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Pterosaur Discoveries, Information and News
vegetarian Wrote:A) Quetzalcoatlus northropi (12 m), B) Hatzegopteryx thambema (12 m), C) Aerotitan sudamericanus (5 m), D) Alanqa saharica (6 m), E) Arambourgiania philadelphiae (7 m), F) Bakonydraco galaczi (4 m), G) Montanazhdarcho minor (2.5 m), H) Phosphatodraco mauritanus (5 m), I) Volgadraco bogolubovi (4.3 m), J) Zhejiangopterus linhaiensis (5 m).

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Not the biggest, but this unnamed species was a big one!

Ancient Winged Terror Was One of the Largest Animals to Fly
A new pterosaur found in Mongolia had a 32-foot wingspan and likely feasted on baby dinosaurs.

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By John Pickrell

The fragmentary fossil of a truly enormous pterosaur has been found in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia. This formidable predator may have had a wingspan of 36 feet—close to the size a small aircraft and rivalling the largest winged reptiles known from Europe and North America.

The newly found giant lived 70 million years ago in a warm, inland habitat that was arid but not quite as dry as today. This late Cretaceous landscape was replete with dinosaurs, and their babies might have made ideal food for the huge carnivore, which could walk well on all fours and probably stalked its prey on the ground.

Part of a mysterious group known as the azhdarchids, the animal was probably one of the largest pterosaurs that ever lived, say the authors of a new report detailing the discovery in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

The team compares the creature to the two largest pterosaurs currently known: Quetzalcoatlus, found in Texas in the 1970s, and Hatzegopteryx, a stockier azhdarchid with a shorter neck found in Romania in the 1990s. 

Both of these pterosaurs had estimated wingspans of 32 to 36 feet. On the ground, they may have stood 18 feet high—about as tall as a large bull giraffe. There’s even a chance that the newfound animal was larger than these previously known winged behemoths, says Mark Witton, an expert on pterosaurs at the University of Portsmouth in the U.K.

The team has not yet named the Mongolian fossil as a new species, as its remains are so incomplete. But it does represent the first pterosaur of its size found in this part of the world.

“Although fragmentary, the specimen is from a gigantic individual … extending the geographic range of gigantic pterosaurs to Asia,” the scientists write.


Palaeontologists discovered the fossil in 2006 in a fossil-rich locality known as Gurilin Tsav in the bleak, treeless expanse of the western Gobi. There, team member Buuvei Mainbayar of the Mongolian Academy of Sciences found part of the first vertebra and showed it to lead author Takanobu Tsuihiji at the University of Tokyo.

“I immediately recognized that it might be a pterosaur and was astonished at its gigantic size,” says Tsuihiji. “Straight away, we went back to the site and discovered the rest of the specimen.”

The fossil bones were so broken that they couldn’t interpret them at first. That took years of “puzzle work,” he says, that eventually yielded several backbones with the characteristic shape of vertebrae from azhdarchid pterosaurs. “I was very excited,” adds Tsuihiji.

“It’s a really big vertebra, and the only thing comparable is some material from Romania,” comments Witton, who was not involved in the new discovery. “This is definitely up there with the largest pterosaurs, and there’s nothing like it from Asia so far.”

One of the neck bones from a giant Jordanian azhdarchid called Aramabourgiania is just over two inches wide, he adds, while the same bone in the new Gobi pterosaur is nearly eight inches across. 

“Whether that equates to a totally new size class of pterosaur is another question,” Witton says. “What we don’t have for these pterosaurs is the association of the neck bones with the body to confirm whether they just have much bigger necks, or whether they are much bigger animals.”

His gut feeling, however, is that although these thick-necked giants from Mongolia and Romania may have been a little heftier in overall weight, they would still have had wingspans in the 32- to 36-foot range, as that is approaching the size limit for flight in a pterosaur of this kind.

“It might have been this quite robust, formidable predator” capable of taking human-size prey, Witton suggests. “They seem to be feeding on things on the ground and are generalist in their ability to grab basically whatever they can fit in their beaks.”

