Earlier this year the awesome new ornithocheiroid pterosaur Zhenyuanopterus longirostris Lü, 2010 was described from the Yixian Formation of Liaoning Province, China. It has pretty incredible teeth, as well as a very interesting premaxillary crest…
And it has a lot of teeth: 86 in total in the upper jaw, and another 86 in the lower jaw (giving a total of 172). The teeth at the front of the upper jaw are about 50 mm long. This is a reasonably large pterosaur, with a wingspan of about 4 m (Lü 2010). It’s clearly an ornithocheiroid, and it seems quite similar to another Yixian Formation ornithocheiroid pterosaur described in 2005: Boreopterus cuiae Lü & Ji, 2005 (you might even like to consider the idea that they could be the same thing, perhaps representing growth stages or the two sexes). Indeed, Lü (2010) included Zhenyuanopterus within the ornithocheiroid group Boreopteridae (in addition to Boreopterus, Feilongus youngi is also supposed to belong here, but I’m sceptical). Some published phylogenies find that boreopterids are outside of the ornithocheiroid clade that includes istiodactylids and ornithocheirids (e.g., Lü et al. 2006), while others find less resolution within Ornithocheiroidea (e.g., Lü et al. 2009). Boreopterids may well be part of Ornithocheiridae (and were originally included within that group), actually, but that’s a topic for another time. The adjacent picture is Nobu Tamura’s life restoration of Feilongus, from wikipedia. And here’s the holotype of Boreopterus cuiae, from Lü & Ji (2005)…
One more interesting thing to say about these pterosaurs – and this isn’t unique to boreopterids but goes for ornithocheirids as well – look how tiny their feet are! It also seems that some ornithocheiroids lack fibulae, but it remains uncertain how widespread this is (among boreopterids, Boreopterus lacks them but this was assumed to be preservational, while Zhenyuanopterus has them). The enormous wings and very small, weak legs of many ornithocheiroids show pretty convincingly that they were predominantly aerial, that they walked little, and that they made a living by grabbing objects while in flight. What a strong contrast to long-legged, relatively short-winged pterodactyloids like the azhdarchids.
Loads more could be said, but this was meant to be one of those ‘picture of the day’ things. While I’m here, now is a good time to mention that something almost entirely unconnected to the world of pterosaur research – namely, Dave Hone’s Ask A Biologist site – has been relaunched today. Head on over and check it out.
And… back to pterosaurs, I may as well take this opportunity to once again advertise the internet wonder that is Pterosaur.net. Note that the site now has its own blog. Hey – this article could have been posted there, instead of here. Yeah – it could!
For previous Tet Zoo articles on pterosaurs see…
- Dsungaripterid pterosaurs and the proliferation of Wittoniana
- The Wellnhofer pterosaur meeting, part I
- The Wellnhofer pterosaur meeting, part II
- The Wellnhofer pterosaur meeting, part III
- Crato Formation fossils and the new tapejarids
- Terrestrial stalking azhdarchids, the paper
- Pterosaurs breathed in bird-like fashion and had inflatable air sacs in their wings
- A month in dinosaurs (and pterosaurs): 4, flaplings and head-sails anew
- A month in dinosaurs (and pterosaurs): 5, pterosaurs vs birds, or not… or is it?
- Mark Witton’s secret: finally out
- Darwinopterus, the remarkable transitional pterosaur
Refs – –
Lü, J. 2010. A new boreopterid pterodactyloid pterosaur from the Early Cretaceous Yixian Formation of Liaoning Province, northeastern China. Acta Geologica Sinica 84, 241-246.
– ., Gao, C., Meng, Q., Liu, J. & Ji, Q. 2006. On the systematic position of Eosipterus yangi Ji et Ji, 1997 among pterodactyloids. Acta Geologica Sinica 80, 643-646.
– . & Ji, Q. 2005. A new ornithocheirid from the Early Cretaceous of Liaoning Province, China. Acta Geologica Sinica 79, 157-163.
– ., Unwin, D. M., Jin, X., Liu, Y. & Ji, Q. 2009. Evidence for modular evolution in a long-tailed pterosaur with a pterodactyloid skull. Proceedings of the Royal Society B doi: 10.1098/rspb.2009.1603