The rest of Lonchodraco probably looks like this large unnamed ornithocheird

Only the deep toothy jaw tips,
of the pterosaur Lonchodraco giganteus (Hooley 1914; Rodrigues & Kellner 2013; NHMUK PV 39412; originally Pterodactylus giganteus Bowerbank 1846; Fig. 1) are known. Ever wonder what the rest of this pterosaur looked like?

Well,
the 174-year wait is over.

Figure 1. Lonchodraco jaw tips. Colors added here.

Figure 1. Lonchodraco jaw tips. Colors added here. For the rest of this genus, see figure 2. The nasal (pink) is laminated between the premaxilla (yellow) and maxilla (green). The jugal (blue) also makes an appearance.

What little is known of Lonchodectes turns out to look like
the (so far) unnamed large ornithocheirid, SMNK PAL 1136 (Fig. 2) one of the largest of all flying pterosaurs. The very few parts they have in common are virtually identical, except for size (note the scale bars provided).

Figure 2. The unnamed giant ornithocheirid, SMNK PAL 1136 has a rostrum quite similar to that of Lonchodectes.

Figure 2. The unnamed giant ornithocheirid, SMNK PAL 1136 has a rostrum quite similar to that of Lonchodectes. With such giant wings, soaring over wave tops would have been ideal, dipping occasionally to feed without getting wet.


As one of the largest flying pterosaurs,

SMNK PAL 1136 (Figs. 2, 3) presents no vestigial terminal wing phalanges. No hyper-elongated neck cervicals are present. This pterosaur was built to soar like a big pelican.

Sorry, giant azhdarchids lovers 
(Fig. 3). Those were not volant, as we learned earlier here. They grew to be so big AFTER they became flightless, like flightless birds do. Giant azhdarchids DO have vestigial wing phalanges and a hyper-elongated neck.

Figure 1. Click to enlarge. The largest flying and non-flying birds and pterosaurs to scale.

Figure 3. Click to enlarge. The largest flying and non-flying birds and pterosaurs to scale.

Earlier workers 
did not match Lonchodraco to the SMNK PAL 1136 specimen. Earlier workers did not name the SMNK specimen. Perhaps someone is working on that specimen at present and other workers are giving him/her the honor/duty of naming it.

Wonder if
the Lonchodraco name will stick to the SMNK specimen?

Recently, Martill et al. 2020 took a close look
at the foramina in the jaw tips of Lonchodraco and thought they indicated enhanced sensitivity of the rostrum tip, which implied tactile feeding. With such giant wings, soaring over wave tops would have been likely, dipping occasionally to feed without getting the wings wet.

Odd that the top workers at the top universities
have decided to spend their time examining tiny pits on a broken 174-year-old pterosaur snout while ignoring the origin of pterosaurs… while ignoring many dozen complete pterosaurs that should be in phylogenetic analysis… while ignoring the lepidosaurs that gave rise to the ancestors of pterosaurs. Unfortunately, that’s the world academics live in today. They keep trying to not upset the lectures and textbooks from which they make their living. Apparently if academics focus on the details they won’t have to worry about the big picture. No one will ever know the difference if no one points out the elephant in the room.


References
Averianov AO 2020. Taxonomy of the Lonchodectidae (Pterosauria, Pterodactyloidea). Proceedings of the Zoological Institute RAS. 324 (1): 41–55. doi:10.31610/trudyzin/2020.324.1.41
Bowerbank JS 1846. On a new species of pterodactyl found in the Upper Chalk of Kent (Pterodactylus giganteus). Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society of London. 2: 7–9.
Bowerbank JS 1848. Microscopical observations on the structure of the bones of Pterodactylus giganteus and other fossil animals”. Quarterly Journal of the Geological Society. 4: 2–10.
Martill DM, Smith RE, Longrich N and Brown J 2020. Evidence for tactile feeding in pterosaurs: a sensitive tip to the beak of Lonchodraco giganteus (Pterosauria, Lonchodectidae) from the Upper Cretaceous of southern England. Cretaceous Research
Available online 3 September 2020, 104637 Cretaceous Research https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cretres.2020.104637
Rodrigues T and Kellner A 2013. Taxonomic review of the Ornithocheirus complex (Pterosauria) from the Cretaceous of England. ZooKeys. 308: 1–112. doi:10.3897/zookeys.308.5559

wiki/Lonchodraco

Pterodactylus antiquus extreme closeups: Tischlinger 2020

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 739No. 4 of Wellnhofer 1970; Late Jurassic) was the first pterosaur to be described and named.