The Gobi azhdarchid would not have been an apex predator, as Hatzegopteryx was in late Cretaceous Romania. That’s because the newfound pterosaur lived alongside Tarbosaurus, a relative of T. rex that weighed at least 5.5 tons. Luckily for the winged giant, it probably was not on the tyrannosaur menu—scientists think the azhdarchids could have catapulted themselves skyward from a standing start in a matter of seconds.

“There were probably easier things to catch,” Witton says. “It’s going to be difficult for a large predator to close that ground very quickly if they are ambushing them.”

Journal Reference:
Tsuihiji, T., B. Andres, P. M. O'Connor, M. Watabe, K. Tsogtbaatar, and B. Mainbayar. 2017. Gigantic pterosaurian remains from the Upper Cretaceous of Mongolia. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. DOI: 10.1080/02724634.2017.1361431.

Fragmentary cervical vertebral elements of a gigantic pterosaur are described from the upper Campanian–Maastrichtian Nemegt Formation in the Gobi Desert. With an estimated width of a posterior centrum across the postexapophyses of 198 mm, this taxon represents one of the largest pterosaurs currently known. This is the first discovery of a pterosaur from the Nemegt Formation, adding further evidence that gigantic pterosaurs were widely distributed in Eurasia and North America during the latest Cretaceous. 
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World's Largest Pterosaur Jawbone Discovered in Transylvania

By Laura Geggel, Senior Writer | May 25, 2018 07:00am ET

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The reconstructed skull of Dracula, another pterosaur found in the same region of Romania as the newly analyzed specimen.
Credit: Axel Schmidt/Dinosaurier Museum

The largest pterosaur jawbone on record has just been analyzed, and it's so big that it likely helped the prehistoric beast gulp down freshwater turtles and large dinosaur eggs for dinner more than 66 million years ago, a new study finds.

The fossil of the pterosaur's robust lower jaw is a mere 7.4 inches (18.8 centimeters) long, but the jawbone likely measured longer than a yardstick — or between 37 and 43 inches (94 and 110 cm) — when the reptile was alive, the researchers wrote in the study.

This absurdly long jaw is "more than three times the size of the complete, 290-millimeter-long [11.4 inches] holotype mandible of Bakonydraco," a pterosaur that appears to be closely related to the newly analyzed creature, the researchers wrote in the study.

Study co-researcher Dan Grigorescu, a geologist at the University of Bucharest in Romania, collected the fossilized jawbone at the junction of two creeks in the Hațeg Basin, near the village of Vặlioara, which is in Transylvania, Romania, in 1984. But the fossil wasn't recognized as belonging to a pterosaur until 2011, when lead study researcher Mátyás Vremir, a geologist at the Transylvanian Museum Society, and study co-researcher Gareth Dyke, a paleontologist at the University of Debrecen in Hungary, realized its importance, according to National Geographic.

During the Cretaceous period, when this pterosaur was alive, Hațeg Basin was an island inhabited by dwarf dinosaurs, which were smaller than their counterparts on the mainland. Vremir unearthed the fossilized remains of one of these weird, stocky dinosaurs — a predator known as Balaur bondoc — in 2009, Live Science previously reported.

But Hațeg is also known for large pterosaurs, including Hatzegopteryx, which likely stood as tall as a giraffe, with a wingspan of up to 36 feet (10.9 meters). Another pterosaur from Hațeg, nicknamed Dracula, had an even larger wingspan of up to 39 feet (12 m).

"Islands are notorious for throwing up oddities. We have a bunch of weird dinosaurs from Hațeg and a lack of really big carnivores, so the pterosaurs were basically tyrannosaur surrogates," Dave Hone, a paleontologist at Queen Mary University of London in England, told National Geographic.

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The newly studied specimen is slightly smaller than Dracula, shown here.
Credit: Dinosaurier Museum

But just because the newly studied pterosaur — which has yet to be scientifically named — has the largest jawbone ever found, it doesn't necessarily mean it was the biggest pterosaur on record, the researchers said. Rather, it probably had a wingspan of over 26 feet (8 m) and likely belonged to a family of pterosaurs known as the Azhdarchids, the researchers wrote in the study.

"It's always exciting to see new Azhdarchid material in the literature, especially fossils of giant pterosaurs," Kierstin Rosenbach, a doctoral student in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Michigan who wasn't involved in the study, told Live Science.

