital fenestra taller than the orbit (convergent with azhdarchids and tapejarids), a tiny metacarpus and a long list of other shared traits. The JPM specimen is more gracile overall, with smaller feet, more slender wing finger, a larger sternal complex and a shorter, taller skull.

References
Bennett SC 2007. A second specimen of the pterosaur Anurognathus ammoni. Paläontologische Zeitschrift 81(4):376-398.
Lü J-C, Zhou X-Y, Liu C-Y and Sun D-Y 2018.
Chinese anurognathid pterosaurs. Flugsaurier 2018: the 6th International Symposium on Pterosaurs. Los Angeles, USA. Abstracts:63-65.

https://pterosaurheresies.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/anurognathid-eyes-the-evidence-for-a-small-sclerotic-ring/

A new anurognathid, Sinomacrops, traced and reconstructed

Sinomacrops part 2: more problems and insights

Giant flying arboreal mammal-killer in the Jehol (Early Cretaceous, China)

So… this one has been under the radar since 2004
And you’ll see why.

Like a prehistoric eagle,
this was the largest flying predator in the Jehol biota (Early Cretaceous, China). It had no feathers. And it has gone unrecognized as a giant flying predator since Wang and Zhou 2004 announced it in Nature for other reasons.

At this time the only evidence
for this taxon comes in the form of a giant embryo anurognathid pterosaur, IVPP V13758 (Fig. 1) the size of other adult anurognathids. As an adult it would have been 8x larger (if similar to other pterosaur and based on the pelvic opening). The skull retains traits of the related, but more basal Dimorphodon from the Early Jurassic of England, but the giant anurognathid was coeval and similar in size to another Jehol predator, the pre-tyrannosauroid, Tianyuraptor, and larger than a coeval four-winged, flight-feathered ornitholestid, Microraptor (Fig. 1). It was also larger than the modern bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). All the early Cretaceous toothed birds, like Yanornis, and Hongshanornis, were smaller.

Figure 1. Adult scaled version of the IVPP anurognathid pterosaur, with a skull similar in size to those attributed to Dimorphdodon. Bergamodactylus and Preondactylus are ancestral to Dimorphodon. Other Jehol predators are shown in white.

Figure 1. Adult scaled version of the IVPP anurognathid pterosaur, with a skull similar in size to those attributed to Dimorphdodon. Bergamodactylus and Preondactylus are ancestral to Dimorphodon. Other Jehol predators are shown in white.

If early Cretaceous mammals thought they were safe up in the trees,
think again. This giant anurognathid kept their numbers in check by going after them in the trees. That’s a big guess, but if you’re looking for a predator capable of snatching mammals out of the trees, there are no other candidates in the Early Cretaceous of China. Just look at those teeth!

Most anurognathids were small
because they ate small insect prey. Ask yourself if something as large as the IVPP embryo as an adult would have been satisfied eating insects. No, it was going after larger prey.

Figure 1. Large anurognathids and their typical-sized sisters. Here the IVPP embryo enlarged to adult size is larger than D. weintraubi and both are much larger than more typical basal anurognathids, Mesadactylus and MCSNB 8950.

Figure 2. Large anurognathids and their typical-sized sisters. Here the IVPP embryo enlarged to adult size is larger than D. weintraubi and both are much larger than more typical basal anurognathids, Mesadactylus and MCSNB 8950.

Unfortunately
Wang and Zhou 2004 (Fig. 3) didn’t know what sort of pterosaur their first embryo/egg was. Back then they thought pterosaur babies had a shorter rostrum that adults. Wrong. Back then they thought anurognathids were all small taxa. Wrong. Back then they didn’t spend much time tracing traits (Fig. 3) and reconstructions were largely guesswork. We fix all those problems here and at ReptileEvolution.com

The IVPP embryo pterosaur

Figure 3. Click to enlarge DGS tracing. The IVPP embryo pterosaur (far left) as originally traced, (near left) as originally reconstructed as a baby ornithocheirid, (near right) traced using the DGS method, (far right) adult reconstructed at 8x the embryo size.

We first looked at the IVPP embryo
here, several years ago and several times since.

Figure 4. The IVPP embryo anurognathid compared to other basal pterosaurs.

Figure 4. The IVPP embryo anurognathid enlarged to adult size and compared to other basal pterosaurs.

References
Wang X-L and Zhou Z 2004. Palaeontology: pterosaur embryo from the Early Cretaceous. Nature 429: 623.

http://reptileevolution.com/dimorphodon.htm
http://reptileevolution.com/ivpp-embryo.htm

https://pterosaurheresies.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/what-do-those-pterosaur-embryos-really-look-like/