Flugsaurier 2018: ‘Young istiodactylid’ nests with tall pterodactylids in the LPT

Flugsaurier 2018 opens today, August 10,
and the abstract booklet is out. So it’s time to take a look at some of the news coming out of that Los Angeles pterosaur symposium. Since the purpose of the symposium is increase understanding of pterosaurs, I hope this small contribution helps.

Figure 1. The Erlianhaote specimen attributed by Hone and Xu 2018 to istiodactylidae nests in the LPT with the large derived pterodactylids.

Figure 1. The Erlianhaote specimen attributed by Hone and Xu 2018 to the clade Istiodactylidae (within Ornithocheiridae) nests in the LPT with the large derived pterodactylids. Note the un-warped deltopectoral crest and lack of a deep cristospine, along with the long legs and short wings.

Hone and Xu at Flugsaurier 2018
describe, “An unusual and nearly complete young istiodactylid from the Yixian Formation, China (Fig. 1). The specimen shows the characteristic istiodactylid cranial features of tooth shape and enlarged nasoantorbital fenestra. However, it has proportionally large hindlimbs and wing proportions that are similar to those of azhdarchids. This has led to suggestion that the specimen may be a composite and that only the cranial material is istiodactylid. Preparation work around some key parts revealed no inconsistencies in the matrix or evidence of glue. The specimen is held in the Erlianhaote Dinosaur Museum, Erlianhote, China.”

Figure 2. The Erlianhaote specimen nests with these pterodactylids in the LPT, not with Istiodactylus (Fig. 3).

Figure 2. The Erlianhaote specimen nests with these pterodactylids in the LPT, not with Istiodactylus (Fig. 3). Note the antorbital fenestra becomes longer with larger size in this clade. The teeth are similar to those in istiodactylids.

Reconstructed as is
(Fig. 2) and added to the large pterosaur tree (LPT, 233 taxa, not yet updated due to no museum number nor genus name) the young ‘istiodactylid’ nests as a large derived pterodactylid. 13 steps separate this taxon from the Istiodactylus clade.

Ornithocheirids,
like Istiodactylus (Figs. 3, 4) and the SMNL PAL 1136 specimen (Fig. 5), share a very large wing finger, a short metacarpus, a warped deltopectoral crest, small free fingers and deeply keeled sternal complex not found in the Erlianhote specimen.

Figure 3. Istiodactylus has a shorter neck, longer wing finger and deep cristospine, among other traits not found in the new Erlianhaote specimen.

Figure 3. Istiodactylus has a shorter neck, longer wing finger and deep cristospine, among other traits not found in the new Erlianhaote specimen.

Figure 4. Istiodactylus sinensis is an istiodactylid from China sharing few traits with the new Erlianhaote specimen. Note the warped deltopectoral crest not warped in the new specimen.

Figure 4. Istiodactylus sinensis is an istiodactylid from China sharing few traits with the new Erlianhaote specimen. Note the warped deltopectoral crest not warped in the new specimen. Manual 4.1 is shorter than in other well-known istiodactylids.

The largest ornithocheirid

Figure 5. The unnamed largest ornithocheirid, SMNK PAL 1136, nests with Istiodactylus.

Figure 6. The Erlianhaote pterodactylid reconstructed in several views.

Figure 6. The Erlianhaote pterodactylid reconstructed in several views. The imagined (gray) areas of the skull here were imagined as an istiodactylid, but the better restoration is shown in figure 2.

It’s better not to eyeball certain specimens.
Sometimes you have to run them through a phylogenetic analysis to find out what they are. That’s what the LPT is for. It minimizes taxon exclusion and handles convergence.

Pterosaurs are still lepidosaurs.
So they follow lepidosaur fusion patterns, which follow phylogeny. Hone and Xu made the mistake of imagining pterosaurs might have archosaur fusion patterns that follow ontogeny.

Why am I not at Flugsaurier 2018?
In addition to about a dozen reasons that I can list later, or your can guess now, I can be more helpful and timely here.

