Tetrapod Zoology

i-34da0854c91d0b57a77e3ad6fc9d8eab-how_azhdarchids_evolved_flightlessness.jpg

Sorry, another teaser – I haven’t yet had time to post the full article (am aiming to do this on Monday). Again, all will be explained as goes the above [incoporating artwork by Mark Witton and yours truly]. Many, many, many thanks to everyone who made the ‘name my flightless pterosaur’ experiment such a soaraway (ha ha) success – I really enjoyed seeing your suggested names, many of which were excellent and/or very amusing. And the winner is…

Well, in the end I combined two different suggestions: the binomial is Shemhazai ptychocheirus. I don’t expect you to agree with this choice, but I like the sound of it. If it needs correcting for etymological reasons let me know. Shemhazai was proposed by J. S. Lopes of Dinosauria Brasilis, while ptychocheirus (= ‘folded hand’) was from Tilsim. I was very fond of quite a few other names, including Nick Pharris’s Pelargotitan altigradiens, Terradactylus telcontar from Adam Yates and Jenny Islander, and of course Darrendactylus naishi (albeit etymologically inappropriate), but in the end there can be only one. And you will notice that there is now another flightless azhdarchid… I suppose it also needs a name. Incidentally, I was going with Mike Keesey’s Terrambulator skeksis until I googled Terrambulator and discovered that the term has already been used elsewhere (though not for an organism). Once again, thank you all.

DEFINITELY coming next: Come back Lank, all is forgiven (yes, it’s about hypothetical flightless pterosaurs).

Comments

  1. #1 Stewart Macdonald
    September 20, 2008

    Just out of interest… Are you planning on using Shemhazai ptychocheirus as an official name? Are there issues with the name now having been published without a formal description (i.e., does its appearance on this blog now make it a nomen nudum)?

    I have very little knowledge of nomenclature so I’m asking not to be picky, but because I genuinely don’t know.

    Stewart

  2. #2 William Miller
    September 20, 2008

    I imagine the animal is hypothetical (isn’t it?)

    Hmmm, for this new one … Gigarhynchos camelopardaloides.

  3. #3 Blue Frackle
    September 20, 2008

    Altodraco giraffasimilis. It means giraffe-like tall-dragon. At least I think it means that…

    Hey, sorry for asking again, but now I’m curious: how can I say flitghless in latin, avolans???

    Avolanodraco… Sounds pretty nice…

  4. #4 Frank
    September 20, 2008

    Another one??
    This one seems to be more cursorial, with longer legs…
    perhaps Dromopteron sp. or Dromodactylus sp.?
    dromo-runner

    (By the way, how do you make words in italic??)

  5. #5 Dr. Nick
    September 21, 2008

    Well, OK, I’ll take a stab…

    How about Ramphastops macrosceles (Gk) ‘long-legged puffin-face’?

  6. #6 Dr. Nick
    September 21, 2008

    Argh. Fingers moving faster than brain. That should have been ‘long-legged toucan-face’.

  7. #7 Alec T
    September 21, 2008

    Ooh another one…

    Dracopelargos terraphilus (Ground loving dragon stork)

    Qilin cervasceles (Deer-legs qilin)

    Arvocursor camelimimus (Camel-like plains-walker)

    For the record Qilin is a giraffe-like mythical Chinese chimera said to bring good luck.

  8. #8 Zach Miller
    September 21, 2008

    Oh, Geezus. We’re not…we’re not validating Dixon, are we? Look at that giraffopterosaur. *weeps*

  9. #9 Mark Witton
    September 21, 2008

    Ah, the old, straight-necked, ghastly-winged, paper-thin skulled Quetzalcoatlus from Flickr makes a reappearance. That thing must be nearly 3 years old by now: might explain why I’m really not very keen on it anymore.

    Funnily enough Darren, I was going to talk to you about speculative grounded pterosaurs in the near future. I’ve been thinking about what some of the more robustly jawed, massively built azhdarchids may have got up to if someone chopped their wings off. Oh, and tapejarids and dimorphodontids, too. Still, they’ll have to wait: the real pterosaurs that form the basis of my thesis need more attention first.

