Wednesday 21 August 2013

A small Pterosaur from the Early Cretaceous of the Isle of Wight.

The Pterosaurs were an extinct group of flying Reptiles that existed from the late Triassic to the end of the Cretaceous Period (210 to 65.5 million years ago). They are thought to have been warm blooded, as  many specimens have been found that appear to have had fury skins. Their wings were flaps of skin membrane, similar to that of Bats, supported by elongated fourth fingers and attached to the flanks of the body and legs. Unlike Birds they appear to have been capable of flying before reaching their full adult size, and appear to have taken several years to reach maturity.

In a paper published in the journal PLoS One on 18 March 2013, Darren Naish, Martin Simpson and Gareth Dyke of Ocean and Earth Sciences at the University of Southampton, describe a new Pterosaur from pelvic girdle and associated vertebrae of a subadult animal from the Early Cretaceous of the Isle of Wight.

The specimen is described as a new species and given the name Vectidraco daisymorrisae, where 'Vectidraco' means 'Dragon from the Isle of Wight' (Vectis is an old name for the Isle of White, and is often used in the names of fossils) and 'daisymorrisae' honors Daisy Morris of Niton Primary School, who discovered the fossil. The specimen was found in a fallen block from a landslide at Atherton Point on the Island, from which it was starting to weather out at the time of discovery. It is thought to derive from the Deshayesites fittoni Subzone of the Aptian Stage, making it about 124 million years old. 

Vectidraco daisymorrisae. (A) Specimen as seen from left side, showing lateral surface of left side of pelvis and associated vertebrae; (B) specimen as seen from right side, showing medial surface of left side of pelvis and associated vertebrae; C, specimen in dorsal view, anterior pointing down; (D) specimen in ventral view, anterior pointing down. Naish et al. (2013).

The material is thought to derive from a Pterosaur around 350 mm in length with a wingspan of 750 mm. It's precise taxonomic position was hard to assess precisely on the limited material available, though it was placed within the Superfamily Azdarchoidea, the group which includes the Azhdarchids and Tapejarids, amongst other groups.

Speculative reconstruction of Vectidraco daisymorrisaeNaish et al. (2013).

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