References
Andres B and Ji Q 2006. A new species of Istiodactylus (Pterosauria, Pterodactyloidea) from the Lower Cretaceous of Liaoning, China. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 26: 70-78.
Bowerbank JS 1846. On a new species of pterodactyl found in the Upper Chalk of Kent P. giganteus). Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society 2: 7–9.
Bowerbank JS 1851. On the pterodactyles of the Chalk Formation. Proceedings of the Zoological Society, London, pp. 14–20 and Annals of the Magazine of Natural History (2) 10: 372–378.
Bowerbank JS 1852. On the pterodactyles of the Chalk Formation. Reports from the British Association for the Advancement of Science (1851): 55.
Hone DWE and Xu 2018. An unusual and nearly complete young istiodactylid from the Yixian Formation, China. Flugsaurier 2018: the 6th International Symposium on Pterosaurs. Los Angeles, USA. Abstracts: 53–56.
Hooley RW 1913. On the skeleton of Ornithodesmus latidens. An ornithosaur from the Wealden shales of Atherfield (Isle of Wight)”, Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society, 69: 372-421
Howse SCB, Milner AR and Martill DM 2001. Pterosaurs. Pp. 324-335 in: Martill, D. M. and Naish, D., eds. Dinosaurs of the Isle of Wight, The Palaeontological Association
Wang X, Rodrigues T, Jiang S, Cheng X and Kellner AWA 2014. An Early Cretaceous pterosaur with an unusual mandibular crest from China and a potential novel feeding strategy. Scientific Reports 4 : 6329, pp. 1-9. | DOI: 10.1038/srep06329
Witton MP 2012. New Insights into the Skull of Istiodactylus latidens (Ornithocheiroidea, Pterodactyloidea). PLoS ONE 7(3): e33170. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0033170

wiki/Istiodactylus

Advertisements

Largest ‘flying reptile’ from the Crato formation? Maybe not.

Cheng et al. 2018
report on a partial wing finger (MPSC R 1221, Fig. 1) that they say represents, “The largest flying reptile from the Crato Formation, Lower Cretaceous, Brazil.”

But is it? 

Figure 1. The as yet undescribed SMNS PAL 1136 specimen is much larger than comparable bones in the new specimen, MPSC R 1221.

Figure 1. The as yet undescribed SMNS PAL 1136 specimen is much larger than comparable bones in the new specimen, MPSC R 1221. If the scale bars are correct, the SMNS specimen is much larger.

No…
if the scale bars are correct. The larger, as yet undescribed, and very impressive SMNS PAL 1136 specimen (Fig. 1) is not mentioned in the text. I do not know if the SMNS specimen is from the Crato or Roualdo formation (I have not gone back to look up that datum). In any case, the authors overlooked this specimen, because it is not mentioned in the text or charts that list a few dozen other large pterosaurs. It should have been included. Of course, then the headline would have read, “…second largest…” and no one wants that.

So was this oversight intentional?
We’ll never know. The SMNS specimen has been in the literature for 24 years (Frey and Martill 1994).

Addendum several days later
The Crato Formation was not erected until 13 years after the 1994 paper by Martill, Bechly and Loveridge. Therefore all layers were considered Santana Formation in 1994. So the SMNS specimen from the Santana formation might have come from the upper or lower layers. It should have been included in the 2018 survey.

The authors conclude
“Based on the fusion of the extensor tendon process and the first wing phalanx and bone histology, MPSC R 1221 presents a subadult individual of a late ontogeny stage (OS5) at time of death, whichmeans that the final maximized wingspan might have been larger. This is corroborated by the osteohistological sections since this individual did not present an external fundamental system.” Look how eager the authors are to hang on to that superlative, ‘largest’, even though we know of at least one that is so much larger.

The authors do not realize
or continue to deny data, that pterosaurs do not follow archosaur fusion patterns during ontogeny—because pterosaurs are not archosaurs, and their fusion patterns follow phylogenetic patterns.

