Pterosaur exhibition in the USA


This video from the American Museum of Natural History in New York City in the USA says about itself:

4 March 2014

They flew with their fingers. They walked on their wings. Some were gigantic, while others could fit in the palm of a hand. Millions of years ago, the skies were ruled by pterosaurs, the first animals with backbones to fly under their own power. In the new exhibition Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs, rare fossils, life-size models, and hands-on interactives bring these ancient animals to life.

Step back in time to see pterosaurs, including giants such as Tropeognathus mesembrinus, with a wingspan of more than 25 feet, and find out how they moved on land and in the air. Get a first-hand look at the rare pterosaur fossils that have helped paleontologists learn all that we know about these animals. In a virtual flight lab, use your body to pilot a pterosaur over a prehistoric landscape. Encounter the exceptional creatures that flew in the age of dinosaurs.

Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs is on view from April 5, 2014, through January 4, 2015. Learn more about the exhibition at http://www.amnh.org/pterosaurs.

This video, linked to the erxhibition, is called Pterosaur App and Card Game.

See also here.

New pterosaur species and their eggs discovered in China


This video is called First 3D Flying Reptile Eggs Discovered in China.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Getting ahead: the new crested pterosaur Hamipterus has researchers aflutter

The newly discovered Chinese flying reptile is preserved in huge numbers and with rarely found eggs

The pterosaurs have often been the poor cousins of their relatives when it comes to the public’s understanding of them. Incorrectly called flying dinosaurs, mixed up as bird or even bat ancestors, and considered leathery-winged gliders that could barely fly, let alone walk, they remain a relic of the ‘animals are extinct because they failed’ idea of the 1800s. In fact pterosaurs were remarkably good fliers and many were also superb on the ground, and their real limitation is that their fossil record is generally so poor.

Pterosaurs had incredibly thin bones and while this may have helped make them relatively light, it means they did not fossilise well. As a result, we don’t have many good pterosaur skeletons (and rarely have multiple individuals of one species), and the ones we do have tend to come from a few restricted places where the preservation at that time was exceptional. Pterosaur eggs are even more rare, with all of none turning up between 1784 (when the first pterosaur was described) and 2004, and in the last decade that number has reach a grand total of four.

So the announcement of a discovery of a whole pile of pterosaurs, and with several eggs as well, is clearly a tremendous find. The newly named Hamipterus tianshanensis (its name roughly means ‘the wing of Hami, in the Tianshan mountains’) is from Xinjiang of northwestern China, and dates to around 100-120 million years ago. The fossils uncovered in this arid region include bones of at least 40 different individuals (and estimates of the number of pterosaur bones in the area run into the thousands) and so far five eggs. That is quite a haul and immediately makes this one of the better represented pterosaurs and makes the area a prime spot for pterosaur research. Moreover, all previously described pterosaur eggs had been flattened into two dimensions, but the ones preserved here are the first even that are available in 3D (if a little squished).

Hamipterus was a medium sized pterosaur with a wingspan of up to 3.5 m. It is referred to a group of pterosaurs called the pteranodontoids which include the famous toothless Pteranodon, but also numerous other pterosaurs including many with large teeth. Members of this group are generally considered to be primarily fish eaters and excellent fliers, catching their food on the wing by snatching fish from the surface of the water. The anatomy of the new find matches this interpretation with a series of long teeth in the thin jaws, and the bones were buried around the margin of a large lake. However, it is in the shape of the top of the head that the real interest lies, with specimens bearing a bony crest that runs along the top of the skull and is much larger in some individuals.

Pterosaurs are in part famous for the wild variety of head crests seen on various species. These include those composed of bone, others of soft tissues and some that combined the two. Over the years various hypotheses have been brought forwards for their function, but the main prevailing idea is that in most forms they likely functioned in some forms of sexual display and / or as social dominance signals. In the case of Hamipterus it is suggested that the different sizes may represent males and females (with the males bearing the larger crest) which is very much a reasonable starting hypothesis, but one that requires a degree of further testing. There’s a huge variation in the size and shape of crests in various things that have them (look at the horns in sheep and antlers in deer) and telling male from female, or young male from old male and so on, can be very difficult.

The data is naturally limited at the moment, but the fact that already numerous different individuals and eggs have turned up together is the first on record. There is obviously the potential here for many more animals to be found, and comparable big aggregations of nesting animals are already known for both ancient birds and non-avian dinosaurs. It would not at all be a surprise if pterosaurs did something similar, and indeed this has been suggested in various quarters a number of times, so thepossibility is there, even if it is currently very tentative. Such a haul of specimens though provides an excellent starting point and there is certainly much more to come from this amazing collection.

