Paleo-photographer Helmut Tischlinger 2020
brings us extreme closeups of the first pterosaur ever described, Pterodactylus antiquus (Figs 1–7), in white and UV light. Here both photos of the same area are layered precisely to demonstrate the different details each type of light brings out.
The text is German.
The abstract and photo captions are duplicated in English.
Pterodactylus antiquus (Collini 1784, Cuvier 1801, 1809, Sömmerring 1812, BSP Nr. AS I 739, No. 4 of Wellnhofer 1970; Late Jurassic) was the first pterosaur to be described and named.
From the Abstract:
“On the occasion of the reopening of the Jura Museum Eichstätt on January 9, 2020, the Bavarian State Collection for Paleontology and Geology, Munich, provided the Jura Museum with one of its most valuable fossil treasures as a temporary loan. The “Collini specimen”, first described in 1784, is the first scientifically examined and published fossil of a pterosaur and has been at the center of interest of many natural scientists since it became known… An examination of the texture of the surface of the limestone slab and the dendrites on it suggests that it does not come from Eichstätt, as has been claimed by Collini, but most likely from the Zandt-Breitenhill quarry area about 30 km east of Eichstätt. For the first time, a detailed investigation and pictorial documentation were carried out under ultraviolet light, which on the one hand document the excellent preservation of the fossil, and on the other hand show that there has obviously been no damage or manipulation to this icon of pterosaurology during the past almost 240 years.”
The wing tip ungual
appears to be present in visible light, but changes to a blob under UV (Fig. 2). Other pterosaurs likewise retain an often overlooked wingtip ungual.
In the same image
the skin surrounding an oval secondary naris within the anterior antorbital fenestra appears. Otherwise very little soft tissues is preserved.
The ‘secondary naris’ may be a new concept for some,
so it is explained below. This is not the same concept as the hypothetical ‘confluent naris + antorbital fenestra’ you may have heard about. Remember, ‘pterodactloid’-grade pterosaurs arose 4x by convergence. So each had their own evolutionary path.
The elements of the paper-thin rostrum
are colorized here (Fig. 3). There are subtle differences between the white light and UV images. The pink color represents a portion of the nasal that extends to the anterior maxilla and naris as in other pterosaurs and tetrapods. Did I just say naris? Yes.
Note the original naris here appears as a vestige
in its usual place above the maxilla tip, as in the Triassic pterosaur, Bergamodactylus and the late-surviving Pterodactylus ancestor, Scaphoganthus. The transition to this vestigial naris is documented in the rarely published n9 (SoS 4593), n31 (SoS 4006) and SMNS 81775 tiny transitional taxa (Fig. 4). After testing, all these turn out to be miniaturized adults traditionally mistakenly considered to be juveniles, only by those pterosaur workers who have excluded these taxa from phylogenetic analysis.
That’s why it is so important
to include all pterosaurs specimens as taxa in analysis. Otherwise you will miss the phylogenetic miniaturization that occurs at the genesis of major clades, the phylogenetic variation within a genus, and the evolution of new traits that have been overlooked by all other pterosaur workers.
The elements of the right metacarpus
are better understood and communicated when colorized (Fig. 4). Not sure where the counter plate is, but it may include some of the elements missing here, like the distal mc1. The left manus digit 5 is on that counter plate, judging from the broken bone left behind on the plate.
The pes is well preserved
Adding DGS colors to the elements helps one shift them back to their invivo positions. The addition of PILs (parallel interphalangeal lines, Peters 2000) complete the restoration. This is a plantigrade pes, judging by the continuous PILs that other workers continue to ignore.
Sometimes PhDs overlook certain details.
And that’s okay. Others will always come along afterward to build on their earlier observations. Tischlinger 2020 provides that excellent opportunity.
Collini CA 1784. Sur quelques Zoolithes du Cabinet d’Histoire naturelle de S. A. S. E. Palatine & de Bavière, à Mannheim. Acta Theodoro-Palatinae Mannheim 5 Pars Physica, 58–103.
Cuvier G 1801. [Reptile volant]. In: Extrait d’un ouvrage sur les espèces de quadrupèdes dont on a trouvé les ossemens dans l’intérieur de la terre. Journal de Physique, de Chimie et d’Histoire Naturelle 52: 253–267.
Cuvier G 1809. Mémoire sur le squelette fossile d’un reptile volant des environs d’Aichstedt, que quelques naturalistes ont pris pour un oiseau, et dont nous formons un genre de Sauriens, sous le nom de Petro-Dactyle. Annales du Muséum national d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris 13: 424–437.
Peters D 2000. Description and Interpretation of Interphalangeal Lines in Tetrapods. Ichnos, 7: 11-41
Tischlinger H 2020. Der „Collini-Pterodactylus“ – eine Ikone der Flugsaurier-Forschung Archaeopteryx 36: 16–31; Eichstätt 2020.
von Soemmering ST 1812. Über einen Ornithocephalus. Denkschriften der Akademie der Wissenschaften München, Mathematischen-physikalischen Classe 3: 89-158.
Wellnhofer P 1970. Die Pterodactyloidea (Pterosauria) der Oberjura-Plattenkalke Süddeutschlands. Abhandlungen der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, N.F., Munich 141: 1-133.