I never heard the term,
“external fundamental system” before. So, I looked it up: “A closely spaced series of lines of arrested growth that is called the External Fundamental System (EFS) indicates that adult size has been reached.” Now we all know!

I hope this blog post
will one day turn out dozens of young paleontologists who will read every paper they see with a seasoned and skeptical eye. If so, a few of you may someday become editors of academic journals or manuscript referees. When that happens, don’t let mistakes like this slip out. Having a website, like ReptileEvolution.com, that is full of data and illustrations, makes it easy to fact-check superlative claims, like this one, with just a few clicks.

On that note:
here (Fig. 2) is a published illustration of a pterosaur wrist from Duque and Barret 2018 with labels that were a little mixed up with regard for the ulna and radius. The referees should have caught this.

Figure 1. From figure 9 from Duque and Barreto 2018 with corrections noted and digit 5 colorized

Figure 2. From figure from Duque and Barreto 2018 with corrections noted and digit 5 colorized. This mistake should have been caught by the authors and referees, not me.

References
Cheng X, Bantim RAM, Sayão JM, Kellner AWA, Wang X and Saraiva AAF 2018. The largest flying reptile from the Crato Formation, Lower Cretaceous, Brazil. Historical Biology. https://doi.org/10.1080/08912963.2018.1491567
Duque RRC and Barret AMF 2018. New exceptionally well-preserved Pterosauria from the lower Cretaceous Araripe Basin, Northeast Brazil. Cretaceous Research 10.1016/j.cretres.2018.05.004
Frey E and Martill DM 1994. A new Pterosaur from the Crato Formation (Lower Cretaceous, Aptian) of Brazil. Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie, Abhandlungen 194: 379–412.

Hamipterus – a closer look at gender and ontogeny

Wang et al. 2014 introduced us
two years ago to a new collection of pterosaur parts from a monotypic population that was swept together and disarticulated by a flood event. As you may recall, five well-preserved three-dimensional eggs were recovered from the Early Cretaceous site in northwestern China. Sexual dimorphism was identified for the first time in pterosaurs with two different types of crests appeared on a variety of sizes of skulls (Figs. 1, 2). They named the new specimen, Hamipterus tianshanensis and the holotype was described as, One complete presumed female skull (IVPP V18931.1)”.

Figure 1. The female holotype and male paratype from the Hamipterus population assemblage fossil. The second tracing enlarges the male skull to the same length as the female skull. The color bar overprints indicate parts that differ in length from one skull to the other and a second overlay traces tooth position shifts from one to another.

Figure 1. The female holotype and male paratype from the Hamipterus population assemblage fossil. The second tracing enlarges the male skull to the same length as the female skull. The color bar overprints indicate parts that differ in length from one skull to the other and a second overlay traces tooth position shifts from one to another. The vestigial naris appears between the nasal and jugal beneath the crest. Direct comparisons like this help reveal subtle differences that otherwise might be overlooked.

Such a sweeping together of so many individuals
provides an unprecedented insight into several areas of pterosaur biology, but the data need to be rigorously examined so as not to jump to any conclusions.

Visible differences in the two skulls

  1. Crest shape
  2. Tooth placement
  3. Ventral maxilla shape
  4. Lateral extent of the premaxilla
  5. Depth of the skull anterior to the antorbital fenestra
  6. Concave vs. straight rostral margin (sans crest)
  7. Length of the upper temporal fenestra
  8. Placement of the vestigial naris
  9. Suborbital depth of the jugal

Gender
Wang et al. report, “About 40 male and female individuals in total were recovered, but the actual number associated might be in the hundreds. All of the discovered skulls have crests, which exhibit two different morphologies in size, shape, and robustness. Although morphological variation could be interpreted as individual variation, these marked differences suggest that the skulls belong to different genders. Hamipterus tianshanensis contradicts this hypothesis, because this species indicates that morphology of the crest, rather than its presence.”