Wang et al., Sexually Dimorphic Tridimensionally Preserved Pterosaurs and Their Eggs from China, Current Biology (2014), http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2014.04.054 (Current paywall, but open access in 2 weeks).

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New pterosaur species discovery by four-year-old girl


This video from Britain is called Prehistoric beast named after Isle of Wight girl who found fossil.

Daisy Morris, pterosaur discoverer

From the BBC:

20 March 2013 Last updated at 11:52 GMT

Isle of Wight girl Daisy Morris has flying prehistoric beast named after her

A nine-year-old girl has had a prehistoric beast named in her honour after fossilised bones she found turned out to be an undiscovered species.

Daisy Morris from the Isle of Wight stumbled upon the remains on Atherfield beach four years ago.

A scientific paper stated the newly discovered species of pterosaur would be called Vectidraco daisymorrisae.

Fossil expert Martin Simpson said this was an example of how “major discoveries can be made by amateurs“.

Daisy’s mum Sian Morris said her daughter had started fossil hunting aged three and came across the blackened “bones sticking out of the sand” in 2009, when she was four years old.

The Morris family, from Whitwell, approached Southampton University‘s ‘Fossil Man’ Mr Simpson with Daisy’s finds in 2009.

“I knew I was looking at something very special. And I was right,” said Mr Simpson.

The fossil turned out to be a new genus and species of small pterosaur; a flying reptile from the Lower Cretaceous period:
Vectidraco daisymorrisae. Vectidraco means ‘dragon from the Isle of Wight’, and daisymorrisae honours Daisy Morris

The new species and name was confirmed in a scientific paper published on Monday.

Mr Simpson said the island’s eroding coastline meant the fossil would have been “washed away and destroyed if it had not been found by Daisy”.

Mrs Morris, a teaching assistant, said: “She has a very good eye for tiny little fossils and found these tiny little black bones sticking out of the mud and decided to dig a bit further and scoop them all out.

“We are all very proud of her”.

The pterosaur has since been donated to the Natural History Museum which recently named the Isle of Wight as the “dinosaur capital of Great Britain“.

The confirmation of Vectidraco daisymorrisae comes a week after the discovery on the island of an almost complete skeleton of a 12-feet long dinosaur.

Pterosaurs were flying reptiles that lived in the same time period as dinosaurs, up to 220 millions years ago.

Pterosaur or dinosaur?

Pterosaurs were flying reptiles – the first winged vertebrates
They lived at the same time as the dinosaurs (from about 220 to 65 million years ago) – but were an evolutionarily distinct group
Species ranged from sparrow-sized to the largest known flying creature, with a 12m wingspan

So, Belgian news agency Belga was wrong to call Daisy’s new species a dinosaur.

Why pterosaurs weren’t so scary after all. These flying reptiles are traditionally seen as scaly, ungainly beasts, but the discovery of new fossils has led to some surprising findings: here.

How Pterosaurs Ruled the Skies Above the Dinosaurs: here.

Velociraptor ate pterosaur


This video about dinosaurs is called Velociraptor vs Protoceratops.

From the BBC:

7 March 2012 Last updated at 09:51

Velociraptor‘s last meal revealed

By Ella Davies Reporter, BBC Nature

The bone of a large flying reptile has been found in the gut of a Velociraptor, sparking fresh discussion among palaeontologists.

Velociraptors have previously been described as “hyper predators”.

However, scientists suggest this pterosaur was too large to be the Velociraptor’s intended prey but could have been scavenged.

The findings are published in the journal Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, and Palaeoecology.

An international team of scientists revealed the drama of 75 million years ago with a detailed analysis of the skeleton found in the Gobi desert, Mongolia.

“It would be difficult and probably even dangerous for the small theropod dinosaur to target a pterosaur with a wingspan of 2 metres or more, unless the pterosaur was already ill or injured,” said co-author of the study Dr David Hone, from the University College Dublin, Ireland.

“So the pterosaur bone we’ve identified in the gut of the Velociraptor was most likely scavenged from a carcass rather than the result of a predatory kill.”

Velociraptors were not much taller than domestic turkeys but were thought to be voracious predators.

A famous fossil unearthed in 1971 known as the “fighting dinosaurs” shows a Velociraptor and larger Protoceratops apparently locked in combat.

But evidence of feeding by theropod dinosaurs, such as Velociraptor or Tyrannosaurus rex, are scarce in the fossil record.

Final feast

The 75mm-long pterosaur bone shard was found within the rib cage where the Velociraptor’s gut would have been.

According to Dr Hone the contents of dinosaur’s stomachs often elude scientists as they are rarely preserved.

“Gut contents are pretty rare and pterosaur bones are rather fragile and don’t preserve well, so it is an unusual find.”