Figure 1. Reconstruction of Pterodactylus antiquus made prior to Tischlinger 2020.

Figure 1. Reconstruction of Pterodactylus antiquus made prior to Tischlinger 2020.

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.”

Figure 2. Pterodactylus wing ungual.

Figure 2. Pterodactylus wing ungual in white light and UV. Not sure why the two images are not identical, but elsewhere teeth appear and disappear depending on the type of light used.

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.

Figure 3. Pterodactylus rostrum from Tischlinger 2020, colors added here. Note the original naris appears as a vestige above the maxilla tip, as in the Triassic pterosaur, Bergamodactylus and the Pterodactylus ancestor, Scaphoganthus.

Figure 3. Pterodactylus rostrum from Tischlinger 2020, colors added here. Note the original naris appears as a vestige above the maxilla tip, as in the Triassic pterosaur, Bergamodactylus and the Pterodactylus ancestor, Scaphoganthus. The shape of that narial opening is different in UV and white light.

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.

Figure 2. Click to enlarge. Painten pterosaur compared to phylogenetic sister taxa. Ornithocephalus and SMNS 81775 are the basal taxa here. Note that while everything else grows on derived taxa, the metacarpus stays the same size. The large size of the Painten pterosaur, along with the greater length of pedal digit 3 and the brevity of the metacarpus sets it apart in its own clade, of which this the first known representative. Larger than its relatives, this is an unlikely juvenile (contra Hone, see below).

Figure 4. Click to enlarge. Painten pterosaur compared to phylogenetic sister taxa. Ornithocephalus and SMNS 81775 are the basal taxa here. Note that while everything else grows on derived taxa, the metacarpus stays the same size. The large size of the Painten pterosaur, along with the greater length of pedal digit 3 and the brevity of the metacarpus sets it apart in its own clade, of which this the first known representative. Larger than its relatives, this is an unlikely juvenile (contra Hone, see below).

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.

Figure 2. Pterodactylus metacarpus including 5 digits.

Figure 5. Pterodactylus metacarpus including 5 digits. Colors added here.

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.

Figure 6. Pterodactylus antiquus pes in situ and restored to in vivo appearance.

Figure 6. Pterodactylus antiquus pes in situ and restored to in vivo appearance.

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.

Figure 6. Pterodactylus in situ under white light and UV from Tischlinger 2020. Colors added here.

Figure 7. Pterodactylus in situ under white light and UV from Tischlinger 2020. Colors added here.

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.


References
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.

wiki/Pterodactylus

 

 

 

 

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

 

The Berlin Naturkundemuseum Pterodactylus reconstructed

The MBR 3655 specimen of Pterodactylus in situ
looks like roadkill. Here (Fig. 1) a second sort of DGS (Digital Graphic Segregation) is used to reassemble the jumble. This sort does not rely on someone tracing each bone with transparent color. This goes faster and further minimizes freehand bias and error. More of the pertinent pixels in the original are used in the reconstruction.

Figure 1. The MBR3655 specimen of Pterodactylus reconstructed using DGS methods from the in situ photo.

Figure 1. The MBR3655 specimen of Pterodactylus reconstructed using DGS methods from the in situ photo. The foot proportion pattern is unique and the sternum rccalls that of Scaphoganthus.

When added
to the Large Pterosaur Tree (LPT, 289 taxa) this taxon nests at the base of one of the Pterodactylus clades that include the Vienna specimen (NHMW 1975/1756) and the n21 specimen (BSP1937 I 18). Still have not found two identical (conspecific) taxa from the Solnhofen Formation except the only known juvenile Rhamphorhynchus, a mid-sized juvenile of one of the largest species discussed earlier here.