Consider what we know about gender differences in birds and lizards,
It may be too soon to generalize over gender differences in pterosaurs. While each gender could have its own signature crest, size, etc., likewise each species likely had its own signature identity/crest/color/call, plumage, etc. At present, no other pterosaurs show verifiable gender differences. That’s why the Wang et al. paper was so important. Gender differences described for both Darwinopterus and Pteranodon were shown to be phylogenetic. Darwinopterus does present a mother with an aborted egg, but the father of the egg has not been identified. Hamipterus offers the best opportunity, so far, to bring some data to the table on this topic. And what Wang et al. indicate may indeed be true.

However, not enough care, IMHO, was administered to the non-crest differences in the skull material was made. Considering just the arrangement of teeth in the jaws (Fig. 1), is it possible that two very closely related species lived near one another? Or did individual variation cover a wider gamut than we now think is reasonable? Remember, among all the Pteranodon specimens now known (to me, at least), no two are identical. The same can be said for the Rhamphorhynchus and Pterodactylus specimens. And when you give Hamipterus a rigorous study, several subtle variations arise. Some of these arise from crushing. Others do not. With given data, one wonders if these could be two Hamipterus variations could be very closely related and.or very closely nesting sister taxa. OR… with present data, gender differences could extend beyond just the crest.

It is also possible
that male pterosaurs were rare rogues and this was a colony of females only with lots of individual variation. Do male lizards help raise their young? Do females? No. But pterosaurs might have been different. Wang et al. report on 40 individuals, but not on the male/female ratio or how many skulls are known. There were three in the holotype block. I’m guessing their specimen count was based on 40 skulls.

Figure 2. Finishing up the large skull with the large crest with two smaller candidates reveals that the slightly better fit is with the female skull.

Figure 2. Finishing up the large skull with the large crest with two smaller candidates reveals that the slightly better fit is with the female skull.

Ontogeny
Wang et al. report, “Ontogenetic variation is reflected mainly in the [lateral] expansion of the [spoon-shaped in dorsal view] rostrum.” Wang et al. reinforce what we know from other pterosaurs that they developed isometrically. Note the similarity between the crests of the smaller and larger ‘male’ specimens (Fig. 2). We’ve seen that before with Tupuxuara juveniles (Fig. 3).

Figure 1. Ontogenetic skull and crest development in Tupuxuara. Note the eyes are small and the rostrum is long in juveniles. Only the crest expands and only posteriorly.

Figure 3. Presumed ontogenetic skull and crest development in Tupuxuara. Note the eyes are small and the rostrum is long in juveniles. Only the crest expands and only posteriorly. Are are these two different sized but otherwise related species? With that longer rostrum, the smaller specimen may be distinct phylogenetically. No small crest Tupuxuara specimens are known.

Sedimentology
Wang et al. report, “Tempestite interlayers where nearly all of the pterosaur fossils are found suggest that large storms caused the mass mortality, event deposits, and lagersta¨ tte of the pterosaur population.”

Phylogenetically
Wang et al. discussed what Hamipterus is not. Their analysis nested it at the base of the Ornithocheiridae with complete lack of resolution. The large pterosaur tree nests Hamipterus with complete resolution between Boreopterus and Zhenyuanopterus.

Eggs
Wang et al. report, “A total of five eggs were recovered from the same site. The outer surface is smooth and exhibits no ‘papilla-like ornamentation,’ as was reported of the first pterosaur egg found in China.” Well that was a giant anurognathid egg, for which finding the parent will be big news. I’d be more interested to see comparisons to the second pterosaur egg found in China, the JZMP egg/embryo, which belonged to a rather closely related [to Hamipterus] ornithocheirid.

Wang et al. report, “Due to the close proximity to Hamipterus tianshanensis, the sole taxon found at the site, all of the eggs are referred to this species. Compared with other reptiles, the Hamipterus eggs show more similarities with some squamates,” I love it when every bit of data supports the theory that pterosaurs are lepidosaurs.

