• Tag Archives pterosaurs
  • Were pterosaurs naked after all?

    Dueling interpretations of the pterosaur, Coloborhynchus clavirostris. Image by Megan Jacobs

    Although 2020 was an all around shit show for the world, there were a few interesting bits of paleontology. Perhaps none more interesting than this potential overhaul to pterosaur reconstructions. Now, I haven’t really written anything about pterosaurs on my site yet (aside from some basic rundowns of news stories), so this marks an interesting way of christening the occasion. Pterosaurs are a fascinating group of critters that showcase yet another example of how animals can get airborne. They are also enigmatic in their origin and evolution.

    One thing that we seemed to be confident about for a long time now is that pterosaurs had fuzz. It wasn’t fur in the mammal sense, and it sure as hell wasn’t feathers (more on that in a minute), but instead a third (or fifth, when counting arthropods and some plants) form of insulative covering. At least, that’s what I thought we knew up until about last year.

    It may just turn out that this seemingly rock-solid interpretation of pterosaur outer coverings has been wrong all along.

    Continue reading  Post ID 6120

  • New paper on the strangest pterosaur ever.

    Ooh, I’m coming in under the wire this time (see the time stamp).

    So when someone talks about pterosaurs, or flying reptiles, you probably think of something like one of these:


    Pteranodon and Rhamphorhynchus. The two archetypes of pop culture pterosaurs.
    Former image from here. Latter image by Charlie McGrady.


    Few folks would normally think of this as a normal pterosaur:


    Pterodaustro guinazui (pic culled from Wikipedian artist: Arthur Weasley).


    Its name was Pterodaustro guinazui, and unlike other pterosaurs, which fed on fish, insects, or other types of meat, P. guinazui was a filter feeder. It has commonly been compared to a Mesozoic flamingo (thus resulting in more than a fair share of flamingo like drawings). It sifted microorganisms from the waters that it lived near. Unlike today’s modern flamingo (Phoenicopterus), Pterodaustro could filter feed without dipping its head upside down. As far as pterosaurs go, it was certainly one of (if not) the strangest species to have come from this group.As is typical with the weird ones, though they are celebrated for their uniqueness; that is about all that is known about them.

    Well, no more:

    Chinsamy, A., Codorni?, L., Chiappe, L. 2008. Developmental growth patterns of the filter-feeder pterosaur, Pterodaustro guinazui. Biology Letters. DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2008.0004 (online: first cite)

    Life-history parameters of pterosaurs such as growth and ontogenetic development represent an enigma. This aspect of pterosaur biology has remained perplexing because few pterosaur taxa are represented by complete ontogenetic series. Of these, Pterodaustro is unique in that besides being represented by hundreds of individuals with wing spans ranging from 0.3 to 2.5m, it includes an embryo within an egg. Here we present a comprehensive osteohistological assessment of multiple skeletal elements of a range of ontogenetic sizes of Pterodaustro, and we provide unparalleled insight into its growth dynamics. We show that, upon hatching, Pterodaustro juveniles grew rapidly for approximately 2 years until they reached approximately 53% of their mature body size, whereupon they attained sexual maturity. Thereafter, growth continued for at least another 3–4 years at comparatively slower rates until larger adult body sizes were attained. Our analysis further provides definitive evidence that Pterodaustro had a determinate growth strategy.

    Pterodaustro skull

    Pterodaustro guinazui skull (photo from: http://www.pterosaurier.de)


    I have yet to read the full paper, but from what it says here, it would appear that the filter feeding lifestyle took its toll on P. guinazui, as its growth rate was remarkably slow. As this is the first time a growth series has been done on a pterosaur, it probably shouldn’t be assumed that this growth was typical of all pterosaurs (which would have had diets that were much higher in protein, thus aiding growth). Still the results are definitely interesting. Plus any new bits of info on the world’s strangest pterosaur, is a good thing in my book.


  • The Hummingbird of Pterosaurs.


    Just announced today in the journal PNAS, is the discovery of the world’s smallest pterosaur. Dubbed: Nemicolopterus crypticus, this little guy had a wingspan of only 10 inches (25.4 cm). I haven’t had a chance to read the paper on it yet, but from the abstract, it appears to be a juvenile. I’d like to know how much larger the authours believe N.crypticus got.

    Either way, this is big news for pterosaur researchers. It means that either:

    • A.) Pterosaurs covered a greater size range than previously thought, or…
    • B.) Pterosaur juveniles lived in different niches than adults.

    Given the reptilian status of pterosaurs, I wouldn’t be surprised if it did turn out to be choice B. The large size discrepancy between adults and hatchlings / juveniles, often results in the formation of two size classes per species. This allows the animals to better exploit their given ecosystems.

    Anyway, we’ll just have to wait for the paper, and see what the results suggest.

    Still, it’s a mighty neat find.