References
Broili F 1938. Beobachtungen an Pterodactylus. Sitz-Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaten, zu München, Mathematischen-naturalischenAbteilung: 139–154.
Wellnhofer P 1970. Die Pterodactyloidea (Pterosauria) der Oberjura-Plattenkalke Süddeutschlands. Abhandlungen der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, N.F., Munich 141: 1-133.

wiki/Pterodactylus

New basal tapejarid with broken wings needs specimen number, citation

Updated April 1, 2020
The specimen number is SMA 0154 / 02. Kind readers reported the location of this specimen: Sauriermuseum, Aathal, Switzerland. I can now reveal the phylogenetic nesting of this specimen is between Sinopterus and Tapejara. I know of no citation yet.

Figure 1. Complete basal tapejarid without identification. Please provide a museum number or citation if possible.

Figure 1. Complete basal tapejarid without identification. Please provide a museum number or citation if possible.

This image above (Fig. 1) appears on the website,
Tapejaraluv.weebly.com” under the headline “The Tapejara,” created by Jordyn Rosen and Teya Good. There are no ‘contact us‘ or ‘comments‘ links on their website and all attempts at finding them elsewhere on the ‘net don’t seem to be leading to any Tapejara fans. 

I will forego posting any more information on this specimen
pending the acquisition of a citation or museum number on the chance that it is currently under study and awaiting publication. Even so, it has been added to the large pterosaur tree (LPT) as the 243rd taxon, but not yet posted online.

Luchibang xingzhe enters the LPT… again… still not an istiodactlyid

Luchibang (Hone, Fitch, Ma and Xu 2020) is a new pterosaur from China
(Figs, 1–3) which we first learned about from a Flugsaurier 2018 abstract with photo (Hone and Xu 2018) and more recently from a pair of ‘Archosaur musings’ blogposts (links below).

Critically, Dr. Hone wrote in his blogpost:
“I didn’t include a phylogenetic analysis for a number of reasons, but notably as the specimen was so clearly an istiodactylid and their own relationships were rather unresolved, adding what was obviously a juvenile into the mix would have been a fair bit of work to not actually add any real information.” The paper includes a cladogram now, but it is heavily biased toward ornithocheirids and excludes important taxa discussed here in 2018.

Both then (233 taxa) and now (242 taxa)
with more highly resolved data the large pterosaur tree (LPT) nests Dr. Hone’s ‘young istiodactylid’ with the largest pterodactylids (Fig. 2), not istiodactylids or ornithochierids. We’ve known this for two years, so it is surprising to see this mistake perpetuated in a recent paper. Dr. Hone acknowledges the many ways in which Luchibang was ‘odd’ for an  istiodactylid: long legs, large feet, long metacarpals, short wings and a long neck.

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 istiodactylidae nests in the LPT with the large derived pterodactylids.

It should be noted
that the skulls of the largest pterodactylids (Fig. 2) mimic those of istiodactylids to a remarkable degree. However, the rest of the body is distinctively different.

Figure 2. The Erlianhaote specimen nests with these pterodactylids in the LPT, not with Istiodactylus (Fig. 3). Compare to valid istiodactylids in figures 4–6/

Figure 2. The Erlianhaote specimen nests with these pterodactylids in the LPT, not with Istiodactylus (Fig. 3). Compare to valid istiodactylids in figures 4–6/

The new data from Hone et al. 2020
(Fig. 3) is more highly resolved, but the phylogenetic results are the same. Luchibang does not have the proportions of an istiodactylid, nor an ornithocheirid. Taxon exclusion might be to blame here. That, and an over reliant confidence on an earlier hunch by Dr. Hone (see quote above), a young professor known to toss out and ignore data on several previous occasions. Links can be found here, but most infamously here.

In the old days
papers would be submitted then reviewed by readers and colleagues. Nowadays, papers are reviewed prior to publication. Thereafter they may be cited, but are rarely reviewed. Dr. Hone notes that his team’s manuscript was rejected by another publication, not on the basis of its phylogenetic shortcomings, but on the suspicion that the odd proportions (for an istiodactylid) of the specimen resulted from a chimaera of unrelated pterosaur parts glued together to form a single complete specimen. That does not appear to be the case. All left and right parts are identical.