Wang et al. report, a 60µm calcareous eggshell followed by a thin 11µm inner membrane. They compared that to a snake egg of similar dimensions with a 60µm calcareous membrane followed by a much thicker 200µm inner membrane. Then they speculate wildly with this imaginative statement, “It is possible that Hamipterus also had a much thicker membrane, which was not completely preserved. We propose that such an eggshell structure, similar to that of some snakes, may well explain the preservation of the outer surface observed in pterosaur eggs.” IMHO, paleontologists go too far when they try to explain away data, rather than dealing with it directly. Elgin, Hone and Frey (2011) did this with their infamous wing membranes which they speculated suffered from imagined “shrinkage” in order to protect their verifiably false deep chord wing membrane hypothesis.

Wang et al report, “The [egg] size differences might also reflect different stages of development, since mass and dimensions differ between recently laid eggs and more developed ones.” There’s another possibility. Since we know that half-sized female pterosaurs were of breeding age (Chinsamy et al. 2008) they could have laid smaller eggs, producing smaller young, one source of rapid phylogenetic miniaturization.

Wang et al. report, “The combination of many pterosaurs and eggs indicates the presence of a nesting site nearby and suggests that this species developed gregarious behavior. Hamipterus likely made its nesting grounds on the shores of freshwater lakes or rivers and buried its eggs in sand along the shore, preventing them from being desiccated.” There’s another possibility. Since pterosaurs are lepidosaurs, they could have retained the eggs in utero until the young were ready to hatch. That also prevents them from desiccation. Since the flood tore the bones apart, any in utero eggs would have been torn away from the mother as well.

Notable by its absence
is any report of embryo bones inside the eggshells. I presume none were found or they would have been reported. That’s a shame, too, because eggs are nice little containers for complete skeletons, something lacking at the Hamipterus site. Some of the eggs appear to be evacuated, as if they were empty when buried. Or maybe all the juices were squeezed out during the rush and tumble of flood waters. If there was an embryo inside one of the Hamipterus eggs, and that is likely as the egg shell is applied just before egg laying, the embryo might have looked something like this (Fig. 3) based on the other pterosaur embryos inside their own two-dimensional eggs and the appearance of more complete sister taxa. During taphonomy the embryo inside would have been shaken AND stirred (but note some skulls are preserved complete without destruction!). The three dimensional egg contents would not accumulate on the randomly chosen longitudinal saw cut.

Figure 3. Wang et al. sliced one of the eggs lengthwise (yellow). if there is an embryo inside, it might have looked something like this. Since the egg has not been crushed to two dimensions, all the bones would not be now located in the plane of the slice, which was a random cut, not recognizing any embryo inside.

Figure 3. Wang et al. sliced one of the eggs lengthwise (yellow). if there is an embryo inside, it might have looked something like this. Since the egg has not been crushed to two dimensions, all the bones would not be now located in the plane of the slice, which was a random cut, not recognizing any embryo inside. Other embryos are typically in this pose.

Pterosaur hatchlings
of this size were precocial, able to fly shortly after hatching and large enough not to suffer from desiccation caused by so much surface area compared to volume.

References
Chinsamy A, Codorniú L and Chiappe LM 2008. Developmental growth patterns of the filter-feeder pterosaur, Pterodaustro guinazui. Biology Letters, 4: 282-285.
Elgin RA, Hone DWE, and Frey E. 2011.
The extent of the pterosaur flight membrane. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 56 (1), 2011: 99-111 doi:10.4202/app.2009.0145 online pdf
Wang X et al.*, 2014.
 Sexually Dimorphic Tridimensionally Preserved Pterosaurs and Their Eggs from China, Current Biology. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2014.04.054

SVP 21 – a new largely complete istiodactylid pterosaur with a tail!

Rodrigues et al. 2015
describe a new istiodactylid pterosaur (not this one, Fig. 1) with a tail. I have not seen it.

Istiodactylus

Figure 1. This is the Istiodactylus holotype preserved without a tail. I have not seen the pterosaur described in the Rodrigues et al abstract.

