Britt, et al. 2018
bring us a new desert-dwelling Triassic pterosaur, Caelestiventus hanseni (Figs. 1, 2; BYU 20707, Museum of Paleontology at Brigham Young University) from western North America. They nest it with Dimorphodon (Fig. 1), from the English Jurassic, although Preondactylus (Fig. 3) is also similar, with a huge naris, and also from the Late Triassic. Caelestiventus is larger than most Triassic pterosaurs, with a wingspan of at least 1.5 meters. Coeval Raeticodactylus is similar in size and also fills in the lower orbit with a thin sheet of bone.
Britt and colleagues nest anurognathids as the sister taxa to Dorygnathus due to taxon exclusion. In the large pterosaur tree (LPT, 234 taxa) anurognathids nest with and arise from dimorphodontids. Among the many taxa missing from the Britt et al. tree is the IVPP giant embryo anurognathid, a completely preserved specimen, and Mesadactylus, another Jurassic transitional sister basal to anurognathids… also from North America.
It’s always wonderful to see a new pterosaur taxon.
Congratulations to all coauthors on this paper.
The sculptor of the skull
(Fig. 1) put a ‘Roman nose’ on the restoration of Caelestiventus. That illustration will float around the paleo-universe forever. However, I take my cue from the Triassc age of the specimen and the downturned dentary, as in the Triassic basalmost pterosaur, Bergamodactylus (Fig. 2), which has an unexpanded naris, to create a more transitional naris (Fig. 1), and from Preondactylus (Fig. 3), a closer relative with a large, yet straight naris, rather than create a derived version with more of a curve than Dimorphodon had.
The staff or hired artist
charged with illustrating Caelestiventus in vivo (Fig. 4) made a few mistakes. These were generated, no doubt, by the many false paradigms floating around out there. Here they are shown and corrected. (Just found out the artist is Michael Skrepnick, Dinosaursinart.com)
- The manual claws should point down toward the palm, as in most tetrapods
- Pedal digit 5 should be on the lateral side of a much larger foot and it should not be involved in the uropatagia.
- The tail should be shorter if closer to Dimorphodon than to Preondactylus. Otherwise it might be that long.
- The rostrum is straight inLate Triassic sister, Preondactylus, so perhaps a straight angled rostrum is more appropriate here.
- The wing membranes were stretched between elbow and wing tip, as all soft tissue pterosaur fossils demonstrate.
- The cranium probably tipped down posteriorly, as all related taxa demonstrate (Figs. 1–3).
Perhaps hoping to support the invalid archosaur origin of pterosaurs hypothesis,
Britt et al report the margin of an antorbital fenestra bears a remnant of a fossa. We looked at a similar interpretation earlier when Nesbitt and Hone 2010 attempted to pull a Larry Martin with that single trait from Dimorphodon. Thankfully, Britt et al. did not attempt to use Euparkeria or any phytosaurs for outgroups. But, regrettably, they didn’t use Cosesaurus either (Fig. 5). Avoiding further controversy, they left the basalmost node generic: “Pterosauria”.
Addendum: checking the SuppMat .nex file,
I see they employed the tritiosaur lepidosaur, Macrocnemus, and two large archosauriforms, Postosuchus and Herrerrasaurus for outgroup taxa. That still does not get you very far based on the verified and validated taxa listed below. Neither Postosuchus nor Herrerasaurus are related to Macrocnemus and pterosaurs.
Adding Caelestiventus to the LPT nests it basal to the Dimorphodon clade, not with Dimorphodon.
Britt BB, Dalla Vecchia FM, Chure DJ, Engelmann GF, Whiting MF, and Scheetz RD 2018. Caelestiventus hanseni gen. et sp. nov. extends the desert-dwelling pterosaur record back 65 million years. Nature Ecology & Evolution. doi:10.1038/s41559-018-0627-y.
Nesbitt SJ and Hone DWE 2010. An external mandibular fenestra and other archosauriform character states in basal pterosaurs. Palaeodiversity 3: 225–233
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