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

Oddly,
none of the referees mentioned in the blog posts by Dr. Hone (below) noted that Luchibang was a pterodactylid, not an istiodactylid. Unfortunately, that is the level of expertise we are dealing with out there in this topsy-turvy world, where the PhDs have no idea and thus leave it to the amateurs to do the “fair bit of work” as Dr. Hone put it (see quote above).

Also oddly,
Pterodactylus antiquus (Fig. 2) was included in the Hone et al. analysis, but did not attract Luchibang as it did in the LPT. I have not checked the scores published by Hone et al., but Hone’s own words (see above) demonstrate an initial and continuing bias toward making Luchibang an istiodactylid, despite the many traits he considered odd.

Figure 3. New tracings from Hone et al. 2020 of Luchibang (spelled Luichibang in the caption). Valid istiodactylids (see below) have much larger wings, much shorter metacarpals, much shorter necks and much smaller feet.

Figure 3. New tracings from Hone et al. 2020 of Luchibang (spelled Luichibang in the caption). Valid istiodactylids (see below) have much larger wings, much shorter metacarpals, much shorter necks and much smaller feet.

The danger from the Hone et al. paper lies in the
supposition of Hone’s team that this ‘young istiodactylid’ would grow allometrically to someday match the proportions of a full-grown istiodactylid. The Hone team does not yet realize that as tritosaur lepidosaurs, pterosaurs grow isometrically, with hatchlings having identical proportions to adults, as demonstrated by the JZMP embryo ornithocheirid.

The largest ornithocheirid

Figure 6. The unnamed largest ornithocheirid, SMNK PAL 1136

As you can see 
valid istiodactylids have much larger wings, much shorter metacarpals, much shorter necks and much smaller feet.

Figure 7. Luchibang skull in situ and reconstructed. Contra Hone et al. 2020, the cranial portion of the skull is visible and can be reconstructed.

Figure 7. Luchibang skull in situ and reconstructed. Contra Hone et al. 2020, the cranial portion of the skull is visible and can be reconstructed. The skull does resemble that of istiodactlyids by convergence, but details overlooked by the authors indicate otherwise.

Hone reported,
“apart from the back of the skull, the tail and few tiny bits, everything is there.” Using DGS methods, here (Fig. 7)  the scattered parts making up the face and back of the skull were identified, colored and reconstructed. Below (Fig. 8) the complete tiny tail is identified along with a reconstruction of the pelvis and a possible egg shell.

Figure 8. Pelvic area of Luchibang from Hone et al. 2020 with elements, including the overlooked tiny tail (green in ghosted oval) colorized. A possible egg is indicated here (blue).

Figure 8. Pelvic area of Luchibang from Hone et al. 2020 with elements, including the overlooked tiny tail (green in ghosted oval) colorized. A possible egg is indicated here (blue).

Fellow pterosaur workers…
the LPT is an open access cladogram that helps one avoid the sort of mistakes encountered by the Hone team. Coloring the bones (DGS) using layers in Photoshop is a better way to identify crushed bones. Reconstructions are essential.


References
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.
Hone, DWE, Fitch AJ, Ma F, and Xu X 2020. An unusual new genus of istiodactylid pterosaur from China based on a near complete specimen. Palaeontologica Electronica 23(1):a09 Online link to PDF

https://archosaurmusings.wordpress.com/2020/03/09/a-long-overdue-welcome-to-luchibang/

https://archosaurmusings.wordpress.com/2020/03/10/ten-years-in-the-making-of-luchibang/#comment-105683

https://pterosaurheresies.wordpress.com/2018/08/11/flugsaurier-2018-young-istiodactylid-nests-with-tall-pterodactylids-in-the-lpt/

First pterosaur basihyal (Gladocephaloideus?, Gallodactylidae?)