From the abstract
“The Istiodactylidae is a clade of Early Cretaceous pterosaurs which possess very distinct teeth, with crowns triangular in shape and strongly compressed labiolingually. A new specimen from this unit is here reported and comprises the most complete istiodactylid found so far. It is an almost complete skeleton of a young animal, with skull, mandible, most of the vertebral column, pectoral and pelvic girdles, most forelimbs and part of the hind limbs. It presents the first information on the tail of the Istiodactylidae and gives a minimum length of 15 caudals. All caudal centra have an elongated cylindrical shape and show no pneumatic foramina. The vertebrae get gradually thinner. The last nine vertebrae show a gradual reduction in length as well. The last caudal is longer than the preceding one but it is the thinnest, with a posterior end a mere 0.3 mm wide. The istiodactylid tail, as expected from pterodactyloids, is short, but it differs from the tail of Pteranodon, which has duplex centra and ends in a caudal rod.”

Actually
that should be paired and parallel caudal rods in Pteranodon and only two specimens preserve a tail. YPM 2462 is represented only by 6 discontinuous caudals and rods. UALVP 24238 (Fig. 2) includes most of the rest of the Pteranodon and the more complete caudals 2-10 of the tail.

Figure 3. The UALVP specimen of Pteranodon. Note the lack of taper in the rostrum along with the small size of the orbit.

Figure 2. The UALVP specimen of Pteranodon. Note the lack of taper in the rostrum along with the small size of the orbit.

Tails in ornithocheirids
The last caudal of the new istiodactylid, at one-third of a millimeter in width, is remarkable in a pterosaur the size of an istiodactylid. By comparison, the more basal ornithocheirid, Zhenyuanopterus (Fig. 3) has a rather extensive tail of at least 40 caudals terminating in a series of extremely thin bones less than a millimeter in length. The tail is longer than the femur + half the tibia.

In Haopterus, an even more basal ornithocheirid, the tail is about as long as its tibia. Boreopterus has a tail almost as long as its hind limb. JZMP embryo has a tail at least as long as its femur. Yixianopterus has a tibia-length tail. The Anhanguera tail is almost a femur in preserved length. Barbosania preserves just a few continuous causals.

Some of these tail lengths
are much longer than expected in ‘pterodactyloid’-grade pterosaurs. Much of that has to deal with the four origins for ‘pterodactyloid’-grade pterosaurs and the traditional biases that expect certain traits under false assumptions of phylogeny that nest short-tailed Pterodactylus close to the origin of all ‘pterodactyloid’-grade pterosaurs.

Zhenyuanopterus

Figure 3. The orinithocheirid Zhenyuanopterus. Note the tail length.

The large pterosaur tree nests Pteranodon (Fig. 2) far from ornithocheirids (Fig. 3). They share few traits other than a warped deltopectoral crest of distinctive designs. Pteranodon is a giant germanodactylid. Ornithocheirids are giant scaphognathids with cycnorhampids as sister taxa. So comparisons to the tail of Pteranodon are illogical in this abstract.

Finally, 
few ornithocheirids fuse their bones. So the new istiodactylid may not be immature, based on prior studies that consider lack of fusion an ontogenetic character. Phylogenetic studies show that pterosaur bone fusion is largely phylogenetic, following patterns established in lepidosaurs (Maisano 2004), not archosaurs.

References
Rodrigues T et al. 2015.
An almost complete istiodactylid (Pterosauria, Pterodactyloiidea) from the Cretaceous of China provides the first information on the tail of this clade.

 

SVP 16 – Cimoliopterus [crested pterosaur], now from Texas!

Myers 2015,
famous for his basal Pteranodon/Germanodactylus, describes a new ornithocheirid with a premaxillary crest in an abstract (see below) and in a JVP paper that just came out.