  10. #10 Jaime A. Headden
    September 21, 2008

    My thoughts are going out to whomever has to “design” the terrestrial anatomy of the arm. The hip and leg is noot really much of an issue, and a reflexibilization of the dorsals are not too problematic, as they should also lengthen a big, but I would think the arm much undergo a massive development alteration to be not only parasagitally but with the humerus more vertical, the distal end must twist about the axis, and rotate in position in toto for the purpose of bring the arm into stride alignment. Then there’s the wrist, and the manus, which must slightly reorganize to be vertically load-bearing over transversely loadbearing horizontally. The arm was not designed for standing or walking, but exapted this way, contra the giraffid condition. This should be fascinating! (<– is not exaggerating)

  11. #11 Stevo Darkly
    September 21, 2008

    I have no education in Greek or Latin, so these root-words are probably strung together wrong, but:

    Dactylapteryx giraffamimus

    “Finger-but-without-wing, giraffe-mimic”

    Antaeodactyl alciorhynchus

    Antaeus was a mythical Greek giant who had to touch the ground at all times or lose his strength so effectively that means:

    “Land-bound-giant finger, auk-billed”

    (I’m not at all sure how to put “alcis + rhynchus” together so the species name might be ungrammatical.)

    The “dactyl” is not so meaningful with this animal, but I put it in there to hearken back to its pterosaur ancestors.

    Feel free to mix-and-match each genus name with the other’s species name, BTW.

  12. #12 Stevo Darkly
    September 21, 2008

    Oh, when I chose “auk-billed” for the species name above, I really wanted “puffin-billed” but could not find a meaningful Greek or Latin name for “puffin.” (The puffin’s genus name, Fratercula means “little brother” and I guess is nicely descriptive of puffins looking like little monks, but totally misleading here.)

    And I had one more entry:

    Cadopteryx parungulata

    Which is as close as I can get to “fallen wing, sort-of-like-a-hoofed-mammal.” (I just found a list of Latin words laiming that “cado” is the Latin word for “fallen to the ground.”)

  13. #13 Stevo Darkly
    September 21, 2008

    Oops. I meant: I just found a list of Latin words CLAIMING that “cado” is the Latin word for “fallen to the ground.”

  14. #14 David Marjanovi?
    September 21, 2008

    By the way, how do you make words in italic??

    <i>This way.</> By using HTML.

    The puffin’s genus name, Fratercula means “little brother”

    The funny thing is that this word is, in sum, feminine. No idea who came up with the -a at the end.

  15. #15 David Marjanovi?
    September 21, 2008

    <i>Oops.</i>

    I just found a list of Latin words CLAIMING that “cado” is the Latin word for “fallen to the ground.”

    No. It means “I fall”.

  16. #16 Stevo Darkly
    September 21, 2008

    David – Thanks, that was abundantly unclear from several different sources online. I guess the root word is “cadere” then? Would you know the proper form to stick in front of “pteryx” by chance?

    And should my “parungulata” have been “parungulatus,” I wonder?

    Is there a doctor of classical languages in the house?

  17. #17 Andreas Johansson
    September 21, 2008

    I’m not a doctor of classical languages, but pteryx is feminine, so parungulata is correct.

  18. #18 Jerzy
    September 21, 2008

    Darrendemon diatryma
    Diatrymapteryx naishi

    BTW, running pterosaurs are problematic from ecological point of view. This paper-thin, pneumatized skeleton stands no chance in competition with terrestrial runners and predators. Possible is evolution on some isolated island without saurischian predators, but, being good flyers and soarers, azhdarchids were unlikely to be stranded for a time needed to develop flightless species. In this way there is no flightless storks or raptors.

    More likely are flightless tapejarids or other forms which are terrestrial and relatively weak flyers. Or maybe swimming pterosaurs turning into penguins or great auk equivalent.

    BTW – I would look fr indication that some known pterosaurs could dive using wings, like modern auks.

  19. #19 Tilsim
    September 21, 2008

    This made my Sunday morning coffee tast even better than usual! Thanks Darren, also on behalf of the good old Greeks. Sadly unequipped to discuss pteroid function and postzygapophyses, I’m pleased to at least contribute in this modest way.

    For this one I’d like to suggest Doradosaura ‘gazelle lizard’ (feminine is not necessary but sounds nice to me as doras is feminine; those who object to Maiasaura won’t like this one either) or Pyrgosaurus ‘tower lizard’.

  20. #20 DDeden
    September 21, 2008

    Son of Clyde? Awesomeness defined. But perhaps forgotten:

    Featuring sharp folding finger switchblades, with slashing claw. It seems a bit hard to see above, but a real terror in the hood, the wood, and even the water.

  21. #21 Mike Keesey
    September 21, 2008

    Hey, just because it’s the name of a machine doesn’t mean it’s unavailable! I WUZ ROBBED!!!

    (Actually, I do like Shemhazai. And somebody has to use Tash inexorabilis for a pan-avian someday.)

  22. #22 J.S. Lopes
    September 21, 2008

    WOW! I’m living my short moment of glory! Have my name chosen!