Jiang, Li, Cheng and Wang 2020 bring us
the first evidence of a tiny medial hyoid bone, the basihyal (Fig.1; IVPP V 14189). Comparisons were made to “scavenger crows rather than chameleons.” Other pterosaurs have hyoids, but, until now, not a basihyal. Really, that’s all the authors needed to say. The rest of what they presented was filler, little of it accurate or valid.

Figure 1. Images from Zheng et al. 2020 scaled, rotated and layered. This is all that is known of this specimen. Micro -CL image shows hollow basihyal.

Figure 1. Images from Jiang et al. 2020 scaled, rotated and layered. This is all that is known of this specimen. Micro -CL image shows hollow basihyal.

Overlooked by the authors,
Cosesaurus (Fig. 2), Sharovipteryx, Kyrgyzsaurus and Longisquama also have hyoids  The authors considered their specimen close to Gladocephaloideus (Fig. 3), which they considered a gallodactylid. Here Gladocephaloides nests with Gegepterus, a ctenochasmatid.

Figure 2. Cosesaurus nasal crest (in yellow).

Figure 2. Cosesaurus hyoids in bright green.

Jiang et al. 2020 presented a greatly simplified cladogram
of pterosaur interrelationships… so simplified that it bears little resemblance to a more complete pterosaur cladogram. Kryptodrakon (junior synonym for Sericipterus) was misspelled Kryptondrakon.

Figure 1. Gladocephaloideus (the holotype) compared to the new specimen referred to Gladocephaloideus and its two sister taxa in the large pterosaur tree. Long necks in ctenochasmatids made several appearances by convergence.  Of particular interest, note the size of the pelvis in the JPM specimen, no larger than that of the much smaller MB.R. specimen. Lü et al considered the pelvis incomplete and it may be. Sister taxa are illustrated here from figure 2.

Figure 3. Gladocephaloideus (the holotype) compared to the new specimen referred to Gladocephaloideus and its two sister taxa in the large pterosaur tree. Long necks in ctenochasmatids made several appearances by convergence.  Of particular interest, note the size of the pelvis in the JPM specimen, no larger than that of the much smaller MB.R. specimen. Lü et al considered the pelvis incomplete and it may be. Sister taxa are illustrated here from figure 2.

According to Jiang et al.
“The hyoids of primitive non-pterodactyloids only include the preserved ceratobranchials; this rod-like element is slender and quite long relative to the skull length. The ceratobranchial/skull length ratio is similar to most extant reptiles.” OK. Good to know.


References
Jiang S-X, Li Z-H, Cheng X and Wang X-L 2020. The first pterosaur basihyal, shedding light on the evolution and function of pterosaur hyoid apparatuses. DOI 10.7717/peerj.8292

Could this azhdarchid eat this baby dinosaur?

Artist and paleontologist Mark Witton, U of Portsmouth,
published an iconic image of an azhdarchid pterosaur biting a baby sauropod prior to eating and digesting it (Fig. 1, Witton and Naish 2008). While biting a baby dinosaur in this fashion certainly was possible, could this azhdarchid swallow and digest it? Let’s see.

Figure 1. Above: original art from artist M Witton showing azhdarchid biting baby sauropod. Below: Azhdarchid organs including stomach (green) do not appear to be able accommodate such a large meal. Gastralia prevent ventral expansion.

Figure 1. Above: original art from artist M Witton (Witton and Naish 2008) showing azhdarchid biting baby sauropod. Below: Azhdarchid organs including stomach (green) do not appear to be able accommodate such a large meal. Gastralia prevent ventral expansion.

A skeletal view of the same azhdarchid
to the same scale (Fig. 1 below) shows the approximate lungs (blue), heart (red), liver (brown), stomach (green), intestines (pink), kidneys (red brown) and bladder (yellow) along with the same  baby dinosaur reduced slightly due to perspective. The wing membranes are also repaired. The tiny sternum is shown on the chest of the biting azhdarchid, another factor in giant azhdarchid flightlessness.

Based on the given parameters
the azhdarchid stomach (green) does not appear to be able to accommodate such a large meal all at once.

