A new member of the ancient god pterosaur of the Rehe biota – Yixian Toothless Pterosaur

Ancient pterosaurs are a class of toothless pterosaurs, and all Chinese pterosaurs are found in the Early Cretaceous Rehe Group in western Liaoning. In 2002, Zhou Zhonghe, academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and researcher of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (hereinafter referred to as the Institute of Paleovertebrate Paleontology), and researcher Wang Xiaolin named Dong’s Chinese pterosaur, which is also the earliest member of the ancient god pterosaur discovered in China. Later, members of the ancient pterosaurs were found in large numbers in the Rehe biota, and the Chinese pterosaur genus is the most representative dominant group of the Jiufotang Formation of the Rehe Group.

Recently, Wang Xiaolin’s team of the Institute of Paleovertebrate cooperated with the School of Paleontology of Shenyang Normal University and the National Museum of Brazil to publish the latest results of the research on pterosaurs of the Rehe biogroup online in the international academic journal “Cretaceous Research”, and they discovered a new species of ancient god pterosaurs in the Rehe Qunyi County Formation of the Cretaceous under the Chaoyang of Liaoning Province – Yixian Toothless Pterodactyl.

Ecological restoration map of the toothless pterosaur in Yixian County. Zhao Chuanghua

As early as 2005, researchers reported a Lee’s Archodontosaur from the Yixian Formation, which was originally thought to be a member of the Pterodontidae, but phylogenetic analysis showed that Lee’s Ceratodontic Pterosaurus was not a toothless pterosaur, but a member of the Archaeopterosaur family.

The new material studied by the Paleovertebrate Institute this time is an almost complete fossil skeleton, providing more morphological evidence. According to the researchers, the specimen and Li’s Archodontosaurus are both from the Yixian Formation, and the special premaxillary morphology and the humerus deltoid crest are typical features of members of the ancient pterosaur family. Not only that, but most of the proportions of the posterior cephalic bones of both are similar to those of the Chinese genus, so the two are classified in the family Pterosaurs.

However, the researchers also found that they had a lower skull and a semicircular premaxillary crest process above the anterior orbital foramen and shorter nasal process than another member of the ancient pterosaur family, which supported the genus Archodontosaur as a member of the ancient pterosaur genus that was different from the Chinese pterosaur genus. Because the new material is lower and longer and the fourth wing phalangea is shorter than that of Lee’s Archodontosaur, a new species of the genus Ceratodontic pterosaur was established, Yixian Ceratodontic Pterodactyl.

Yixian was originally devoid of the fossil skeleton and skull of a new species of pterosaur. Photo courtesy of Zhang Xinjun

This study systematically analyzes the similarities and differences between members of the ancient pterosaurs in China by comparing the skeletal characteristics of ancient pterosaurs that have been reported in China. Because the skull of the genus Archedontosaur is lower and longer and older than that of the Chinese pterosaur genus, and at the same time, the skulls of the ancient pterosaur members found in China are obviously lower and older than those of the ancient pterosaur members in Brazil, which further supports the evolution of the skull of this group from low to short and high, and the study points out that Liaoxi is likely the origin of this taxa. (Source: Hu Minqi, China Science News)

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