Cretaceous pterosaurs discovery in Morocco


This October 2018 video is called Pterosaurs 101 | National Geographic.

From Baylor University in the USA:

Fossil finds give clues about flying reptiles in the Sahara 100 million years ago

Fish-eating pterosaurs with wingspans of up to 13 feet soared and snatched prey

March 25, 2020

Three new species of toothed pterosaurs — flying reptiles of the Cretaceous period, some 100 million years ago — have been identified in Africa by an international team of scientists led by Baylor University.

The pterosaurs, which soared above a world dominated by predators, formed part of an ancient river ecosystem in Africa that teemed with life including fish, crocodiles, turtles and several predatory dinosaurs.

“Pterosaur remains are very rare, with most known from Europe, South America and Asia. These new finds are very exciting and provide a window into the world of pterosaurs in Cretaceous Africa,” said lead author Megan L. Jacobs, a doctoral candidate in geosciences at Baylor University.

The study, published in the journal Cretaceous Research, is helping to uncover the poorly known evolutionary history of Africa during the time of the dinosaurs. The research finds that African pterosaurs were quite similar to those found on other continents. Their world included crocodile-like hunters and carnivorous dinosaurs, with few herbivores. Many predators, including the toothed pterosaurs, preyed on a superabundance of fish.

“For such large animals, they would have weighed very little,” Jacobs said. “Their wingspans were around 10 to 13 feet, with their bones almost paper-thin and full of air, very similar to birds. This allowed these awesome creatures to reach incredible sizes and still be able to take off and soar the skies.”

Pterosaurs snatched up their prey while on the wing, using a set of large spike-like teeth to grab. Large pterosaurs such as these would have been able to forage over hundreds of miles, with fossil evidence showing they flew between South America and Africa, similar to present-day birds such as condors and albatrosses, researchers said.

The specimens — identified by researchers from chunks of jaws with teeth — were obtained from fossil miners in a small village called Beggaa, just outside Erfoud in southeast Morocco. These villagers daily climb halfway up the side of a large escarpment, known as the Kem Kem beds, to a layer of a coarse sand, the most fossiliferous bed.

“They excavate everything they find, from teeth to bones to almost complete skeletons,” Jacobs said. “They then sell their finds to dealers and scientists who conduct fieldwork, ensuring the villagers make enough money to survive while we get new fossils to describe. These pterosaur fragments are unique and can be identified easily — if you know what to look for.”

One of the species, Anhanguera, previously was only known to be from Brazil. Another, Ornithocheirus, had until now only been found in England and Middle Asia.

This year’s find brings to five the total of toothed pterosaurs whose remains have been found in the Kem Kem beds, with the first described in the 1990s and the second one last year, Jacobs said. The specimens will be part of an acquisition in a museum in Morocco.

How Jurassic pterosaurs fed, new research


This video is called TRILOGY OF LIFE – Walking with Dinosaurs – “Ramphorhynchus“.

By John Pickrell, January 27, 2020 at 5:00 am:

A squid fossil offers a rare record of pterosaur feeding behavior

A tooth embedded in a squid fossil tells a story of a battle at sea with the flying reptile

A fossil of a squid with a pterosaur tooth embedded in it offers extraordinary evidence of a 150-million-year-old battle at sea. While many pterosaur fossils containing fish scales and bones in their stomachs have revealed that some of these flying reptiles included fish in their diet, the new find from Germany is the first proof that pterosaurs also hunted squid.

The fossil was excavated in 2012 in the Solnhofen Limestone, near Eichstätt in Bavaria, where many Jurassic Period fossils of pterosaurs, small dinosaurs and the earliest known bird, Archaeopteryx, have been found. The region’s environment at the time was something like the Bahamas today, with low-lying islands dotting shallow tropical seas.

The embedded tooth fits the right size and shape for the pterosaur Rhamphorhynchus, paleontologists report online January 27 in Scientific Reports. They argue that the tooth was left by a pterosaur that swooped to the ocean surface to snap up the 30-centimeter-long squid from the extinct Plesioteuthis genus, but was unsuccessful, possibly because the squid was too large or too far down in the water column for the predator to manage.

“The Plesioteuthis squid wrestled it off and escaped, breaking at least one tooth off the pterosaur, which became lodged in [the squid’s] mantle,” says Jordan Bestwick, a paleontologist at the University of Leicester in England. “This fossil is important in helping us understand the dietary range of Rhamphorhynchus, and tells us about its hunting behavior.”

The fossil itself is unique, according to pterosaur researcher Taíssa Rodrigues at the Federal University of Espírito Santo in Vitorio, Brazil, who was not involved in the study. “It is very rare to find predator-prey interactions that include pterosaurs,” she says. “In the few cases we do have, pterosaurs were the prey of large fish. So it is great to see this the other way around.”