From the abstract
“Cretaceous strata of Texas have yielded an unexpectedly rich collection of pterosaurs that differ substantially from the prolific, Pteranodon-dominated assemblages of the Western Interior. Two new pterosaur specimens from the Upper Cretaceous Eagle Ford Group in the Dallas/􀂱Fort Worth area enhance our understanding of the fragmentary record of Texas pterosaurs. One specimen (SMU 76892), discovered in the upper Cenomanian portion of the Britton Formation, consists of the rostral section of an upper jaw that bears a prominent, thin premaxillary crest beginning just above the fourth pair of alveoli. The preserved portion of the jaw contains alveoli for 26 teeth, and there is a subtle lateral expansion at the anterior end of the jaw. This partial rostrum is identified as a new species of Cimoliopterus, a monotypic genus previously known only from Cenomanian deposits in England, and represents a significant geographic range extension for this genus. The second new specimen from the Eagle Ford Group (SMU 76942) is a partial upper jaw of Aetodactylus halli, heretofore known only from mandibular material. The jaw fragment was collected at the type locality of A. halli in the middle Cenomanian Tarrant Formation. The dorsoventrally compressed specimen represents part of the anterior half of the jaw, although the exact position within the palate cannot be determined with certainty. The ventral surface bears a thin palatal ridge, and the dorsal surface preserves no evidence of a premaxillary crest. Patterns in tooth spacing along the upper jaw are similar to those observed in the holotype mandible of A. halli (SMU 76383). A phylogenetic analysis of Pterosauria that incorporates the new Cimoliopterus species and new codings for the upper jaw of Aetodactylus indicates that both taxa are basal pteranodontoids. Aetodactylus and Cimoliopterus appear closely related, but are clearly distinct from each other. Identification of Cimoliopterus in North Texas provides further evidence of paleobiogeographic links between the Cretaceous pterosaur faunas of North America and Europe. Discovery of the upper jaw of Aetodactylus confirms that this pterosaur lacked both premaxillary and mandibular crests.”

The Cimoliopterus rostrum
confirms earlier observations of anterior extensions of the nasal and jugal found in other ornithocheirds that extend to the secondary and tertiary nares, both vestigial pores (Fig. 1) recovered by tracing without access to the original specimen.

Destruction
of part of the right side of the rostrum reveals little strips of bone that evidently extended just below the former surface that extend from the nasal and jugal. The fused vomers are the long reported “palatal ridge” described in several ornithocheirids.

Figure 1. Click to enlarge. The rostrum of the North American Cimoliopterus. Every 2 seconds the scenes change. Pink = nasal. Lavender = jugal. Yellow = premaxilla. Green = maxilla. Violet = vomers. DGS enabled the identification of these bones overlooked by first hand observation.

Figure 1. Click to enlarge. The rostrum of the North American Cimoliopterus. Every 2 seconds the scenes change. Pink = nasal. Lavender = jugal. Yellow = premaxilla. Green = maxilla. Violet = vomers. DGS enabled the identification of these bones overlooked by first hand observation.

These extra nares originate also as pores with Scaphognathus (Fig. 2), an ancestral taxon.

Figure 1. Click to enlarge. The reduction of the naris (red arrow), the appearance of the secondary naris, and the appearance of the secondary ascending process of the maxilla in a line of scaphognathids, all to the same scale.

Figure 2. Click to enlarge. The reduction of the naris (red arrow), the appearance of the secondary naris, and the appearance of the secondary ascending process of the maxilla in a line of scaphognathids, all to the same scale. GMu 10157 is basal to the much larger ornithocheirids as recovered in the large pterosaur tree and ignored in the cladograms of other workers.

Note that Myers also traced the nasals and vomers
in Cimoliopterus (Fig. 1) without realizing what they were. That’s where DGS and a good pterosaur cladogram become valuable.

References
Myers TS 2015. New pterosaur material from the Late Cretaceous of North Texas.
Myers TS 2015. First North American occurrence of the toothed pteranodontoid pterosaur Cimoliopterus, Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, DOI: 10.1080/02724634.2015.1014904

Ikrandraco – the tip of the jaws

This is what you get when you reconstruct a pterosaur with rotating jaws (Fig. 1).

Figure 1. Ikrandraco jaw tips. Here the mandible extends slightly beyond the the rostrum, which has extremely tiny premaxillary teeth.

Figure 1. Ikrandraco jaw tips. Here the mandible extends slightly beyond the the rostrum, which has extremely tiny premaxillary teeth. Yes, that’s a tooth at the mandible tip. Very sharp.