The researchers discussed the different sizes and shapes of Azhdarchid pterosaurs — characteristics that are much appreciated by paleontologists who study pterosaurs, she said. That's because there appears to be a division within Azhdarchidae that the researchers elaborated on: "The authors state that Azhdarchids could have either long necks with thin skulls or short necks with robust skulls," Rosenbach said.

So, which camp does the newly analyzed pterosaur fall into? It's likely "a robust, short-skulled azhdarchid," the researchers said in the study.

Journal Reference:
Mátyás Vremir Gareth Dyke Zoltán Csiki‐Sava Dan Grigorescu Eric Buffetau, Partial mandible of a giant pterosaur from the uppermost Cretaceous (Maastrichtian) of the Hațeg Basin, Romania First published: 17 April 2018

We describe and interpret a posterior mandibular symphysis of a very large azhdarchid pterosaur. The specimen LPB (FGGUB) R.2347 exhibits a series of morphological characters present in both azhdarchid and tapejarid pterosaurs, suggesting a more basal position within the clade Azhdarchidae. This fossil was collected from Maastrichtian continental deposits near Vălioara in the Hațeg Basin, Romania, but cannot be confidently referred to the contemporaneous giant Hatzegopteryx thambema, also from Vălioara, due to the absence of overlapping skeletal elements. Remarkably, this mandibular symphysis shares a number of features the smaller azhdarchoid Bakonydraco galaczi from the Santonian of Hungary. Additional comparisons with previously described large‐sized azhdarchid mandibles indicate a certain degree of morphological and probably ecological disparity within the group. This specimen represents the largest pterosaur mandible ever found and provides insights into the anatomy of the enigmatic giant pterosaurs. 
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Jurassic diet: Why our knowledge of what ancient pterosaurs ate might be wrong

Research reveals knowledge of prehistoric diets is often based on outdated ideas and could be inaccurate

Date: June 7, 2018
Source: University of Leicester
Research reveals knowledge of prehistoric diets is often based on outdated ideas and could be inaccurate.

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Restoration of the giant azhdarchid pterosaur Hatzegopteryx catching an unsuspecting dinosaur for supper. In addition to carnivory, azhdarchids have been hypothesized to have eaten fish, insects, fruits, hard-shelled organisms or a combination of them all.
Credit: Mark P. Witton/CC BY 4.0

Whenever we think about extinct animals we often imagine them eating their favourite meals, whether it be plants, other animals or a combination of both.
But are our ideas about extinct diets grounded within scientific reasoning, or are they actually little more than conjecture and speculation?
New research, published in Biological Reviews and led by a team of palaeobiologists from the University of Leicester, has revealed that the diets of pterosaurs are largely based on ideas that have been uncritically accepted for decades, or even centuries -- and may often be wrong.
The study shows that one group of extinct animals where our dietary knowledge is lacking are the pterosaurs; extinct flying reptiles who lived in the Mesozoic Period 215-66 million years ago.
The research involved a comprehensive analysis of the scientific literature, summarising over 300 statements from 126 studies about the diets of pterosaurs, and the types of evidence used to support ideas of what they ate.
The research shows the vast majority of ideas about pterosaur diet are based on inferences drawn from modern organisms and/or the environments in which pterosaur fossils are preserved. These are not always reliable.
Jordan Bestwick, a PhD student from the School of Geography, Geology and the Environment, and lead author of the study, said: "Working out the diets of extinct animals is vitally important for understanding how they fitted within their respective ecosystems, which can tell us about how present ecosystems function and may change in the future.
"Being able to robustly test ideas is a key attribute of the scientific process, and helps us fully understand what we can know about the lifestyles of extinct animals, and what we can never know."
Analysis reveals that over sixty percent of all hypotheses of pterosaur diet are based on simplistic anatomical comparisons between pterosaurs and modern organisms, particularly of the skulls and teeth. A key problem with this is that many of these interpretations are difficult, if not impossible, to test.
Jordan explained: "The potential range of pterosaur diets has been reviewed in the past but little attention has been paid to the evidence, if any, that support dietary interpretations. We realised that not only was it important to discover what we know about pterosaur diets, but to also find out how we know what we know about pterosaur diets.
"We find for some pterosaurs there is strong agreement among researchers as to their likely diet. Pteranodontids for example, which include one of the best known pterosaurs, Pteranodon, are almost unanimously agreed to have been fish feeders, an idea that is independently supported by multiple lines of evidence.
"In contrast, there is far less agreement as to what the giant azhdarchid pterosaurs ate. Azhdarchids can reach sizes of up to 10 metres or more in wingspan, like Hatzegopteryx, and there have been at least six different diets argued for these pterosaurs."
This is not to say there are no methods or techniques that yield reliable evidence for understanding diets in these extinct animals. Biomechanical analysis of how hard pterosaurs could bite, and flight modelling that predicts how pterosaurs may have foraged for food have proven useful for understanding what some pterosaurs may or may not have eaten.
However techniques like these are employed in a small minority of studies and as such, it is currently not possible to identify the biological reasons that might explain the range and diversity of pterosaurs diets.
Dr David Hone from the Queen Mary University of London, who was not involved in the study, commented: "This is an important summary of what we know (and what we don't) about what these animals fed on. This gives pterosaur researchers an excellent and critical starting point and a roadmap for future research on the diets of pterosaurs, and more broadly for all extinct animals."

