Tuesday, 30 October 2012

A new Pterosaur from the Early Cretaceous Jiufotang Formation of Liaoning Province in northwest China.

The Pterosaurs were an extinct group of flying Reptiles that existed from the late Triassic to the end of the Cretaceous Period (210 to 65.5 million years ago). They are thought to have been warm blooded, as  many specimens have been found that appear to have had fury skins. Their wings were flaps of skin membrane, similar to that of Bats, supported by elongated fourth fingers and attached to the flanks of the body and legs. Unlike Birds they appear to have been capable of flying before reaching their full adult size, and appear to have taken several years to reach maturity.

In a paper published in the journal Naturwissenschaften on 22 February 2012, Xiaolin Wang of the Key Laboratory of Evolutionary Systematics of Vertebrates at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology at the Chinese Academy of SciencesAlexander Kellner of the Laboratory of Systematics and Taphonomy of Fossil Vertebrates at the Department of Geology and Paleontology at the Museu Nacional Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, and Shunxing Jiang & Xin Cheng of the Key Laboratory of Evolutionary Systematics of Vertebrates at the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology  and the Graduate University of Chinese Academy of Sciences describe a new species of Pterosaur from the Early Cretaceous Jiufotang Formation of Liaoning Province in northwest China.

The new fossil is named Guidraco venator, where Guidraco means 'ghost-dragon' and venator means 'hunter'. The species is named on the basis of a complete skull and part of the neck. The skull is 380 mm in length, with 54% of this length (205 mm) comprising the rostrum (snout). The specimen has large, overlapping, conical teeth, of a type generally associated with the consumption of Fish, an interpretation supported by the presence of a number of copralites (fossil droppings) packed with Fish-bones; though it is of course not possible to determine if Guidraco venator was responsible for these droppings. There is also a distinctive crest on the top of the skull.

(Top) Photograph of Guidraco venator. (Middle) Interpretive drawing based upon photograph. (Bottom) Reconstruction based upon interpretive drawing. All scale bars 5 mm. Abreviations: (copr) coprolite; (pla) plant; (afo) adductor fossa; (ang) angular; (art) articular; (ax) axis; (cv) cervical vertebra; (d) dentary; (f) frontal; (fcr) frontal crest; (fola) foramen lacrimale; (fopn)
foramen pneumaticum; (hy) hyoid bone; (j) jugal; (la) lacrimal; (ltf) lower temporal fenestra; (m) maxilla; (n) nasal; (naof) nasoantorbital fenestra; (op) opisthotic; (p) partietal; (par) prearticular; (pl) palatine; (pm) premaxilla; (po) postorbital; (pref) prefrontal; (ptf) posttemoral fenestra; (pty) pterygoid; (q) quadrate; (qj) quadratojugal; (san) surangular; (scl) slerotic ring; (soc) supraoccipital; (sor) supraorbital; (spl) splenial; (sq) squamosal; (utf) upper temporal fenestra; (l) left; (r) right; (?) uncertain element. Wang et al. (2012)

Wang et al. suggest that Guidrago venator is closely related to Luddodactylus sibbicki, a Pterosaur from the Lower Cretaceous Crato Formation of Ceará, Brazil, suggesting that there may have been a conection between the two areas in the Early Cretaceous.

Luddodactylus sibbicki, from the Lower Cretaceous Crato Formation of Brazil. Frey, Martill and Buchy (2003)/Reptile Evolution.


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