Paleontologist Michael Habib of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles says he suspects the squid was far too large for the pterosaur to haul out of the water. “The pterosaur was lucky that the tooth broke off,” says Habib, who was not involved with the study. “A squid of that size could probably have pulled it under.”

How pterosaurs started flying


This 18 August 2019 video saysabout itself:

How Pterosaurs Got Their Wings

When pterosaurs first took flight, you could say that it marked the beginning of the end for the winged reptiles. Because, strangely enough, the power of flight — and the changes that it led to — may have ultimately led to their downfall.

Thanks to Ceri Thomas for the excellent Scleromochlus illustration!

Big pterosaur discovery in Canada


Cryodrakon boreas. Credit David Maas

Artist’s depiction of Cryodrakon boreas, featuring Canadian colours in honour of where the fossils were found. The true colours of the species aren’t actually known. Illustration: Davis Maas

This is artist David Maas’s depiction of Cryodrakon boreas, featuring Canadian colours in honour of where the fossils were found. The true colours of the species aren’t actually known.

From Queen Mary University of London, England:

New flying reptile species was one of largest ever flying animals

September 10, 2019

A newly identified species of pterosaur is among the largest ever flying animals, according to a new study from Queen Mary University of London.

Cryodrakon boreas, from the Azhdarchid group of pterosaurs (often incorrectly called ‘pterodactyls‘), was a flying reptile with a wingspan of up to 10 metres which lived during the Cretaceous period around 77 million years ago.

Its remains were discovered 30 years ago in Alberta, Canada, but palaeontologists had assumed they belonged to an already known species of pterosaur discovered in Texas, USA, named Quetzalcoatlus.

The study, published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, reveals it is actually a new species and the first pterosaur to be discovered in Canada.

Dr David Hone, lead author of the study from Queen Mary University of London, said: “This is a cool discovery, we knew this animal was here but now we can show it is different to other azhdarchids and so it gets a name.”

Although the remains — consisting of a skeleton that has part of the wings, legs, neck and a rib — were originally assigned to Quetzalcoatlus, study of this and additional material uncovered over the years shows it is a different species in light of the growing understanding of Azhdarchid diversity.

The main skeleton is from a young animal with a wingspan of about 5 metres but one giant neck bone from another specimen suggests an adult animal would have a wingspan of around 10 metres.

This makes Cryodrakon boreas comparable in size to other giant azhdarchids including the Texan Quetzalcoatlus which could reach 10.5 m in wingspan and weighed around 250 kg.

Like other azhdarchids these animals were carnivorous and predominantly predated on small animals which would likely include lizards, mammals and even baby dinosaurs.

Dr Hone added: “It is great that we can identify Cryodrakon as being distinct to Quetzalcoatlus as it means we have a better picture of the diversity and evolution of predatory pterosaurs in North America.”

Unlike most pterosaur groups, Azhdarchids are known primarily from terrestrial settings and, despite their likely capacity to cross oceanic distances in flight, they are broadly considered to be animals that were adapted for, and lived in, inland environments.

Despite their large size and a distribution across North and South America, Asia, Africa and Europe, few azhdarchids are known from more than fragmentary remains. This makes Cryodrakon an important animal since it has very well preserved bones and includes multiple individuals of different sizes.

Filter-feeding Jurassic pterosaurs, new study


This 23 October 2019 video says about itself:

Pterosaurs Size Comparison

Pterosaurs, meaning “winged lizards” were flying reptiles of the extinct clade or order Pterosauria. Pterosaurs existed during most of the Mesozoic: from the late Triassic to the end of the Cretaceous (228 to 66 million years ago). Pterosaurs are the earliest vertebrates known to have evolved powered flight. Their wings were formed by a membrane of skin, muscle, and other tissues stretching from the ankles to a dramatically lengthened fourth finger.

From Uppsala University in Sweden:

Filter-feeding pterosaurs were the flamingos of the Late Jurassic

August 26, 2019

Modern flamingoes employ filter feeding and their feces are, as a result, rich in remains of microscopically-small aquatic prey. Very similar contents are described from more than 150 million-year-old pterosaur droppings in a recent paper in PeerJ. This represents the first direct evidence of filter-feeding in Late Jurassic pterosaurs and demonstrates that their diet and feeding environment were similar to those of modern flamingoes.

Pterosaurs were a diverse group of flying reptiles that roamed the skies during the age of dinosaurs. Skeletal fossils suggest that they, just like modern birds, adapted to diverse lifestyles and feeding habits. Direct evidence on diets such as gut contents, however, are rare and only known from a few pterosaur species.

Coprolites, that is fossil droppings, are surprisingly common fossils and they potentially hold valuable information on the diet of extinct animals. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to know which animal produced which dropping.

In a recent paper, researchers from Uppsala University and the Polish Academy of Sciences describe the contents of three coprolites collected from a surface with abundant pterosaur footprints in the Wierzbica Quarry in Poland. The coprolites’ size, shape and association to the tracks suggest that they were produced by pterosaurs, most probably belonging to a group called Ctenochasmatidae.