The analogous saddle-billed stork
(Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis, Fig. 2) eats what appears to be a similar-sized meal, but note the abdomen of the bird is relatively much larger than that of the azhdarchid and the meal is relatively smaller, much more flexible, without limbs, largely meat/muscle content and wet. Unfortunately Witton and Naish did not consider stomach size in their PlosOne paper.

Figure 3. In my opinion this saddle-bill stork wading in water appears to be the bird closest to azhdarchid morphology and, for that matter, niche.

Figure 2. In my opinion this saddle-bill stork (genus: Ephippiorhynchus) wading in water appears to be the bird closest to azhdarchid morphology and, for that matter, niche.

An alternative wading lifestyle,
(Figs. 2, 3) dismissed by Witton and Naish 2008, appears to be more appropriate, based on the stomach size and other wading stork-like traits evidenced by azhdarchids. In LiveScience.com writer Jeanna Bryner (link below) wrote, ‘Witton and Naish learned that more than 50 percent of the azhdarchid fossils had been found inland. Other skeletal features, including long hind limbs and a stiff neck, also didn’t fit with a mud-prober or skim-feeder. All the details of their anatomy, and the environment their fossils are found in, show that they made their living by walking around, reaching down to grab and pick up animals and other prey,” Naish said.

“Their tiny feet also ruled out wading in the water or probing the soft mud for food. “Some of these animals are absolutely enormous,” Witton told LiveScience. “If you go wading out into this soft mud, and you weigh a quarter of a ton, and you’ve got these dinky little feet, you’re going to just sink in.”

Quetzalcoatlus neck poses. Dipping, watching and displaying.

Figure 3. Quetzalcoatlus neck poses. Dipping, watching and displaying.

We don’t know how soft the mud was
wherever azhdarchids fed. Analogous herons and storks seem to deal with underwater mud very well with similarly-sized feet. Witton and Naish report, Some storks with relatively small feet are known to wade indicating that azhdarchids may have been capable of some wading activity, but the high masses of large azhdarchids may have limited their ability to wade on soft substrates. Moreover, other pterodactyloids with larger pedal surface areas (most notably ctenochasmatoids) were almost certainly better adapted waders than azhdarchids. In view of this evidence, we suggest that azhdarchids were not habitual, although perhaps faculatative, waders.”

Don’t you wish the authors had performed some sort of test
to show azhdarchids were not like storks? Perhaps they could have employed a tank full of water and a variety of mud-like, sand-like and pebble-like substrates with a model azhdarchid foot and hand (btw, halving the weight of the azhdarchid directed through the feet) pressed with increasing weight to gauge the amount of sink. Instead they relied on their imaginations and made suggestions based on their initial bias. Nor did they discuss the factor of the hands supporting half the weight, nor the possibility of floating on the surface, polling with the hands and feet (Fig. 4), producing manus-only tracks, which are documented.

Witton and Naish did not attempt to show the maximum size of an object an azhdarchid stomach could handle, shown above (Fig. 1). In hindsight, that would have negated their dinosaur-killer hypothesis and the reason for their paper.

Figure 1. The azhdarchid pterosaur Quetzalcoatlus floating and poling producing manus only tracks.

Figure 4. The azhdarchid pterosaur Quetzalcoatlus floating and poling producing manus only tracks.

Witton and Naish 2008 report,
“Scavenging storks and corvids manage to open carcasses quickly and bite off pieces of flesh without the aid of curved jaw tips. Therefore, it seems almost certain that azhdarchids would have been capable of feeding upon at least some elements of large carcasses, although their long skulls and necks would inhibit their ability to obtain flesh from the deepest recesses of a corpse. However, although carrion was a likely component of azhdarchid diets, they possess no anatomical features to suggest they were obligate scavengers.”

Now you can ask,
did this azhdarchid (Fig. 1) kill this baby sauropod and then pick the meat from the bone? It is important to consider this and other possibilities. If so, the best meat would have come from the base of the tail and proximal limbs, not the neck or ‘breast.’

Azhdarchids and Obama

Figure 5. Click to enlarge. Here’s the 6 foot 1 inch President of the USA alongside several azhdarchids and their predecessors. Most were knee high. The earliest examples were cuff high. The tallest was twice as tall as our President. This image replaces an earlier one in which a smaller specimen of Zhejiangopterus was used.