    Beside Palaeontology,mythology and fallen angels was another of my favourite matters, since I was one of the creators of the Brazilian RPG “Ascensao e Queda” [Ascension and Fall], whose characters were children of fallen angels, in fact “de-fallen” angels who scaped from Hell during the Tunguska 1908′s Explosion. More details in http://universogerminante.blogspot.com (Portuguese only)

    SHEMHAZAI was the leader of Rebel Angels in Book of Enoch.

  23. #23 Darren Naish
    September 21, 2008

    Just got back from an excellent day at the zoo, during which I engaged in some surreal personal interaction with a ground hornbill. I will elaborate another time.

    Want to respond briefly to one thing. Jerzy wrote…

    BTW, running pterosaurs are problematic from ecological point of view. This paper-thin, pneumatized skeleton stands no chance in competition with terrestrial runners and predators. Possible is evolution on some isolated island without saurischian predators, but, being good flyers and soarers, azhdarchids were unlikely to be stranded for a time needed to develop flightless species.

    I perhaps haven’t explained it properly, but the idea here is that flightless azhdarchids evolved on predator-free islands (I think I stated this in the ‘name my flightless pterosaur’ article). However, I take issue with your ‘paper-thin, pneumatized skeleton’ comment. Yes, pterosaur bones were very thin (less than 1 mm cortical shaft thickness). But with a micro-layered, plywood-like cortical anatomy, trabecular struts, spiralling ridges on the internal cortical surfaces and other strengthening features, their bones were tremendously strong: in fact, one azhdarchid bone bitten by a theropod caused the theropod tooth tip to break off. Furthermore, work on limb bone strength and loading etc. shows that pterosaur limb bones were easily strong enough for running, standing launches, and for resisting the forces incurred by substantial activity. I would therefore disagree with the statement that hypothetical flightless pterosaurs might perform poorly against ‘terrestrial runners and predators’ for fundamental mechanical/ecological reasons.

    In this way there is no flightless storks or raptors.

    But there is no mechanical or ecological reason why there couldn’t be flightless storks or raptors, it’s that it never happened because it never happened, not because it couldn’t. We know that it occurred among analogues: cranes became flightless at least once, and owls reduced or lost flight on several occasions.

    BTW – I would look fr indication that some known pterosaurs could dive using wings, like modern auks.

    There are no strong swimming or diving adaptations in known pterosaurs: we do not have any forms that might have behaved like auks, diving ducks or grebes. So, no!

    Many thanks for your thoughts however, and to everyone else for theirs too. Commiserations to Mike Keesey!

  24. #24 David Marjanovi?
    September 21, 2008

    I guess the root word is “cadere” then?

    That’s the infinitive, yes.

    Would you know the proper form to stick in front of “pteryx” by chance?

    The stem is cad-, and then you need a connecting vowel, -o-. In other words, you were completely right, even though for the wrong reasons.

  25. #25 David Marjanovi?
    September 21, 2008

    Though… you want “fallen wing”, not “fall wing”. Try Casopteryx, assuming I’m not too tired to remember that correctly.

  26. #26 Jerzy
    September 21, 2008

    Thanks for info on swimming pterosaurs.

    So, where to look for fossils of this flightless pterosaur? What oceanic islands existed in Mesosoic?

  27. #27 Darren Naish
    September 21, 2008

    So, where to look for fossils of this flightless pterosaur? What oceanic islands existed in Mesosoic?

    Just one possibility among many…

    Stilwell, J. D., Consoli, C. P., Sutherland, R., Salisbury, S., Rich, T. H., Vickers-Rich, P. A., Currie, P. J. & Wilson, G. J. 2006. Dinosaur sanctuary on the Chatham Islands, southwest Pacific: first record of theropods from the K-T boundary Takatika Grit. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 230, 243-250.

  28. #28 J.S. Lopes
    September 21, 2008

    the correct word for hand is “kheir”, not “kheiros”. It should be Shemhazai ptychocheir.

  29. #29 Dr. Nick
    September 21, 2008

    J.S. Lopes wrote:

    the correct word for hand is “kheir”, not “kheiros”. It should be Shemhazai ptychocheir.

    True, but ptychocheirus is OK; it’s an adjective meaning ‘having folded hands’.

    Deinonychus, among others, shows the same structure.

  30. #30 Stevo Darkly
    September 22, 2008

    Andreas Johansson and David Marjanovi?, thank you for improving my language.

    So, probably, my third entry is:

    Casopteryx parungulata

    (“fallen wing, like an ungulate”)

  31. #31 Frank
    September 22, 2008

    Thanks, David Marjanović.