The fossil droppings were scanned using synchrotron microtomography, which works in a similar way to a CT-scanner in a hospital but with much stronger x-ray beams. This makes it possible to image the contents of fossils in three dimensions. The scans of the pterosaur coprolites revealed many microscopic food remains including foraminifera (small amoeboid protists with external shells), small shells of marine invertebrates and possible remains of polychaete worms.

“A reasonable explanation for how a pterosaur big enough to have produced the droppings ingested such small prey is through filter feeding,” says Martin Qvarnström, PhD student at Uppsala University and one of the authors of the article.

Some ctenochasmid pterosaurs are thought to have been filter feeders. Pterodaustro, which comes from the Cretaceous and is thus slightly younger than the Polish coprolites, possessed a sieving basket consisting of many long, thin teeth and was certainly a filter feeder. Older ctenochasmids did not possess such an obvious sieving basket, but some had elongated snouts with many slender teeth, also interpreted as adaptations for filter feeding. These pterosaurs were around at the time the droppings were made, and as the footprints from the site have also been attributed to ctenochasmids it is likely that such pterosaurs produced both the droppings and the footprints.

The modern Chilean flamingo, which is a filter feeder, can produce droppings full of foraminifera when feeding in coastal wetlands.

“The similar contents of the droppings of these flamingos and the pterosaur coprolites could be explained by similar feeding environments and mesh sizes of the filter-feeding apparatus. It appears therefore that the pterosaurs which produced the footprints and droppings found in Poland were indeed the flamingos of the Late Jurassic,” says Martin Qvarnström.

Azhdarchid pterosaurs, videos


This 19 August 2018 video says about itself:

Giants of the Ancient Skies – Azhdarchids (Part 1)

The Azhdarchid pterosaurs are truly one of the most impressive groups of animals that have ever graced this planet. These absolutely huge creatures were not only the largest pterosaurs, but some were also the largest flying animals of all time.

This 25 August 2019 video says about itself:

Were These Animals Too Big to Fly? – Azhdarchids (Part 2)

At long last it is here! Part 2! In this video we look at just how these huge animals were able to get into the ancient skies and stay there.

This is the third video in that series.

Baby pterosaurs could already fly


This October 2018 video says about itself:

Pterosaurs were the first vertebrates to take to the skies. Learn about the anatomical features that made their flight possible, how large some of these creatures grew, and which species was named after a vampire legend.

From the University of Leicester in England:

Baby pterodactyls could fly from birth

Discovery shows extinct flying reptile had the remarkable ability to fly from birth

June 12, 2019

A breakthrough discovery has found that pterodactyls, extinct flying reptiles also known as pterosaurs,

Pterodactylus really is only one pterosaur species among many (the earliest one discovered).

had a remarkable ability — they could fly from birth. This discovery’s importance is highlighted by the fact that no other living vertebrates today, or in the history of life as we know it, have been able to replicate this. This revelation has a profound impact on our understanding of how pterodactyls lived, which is critical to understanding how the dinosaur world worked as a whole.

Previously, pterodactyls were thought to only be able to take to the air once they had grown to almost full size, just like birds or bats. This assumption was based on fossilised embryos of the creatures found in China that had poorly developed wings.

However, Dr David Unwin, a University of Leicester palaeobiologist who specialises in the study of pterodactyls and Dr Charles Deeming, a University of Lincoln zoologist who researches avian and reptilian reproduction, were able to disprove this hypothesis. They compared these embryos with data on prenatal growth in birds and crocodiles, finding that they were still at an early stage of development and a long way from hatching. The discovery of more advanced embryos in China and Argentina that died just before they hatched provided the evidence that pterodactyls had the ability to fly from birth. Dr David Unwin said: “Theoretically what pterosaurs did, growing and flying, is impossible, but they didn’t know this, so they did it anyway.”

Another fundamental difference between baby pterodactyls, also known as flaplings, and baby birds or bats, is that they had no parental care and had to feed and look after themselves from birth. Their ability to fly gave them a lifesaving survival mechanism which they used to evade carnivorous dinosaurs. This ability also proved to be one of their biggest killers, as the demanding and dangerous process of flight led to many of them dying at a very early age.

The research has also challenged the current view that pterodactyls behaved in a similar way to birds and bats and has provided possible answers to some key questions surrounding these animals. Since flaplings were able to both fly and grow from birth, this provides a possible explanation as to why they were able to reach enormous wingspans, far larger than any historic or current species of bird or bat. How they were able to carry out this process will require further research, but it is a question that wouldn’t have been posed without these recent developments in our understanding.

Dr Deeming added: “Our technique shows that pterosaurs were different from birds and bats and so comparative anatomy can reveal novel developmental modes in extinct species.”