Phylogenetically
what azhdarchids did ever since they were the size of tiny pterodactylids (Fig. 5) in the Late Jurassic is nibbling on bottom-dwelling prey. Larger, older, later azhdarchids were able to feed further out from shore in deeper ponds than smaller taxa and younger azhdarchids.  Witton and Naish did not discuss azhdarchids in a phylogenetic context evolving from tiny wading taxa. That is unfortunate because phylogeny is the backstory that informs every taxon. Phylogeny solves so many issues. That’s why the LRT and LPT (large pterosaur tree) could be so important for paleo workers, but, so far, they prefer not to use it.

Still struggling,
Witton and Naish began their 2015 introduction with, “Azhdarchids are among the most aberrant and remarkable of pterodactyloid pterosaurs.” Not really, As figure 5 shows, azhdarchids were simply larger versions of their small to tiny Late Jurassic ancestors, some of whom were also flightless waders.


References
Witton MP and Naish D 2008. A reappraisal of azhdarchid pterosaur functional morphology and paleoecology. PLoS ONE 3(5): e2271. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0002271
Witton MP and Naish D 2015. Azhdarchid pterosaurs: water-trawling pelican mimics or “terrestrial stalkers”?. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, 60(3), 651-660

Seems everyone bought into this invalid hypothesis:
https://www.livescience.com/
https://www.theguardian.com

Quetzalcoatlus wingspan compared to other azhdarchids

There are those who think
the giant azhdarchid pterosaur, Quetzalcoatlus (Fig. 1), was flightless. Almost all others think Quetzalcoatlus was the largest flying animal of all time. The question is: were the wings of Quetzalcoatlus large enough to initiate and sustain flight?

Sometimes it just helps to compare
azhdarchids to azhdarchids to azhdarchids. In this case we’ll compare Quetzalcoatlus in dorsal view to two azhdarchids so small that traditional paleontologists don’t even consider them to be azhdarchids. BSPG 1911 I 31, (Figs. 2, 3) is a traditional, small volant pterosaur with a long neck and a standard pterosaur wingspan. JME-Sos 2428 (Fig. 2) is an odd sort of flightless pterosaur with a very much reduced wingspan. Neither of these taxa seems to ever make it to the cladograms of other workers.

Figure 1. Quetzalcoatlus in dorsal view compared to two much smaller azhdarchids from the Solnhofen formation, JME-Sos 2428, a flightless pterosaur, and BDPG 1911 I 31, a volant pterosaur. The wingspan of Quetzalcoatlus does not match that of the much smaller azhdarchid, so perhaps the giant was unable to fly. At least, this is the evidence for flightlessness.

Figure 1. Quetzalcoatlus in dorsal view compared to two much smaller azhdarchids from the Solnhofen formation, JME-Sos 2428, a flightless pterosaur, and BDPG 1911 I 31, a volant pterosaur. The wingspan of Quetzalcoatlus does not match that of the much smaller azhdarchid, so perhaps the giant was unable to fly. At least, this is the evidence for flightlessness.

When you compare azhdarchids to azhdarchids to azhdarchids
you get the overwhelming impression that IF Quetzalcoatlus was volant, it would not have reduced the distal wing phalanges so much. And yet it did, just like other flightless pterosaurs did. Since weight increases by the cube as size in dorsal view increases by the square, the wings of the giant should actually be larger than those of the smaller azhdarchid to handle the relatively larger mass.

So what did Quetzalcoatlus use its flightless wings for?
Thrust (Fig. 2).

Quetzalcoatlus running like a lizard prior to takeoff.

Figure 2. Quetzalcoatlus running like a lizard prior to takeoff. Click to animate.

Quetzalcoatlus and its ancestor, no 42, note scale bars.

Fig. 3. Quetzalcoatlus and its ancestor, BSPG 1911 I 31, note scale bars. At 72dpi, the pterosaur on the left is nearly full scale on a monitor. The one on the right is as tall as a tall human, with giant relatives more than doubling that height. 