In addition to proving that velociraptors took advantage of ailing animals, Dr Hone suggests that the evidence provides a further revelation: that small dinosaurs ate relatively large bones.

By analysing the bones, researchers also found out that the Velociraptor died shortly after feeding on the pterosaur.

The smooth surface of the reptile bones suggest it was not eroded by stomach acids and the team discovered the Velociraptor itself suffered from a broken rib.

“Pretty much all carnivores are both predators and scavengers as the situation dictates – actually getting evidence for that from the fossil record is rather hard [to get] though,” said Dr Hone.

Velociraptor facts

Velociraptors were made famous in the film ‘Jurassic Park’ although in reality they measured 50cm tall and recent research found they were at least partially covered in feathers

Velociraptor means ‘swift seizer’ and may have been capable of reaching speeds of 24mph

They were effective predators with an enlarged sickle-shaped claw on each hindfoot and rows of sharp teeth

Velociraptors would have existed around 71 million years ago during the Upper Cretaceous period

Fossils from two species of velociraptor are known; one was discovered in Mongolia and the other in China

See also here.

The Late Jurassic Pterosaur Rhamphorhynchus, a Frequent Victim of the Ganoid Fish Aspidorhynchus? Here.

Jurassic fail: fish accidentally snags pterosaur, and both die: here.

Pterosaurs Were on the Menu For Ancient Fish and Dinosaurs: here.

Small pterosaur discovered in China


This video is called Pterosaur tribute.

From the BBC:

Flying reptiles came in miniature

A new fossil species of flying reptile with a wingspan of less than 30cm (1ft) has been discovered in China.

The nearly complete articulated skeleton was unearthed in fossil beds from north-eastern China.

The 120-million-year-old reptile had not reached adulthood when it died, but neither was it a hatchling.

Study of the fossil suggests it is one of the smallest pterosaurs known, a team says in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The new species has been named Nemicolopterus crypticus, which means “hidden flying forest dweller”.

The researchers from Brazil and China say the toothless, sparrow-sized specimen contains several unique anatomical features that distinguish it from other pterosaurs (ancient flying reptiles).

For example, some of the foot bones are curved in a way not seen in other members of this reptile group. This, say the authors, indicates the pint-sized creature spent much of its time living in the trees.

Pterodaustro, another pterosaur species: here.

A NEW PTEROSAUR FROM THE LIAONING PROVINCE OF CHINA, THE PHYLOGENY OF THE PTERODACTYLOIDEA, AND CONVERGENCE IN THEIR CERVICAL VERTEBRAE: here.

A Reappraisal of Azhdarchid Pterosaur Functional Morphology and Paleoecology: here.

A new genus of pterosaur, Lacusovagus (“lake wanderer”), in Brazil: here. And here.

Why did pterosaurs have crests on their heads?


Pterosaurs

From the BBC:

Flying reptile mystery ‘solved’

UK scientists say they have solved the mystery of why prehistoric flying reptiles grew crests on their heads.

A rare skull specimen found in Brazil shows the crest appeared at puberty, suggesting it was used to attract attention from the opposite sex.

University of Portsmouth experts say pterosaurs, which ruled the air during the time of the dinosaurs, flaunted their headgear in sexual displays.

The findings are published in the journal Palaeontology.

Palaeobiologist Dr Darren Naish said the crest was a signal of sexual maturity; used like a peacock’s tail to attract a mate.

“It would have been like a gigantic cockerel’s comb, a brightly-coloured striking structure used in display,” he told the BBC News website.

“We don’t know this but we imagine they would have bobbed it around and used it to attract other pterosaurs.”

Rare specimen

The theory is based on the skull of a species of pterosaur known as Tupuxuara, which was unearthed recently in north-east Brazil.

Pterosaurs

Pterosaurs lived during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods

They were the first actively flying vertebrates and evolved many different forms

Pterosaurs are thought to belong to a group of reptiles known as archosaurs, which includes crocodiles, dinosaurs and birds

It was a rare discovery; only a handful of fossil specimens exist in the world and all the others are the remains of adults.

Dr Naish and colleague Dr David Martill examined the skull and found that the crest was different in the juvenile.

Rather than forming one large triangular crest of bone extending from the snout to the back of the head, it was made up of two pieces.

One crest came from the back of the skull and the other from the front of the snout.

The crest that sprouted from the front grew backwards, only fusing to form one large crest when the pterosaur reached puberty.

“This is a significant find as it links the growth of the crest to physical maturity and therefore presumably to sex,” said Dr Naish.”The specimen was extremely rare and it is great to be able to piece together a little bit more details about pterosaurs.”