Sunday 14 April 2013

A new species of Azhdarchid Pterosaur from the Late Cretaceous of Transylvania.

Azhdarchid Pterosaurs were large Pterosaurs widespread in the Late Cretaceous, but known from earlier deposits only from fragmentary, tentatively assigned remains. The groups includes some of the largest Pterosaurs known, and therefore (arguably) some of the largest ever flying organisms. The Azhdarchids had exceptionally long beaks, necks and limbs, which has led to the sugestion that they may have had a lifestyle similar to that of modern storks or cranes. Azhdarchids fall into two distict size groups, with very large animals and smaller ones that were roughly human-sized, with wing-spans of about 3 m.

In a paper published in the journal PLoS One on 30 January 2013, Mátyás Vremir of the Department of Natural Sciences of the Transylvanian Museum Society, Alexander Kellner of the Laboratory of Systematics and Taphonomy of Fossil Vertebrates at the Department of Geology and Paleontology at the Museu Nacional and Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Darren Naish of Ocean and Earth Sciences at the University of Southampton and Gareth Dyke also of Ocean and Earth Sciences and the Institute of Life Sciences at the University of Southampton, describe the discovery of a new Azhdarchid Pterosaur from the Late Cretaceous Transylvanian Basin in Romania.

The new Pterosaur is named Eurazhdarcho langendorfensis, meaning European Azhdarcho from Langendorf; where Azhdarcho is the name of a Pterosaur from Central Asia to which the new specimen bears a strong resemblence, and Langendorf is an old German name for Lancrăm, the village where the specimen was found. 

The location where the new Pterosaur was discovered. Vremir et al. (2013).

Eurazhdarcho langendorfensis is described from three anterior cervical vertebrae, a right wing metacarpal IV, an incomplete right metacarpal III, the proximal half of the first right wing phalanx, part of the distal diaphysis of the second smaller wing phalanx, a distal manual phalanx and several other fragmentary bones. The skeleton shows signs of port-mortem predation, possibly by a smal Crocodylomorph. Such fragmentary skeletons are usual in Pterosaurs, which had thin, hollow bones that reduced both their bodywheight and their preservational potential.

Sketch map showing the arangement of the bones of Eurazhdarcho langendorfensis as they were when discovered.  Vremir et al. (2013).

Cervical vertebrae three (top) and four (bottom) of  Eurazhdarcho langendorfensis in lateral view. Scale bars are 10 mm. Vremir et al. (2013).

 Reconstruction of Eurazhdarcho langendorfensis based upon the available material. Scale bar is 500 mm Vremir et al. (2013).

Euraazhdarcho langendorfensis appears to have been one of the smaller morph Azhdarchid Pterosaurs. The giant Azhdarchid Hatzegopteryx thambema, which had an estimated wingspan of 12 m, making it a contender for the largest flying creature ever, is also known from the Late Cretaceous of Transylvania. Vremir et al. note that there are a number of locations around the world have produced two species of Azhdarchid Pterosaur, one large and one small, which they sugest is a sign of ecological partitioning.

Map of the world in the Late Cretaceous, showing locations where different size-morph Azhdarchid Pterosaurs have been found. Vremir et al. (2013).

See also A new Pterosaur from the Early Cretaceous Jiufotang Formation of Liaoning Province in northwest China, New species of Rhamphorhynchid Pterosaur from the Late Jurassic Solnhofen Limestone, A new species of Tapejarid Pterodactyl from the Early Cretaceous Las Hoyas Lagerstätte of eastern Spain, Skull shape and diet in an Ornithocheiroid Pterodactyl and A new Pterosaur from the Early Cretaceous of Brazil.

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