Contra tradition, the azhdarchid bauplan
was initiated with Late Jurassic small pterosaurs like BSPG 1911 I 31, so misbegotten  that traditional paleontologists have forgotten to give it its own generic and specific name distinct from the wastebasket taxon Pterodactylus, with which it is not related, as we learned earlier here.


References
Kellner AWA and Langston W 1996. Cranial remains of Quetzalcoatlus (Pterosauria, Azhdarchidae) from late Cretaceous sediments of Big Bend National Park, Texas. – Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 16: 222–231.
Lawson DA 1975. Pterosaur from the latest Cretaceous of West Texas: discovery of the largest flying creature. Science 187: 947-948.
Witton MP and Habib MB 2010. On the size and flight diversity of giant pterosaurs, the use of birds as pterosaur analogues and comments on pterosaur flightlessness. PloS one, 5(11), e13982.

More data here: why-we-think-giant-pterosaurs-could-fly-not/

wiki/Quetzalcoatlus

New pterosaur: Keresdrakon. Old cladogram.

Kellner et al. 2019
bring us a new desert pterosaur, Keresdrakon (Fig. 1). The bone is exceptionally preserved, similar to red bed Gobi Desert specimens from the Late Cretaceous. The exact age of the strata is “controversial.”  Kellner et al. nest their new specimen between Dsungaripteridae + Shenzhoupterus and Tapejaridae (omitting the unrelated Chaoyangopteridae + Azhdarchidae, see below).

From the abstract:
“Here we present a new tapejaromorph flying reptile from this site, Keresdrakon vilsoni gen. et sp. nov., which shows a unique blunt ridge on the dorsal surface of the posterior end of the dentary. Morphological and osteohistological features indicate that all recovered individuals represent late juveniles or sub-adults. This site shows the first direct evidence of sympatry in Pterosauria. The two distinct flying reptiles coexisted with a theropod dinosaur, providing a rare glimpse of a paleobiological community from a Cretaceous desert.”

Sympatry: “Occupying the same or overlapping geographic areas.” I have used the term ‘coeval’ to represent taxa from a similar formation (location and strata).

The same desert strata ‘cemetary of pterosaurs’
produced many partial specimens and several ontogenetic ages of the tapejarid, Caiuajara, which we looked at earlier here.

Figure 1. The larger bits and pieces of Keresdrakon. The bone is like bone, clearly distinct from the matrix.

Figure 1. The larger bits and pieces of Keresdrakon. The bone is like bone, clearly distinct from the desert matrix.

Unfortunately
Kellner et al. have excluded so many pterosaur taxa from their cladogram that it does not recover the four origins of pterodactyloid-grade pterosaurs known for the last 12 years (Peters 2007) and documented online in the large pterosaur tree (LPT, 239 taxa). Instead the authors follow the traditional, invalidated hypothesis that includes a monophyletic and awkward ‘Pterodactyloidea.’ that is only recovered by taxon exclusion.

Remember, 
dsungaripterids, tapejarids and pteranodontids all arise from various germanodactylids, which arise from pterodactylids, which arise from a branch of tiny scaphognathids. Ornithocheirds + cycnorhamphids arise from other tiny scaphognathids. Ctenochasmatids arise from one branch of dorygnathids. Azhdarchids arise from yet another branch of dorygnathids. All had tiny transitional pterosaur ancestors. Sadly, this is completely lost on the Kellner team, who have chosen to omit pertinent taxa from their analyses.

Otherwise
their topology is similar enough to the LPT. I have not yet entered Keresdrakon into the LRT. If the nesting differs from that of Kellner et al. (above), I will post that.


References
Kellner AWA, Weinschuütz LC, Holgado B, Bantim RAM and Sayão JM  2019. A new toothless pterosaur (Pterodactyloidea) from Southern Brazil with insights into the paleoecology of a Cretaceous desert. Anais da Academia Brasileira de Ciências (2019) 91(Suppl. 2): e20190768 (Annals of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences).
Peters D 2007. The origin and radiation of the Pterosauria. In D. Hone ed. Flugsaurier. The Wellnhofer pterosaur meeting, 2007, Munich, Germany. p. 27.