And, going back one post, Ikrandraco does nest between the crested ornithocheirids and the uncreated istiodactylid ornithocheirid. And there’s a set of dorsal ribs beneath the tip of that plant material. That means there’s probably a scapulocoracoid under it, if anyone wants to do a little digging from the back.

 

 

 

Ikrandraco avatar – a new pterosaur & DGS reveals a few more bones

A recent paper
by Wang et al. (2014) described a wonderful new Chinese ornithocheirid, Ikrandraco avatar, with a crest below the mandible, not above the rostrum. Actually two specimens were found with slightly different preservations.

Figure 1. Click to enlarge. Ikrandraco avatar skull. As originally traced (below) with DGS (above).

Figure 1. Click to enlarge. Ikrandraco avatar skull. As originally traced (below) with DGS (above).

This wonderful new ornithocheirid (not a pteranodontoid) from the Jiufotang formation (Early Cretaceous). The authors report, “We propose that this pterosaur fed on fishes from nearby freshwater lakes by flying low over the water, capturing its prey by lowering the mandible in the water, being capable of a reduced and temporary skimming. We also propose that it had a more developed throat pouch then in other pterosaur species.”

The mandible was quite sharp. The rostrum was not. Oddly the teeth appear to have emerged from the sides of the rostrum and mandible. The alveoli were like portholes on a ship’s hull.

Figure 2. Ikrandraco in situ. Below as originally traced. Above with femur, tibia, pelvis and tail traced and manual 4.4 identified (not a rib).

Figure 2. Ikrandraco in situ. Click to enlarge. Below as originally traced. Above with femur, tibia, pelvis and tail traced and manual 4.4 identified (not a rib).

The authors were able to identify the tiny metatarsals and sacrum, but overlooked the tibia, femur, pelvis and tail, shown here (Fig. 2). And yes, that fossil is no closer to me than half a world away. I wouldn’t have looked fro the tibia and femur, but there was the metatarsus, all by itself, lined up with a crack that split the tibia. What I see of the bones are either impressions of bones that were once there, or they remained buried, just below the surface.

Figure 3. DGS restores the known elements to a more in vivo pose of Ikrandraco.

Figure 3. DGS restores the known elements to a more in vivo pose of Ikrandraco. The tiny premaxilla had tiny teeth. Rather than having a nice anhanguerid-like rake and spoonbill, this pterosaurs evolved a very narrow set of jaws. The deep angle of the quadrate absorbed shocks as the lower jaw slid through the water. 

The authors considered this an adult individual based on the fusion of the extensor tendon, but that is a phylogenetic feature shared with several ornithocheirids, large and small.

Other ornithocheirids can be seen here for comparison. Most have longer teeth. Wang et al. (2014) nested Ikrandraco with Nurhachius and Istiodactylus among pterosaurs known from more than just scraps. I haven’t done the work, but that seems reasonable, except that the orbit doesn’t have the keyhole shape. Among pterosaurs with rostral crests and large round orbits, we look to Criorhyrhynchus and Coloborhyrhynchus, which are related to istiodactylids. Unfortunately the authors nested ornithocheirds derived from a sister to sharp-snouted Pteranodon from the Late Cretaceous. That doesn’t make sense. The large pterosaur tree derives ornithocheirids from scaphognathids, sisters to cycnorhamphids and Yixianopterus is a basal ornithocheirid (not included in Wang et al. (2014).

The Ornithocheiridae.

Figure 4. The Ornithocheiridae. Click to enlarge and expand. Look for the taxon that shares the most traits with Ikrandraco. In size Ikrandraco was relatively small, about as tall as Boreopterus. 

 

 

 

References
Wang X, Rodrigues T, Jiang S, Cheng X and Kellner AWA 2014. An Early Cretaceous pterosaur with an unusual mandibular crest from China and a potential novel feeding strategy. Scientific Reports 4 : 6329, pp. 1-9. | DOI: 10.1038/srep06329