Story Source: University of Leicester. "Jurassic diet: Why our knowledge of what ancient pterosaurs ate might be wrong: Research reveals knowledge of prehistoric diets is often based on outdated ideas and could be inaccurate." ScienceDaily. (accessed June 8, 2018).

Journal Reference:
  1. Jordan Bestwick, David M. Unwin, Richard J. Butler, Donald M. Henderson, Mark A. Purnell. Pterosaur dietary hypotheses: a review of ideas and approaches. Biological Reviews, 2018; DOI: 10.1111/brv.12431
Pterosaurs are an extinct group of Mesozoic flying reptiles, whose fossil record extends from approximately 210 to 66 million years ago. They were integral components of continental and marginal marine ecosystems, yet their diets remain poorly constrained. Numerous dietary hypotheses have been proposed for different pterosaur groups, including insectivory, piscivory, carnivory, durophagy, herbivory/frugivory, filter‐feeding and generalism. These hypotheses, and subsequent interpretations of pterosaur diet, are supported by qualitative (content fossils, associations, ichnology, comparative anatomy) and/or quantitative (functional morphology, stable isotope analysis) evidence. Pterosaur dietary interpretations are scattered throughout the literature with little attention paid to the supporting evidence. Reaching a robustly supported consensus on pterosaur diets is important for understanding their dietary evolution, and their roles in Mesozoic ecosystems. A comprehensive examination of the pterosaur literature identified 314 dietary interpretations (dietary statement plus supporting evidence) from 126 published studies. Multiple alternative diets have been hypothesised for most principal taxonomic pterosaur groups. Some groups exhibit a high degree of consensus, supported by multiple lines of evidence, while others exhibit less consensus. Qualitative evidence supports 87.3% of dietary interpretations, with comparative anatomy most common (62.1% of total). More speciose groups of pterosaur tend to have a greater range of hypothesised diets. Consideration of dietary interpretations within alternative phylogenetic contexts reveals high levels of consensus between equivalent monofenestratan groups, and lower levels of consensus between equivalent non‐monofenestratan groups. Evaluating the possible non‐biological controls on apparent patterns of dietary diversity reveals that numbers of dietary interpretations through time exhibit no correlation with patterns of publication (number of peer‐reviewed publications through time). 73.8% of dietary interpretations were published in the 21st century. Overall, consensus interpretations of pterosaur diets are better accounted for by non‐biological signals, such as the impact of the respective quality of the fossil record of different pterosaur groups on research levels. That many interpretations are based on qualitative, often untestable lines of evidence adds significant noise to the data. More experiment‐led pterosaur dietary research, with greater consideration of pterosaurs as organisms with independent evolutionary histories, will lead to more robust conclusions drawn from repeatable results. This will allow greater understanding of pterosaur dietary diversity, disparity and evolution and facilitate reconstructions of Mesozoic ecosystems.

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Look like pterosaurs eat more than just fish.

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