The Rehe biota discovers new members of the family Pterodactylidae

The Nine Buddhas Group has different morphological types of teeth in the family Pterodactylidae. A-B: Campos Lingyuan Pterodactyl; C-D: Chinese Sail Pterodactyl; E: Nurhaci pterodactyl

Specimen of Campos Lingyuan Pterodactyl (Courtesy of Xu Yizhi)

Recently, the international academic journal PeerJ published online the latest results of Wang Xiaolin’s team of researcher Wang Xiaolin of the Institute of Paleontology and Paleoanthropology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences on the research of the Rehe biota Pterosaur. The study reported and described in detail a new genus of the Family Pterodactylidae, Lingyuanopterus camposi, found in the Jiufotang Formation of the Lingyuan Rehe Group in Liaoning Province. Its genus name comes from the fossil origin of Lingyuan, and the real name of the species is dedicated to Brazilian paleontologist Diogenes de Almeida Campos, who has made important contributions to the collaborative research of Sino-Brazilian paleontology, especially pterosaurs.

Pterodactyls are a branch of Pterodactyls with morphological features such as relatively large anterior nasal orbital foramen and distribution limited to the anterior part of the upper and lower jaws, smaller and strongly flattened teeth, and are generally considered a class of scavenger pterosaurs due to their teeth suitable for cutting corpses. The known distribution range of the family ” Rhinolopheae ” is relatively limited , found only in northeastern China and Western Europe during the Early Cretaceous Barrem-Apt period.

The earliest reported members of this genre were found in the Vectis group on the Isle of Wight, England, and were grouped into the genus Diplodocus in 1901 by the British paleontologist Seely, named Diplodocus macrolodons. However, in subsequent studies, the model species of the genus Diplodocus was identified as a theropod dinosaur, so a new genus was established for the original Broad-toothed Ornitosaurus, which became Theronosaurus.

China’s early Cretaceous Rehe biota is the most abundant area of fossils of the family Pterodactylidae. Nurhaciferosaurus was the first reported member of the Rehe biota of the Pterodactylidae.

Chinese pterosaurs similar to the model species Broad-toothed Pterodactyls were reported in the Rehe biota in 2006, and in the same year the short-jawed Liaoxi Pterodactyls, which belonged to the family Comb-jawed Pterosaurs in previous studies, were also classified as pterosaurs.

In 2008, Wang Xiaolin’s research team reported that the original pterosaur member of the family Pterosaurus was Lake Red Mountain Pterodactyl, and some scholars believed that Lake Red Mountain Pterodactyl did not belong to the Family Pterodactylidae, but was a more basic member of the superfamily Toothless Pterodactyl. Previously found in China, all members of the Fan Pterodactyl family were from the Jiufotang Formation, until 2020, when the first member of the Fan Pterodactyl family from the Yixian Group was discovered, the Heron Winged Dragon.

The specimen of Campos Lingyuan Pterodactyl is from the Jiufotang Formation in Lingyuan, Liaoning Province, and contains the nearly complete skull, mandibular and atlantoaxial vertebrae of a sub-adult individual, with a skull nearly 31 cm long.

The study also used flat CT scanning technology to reveal more anatomical information, and it was found that it had some important anatomical features: the anterior and posterior edges of the posterior tooth crown had sharp ridges, the combined mandibular group accounted for about 1/4 of the total length of the mandibular, the yoke orbital posterior bone branch had orbital processes, the yoke lacriary bone branch was 3/4 longer than the height of the anterior nasoral foramen, and the lacrimal bone yoke branch was long and sharp. These morphological features can distinguish them from other members of the family Pterodactylidae.

In addition, in previous studies , the Pterodactylidae were generally considered to be a class of pterosaurs that did not have spiral jaw joints , but this study found that members of the genus Nurhachiptera and the newly discovered Campos Lingyuan Pterosaurs had spiral jaw joints.

The genus Of Pterodactyls, Nurhachiptera and the newly discovered Genus Lingyuan Pterosaur of the Nine Buddhas Group represent three different types of tooth morphology, indicating that there are certain differences in feeding among the members of the Nine Buddhas Group.

Similarly, the various tooth morphologies of the family Pterodactylidae were found in the Wessex Group earlier in the British era, indicating that there was some similarity between the pterosaur combinations in the Rehe biota of northeast China in the Early Cretaceous Britain.

The specimen of Campos Lingyuan Pterodactyl also contains a sturgeon and four suspected aggregates of food residues (bromalites) formed by all the remains of food components that remain in or are excreted after entering the animal’s digestive tract.

The researchers found a number of fish fragments in these aggregates, especially two fish vertebrae on one of them, which is a record of fish-containing pterosaur food residues after the previous reports by Wang Xiaolin’s research team on the fecal fossils containing fish skeleton fragments of the hunter Ghost Dragon in the Rehe biota and the fish-scaled food mass fossils of Kunpeng pterosaurs in the Yanliao biota.

Although the pterosaur family is generally considered a class of scavenger pterosaurs, the front teeth of the snout of campos lingyuan pterosaurs do not have obvious adaptation to cutting, and combined with morphological and suspected evidence of food residues, fishing may also form part of their feeding. Evidence of the feeding habits of neopteratops is of great significance for understanding the feeding habits and paleoecology of the Rehe biota Pterodactylosaurus.

The research was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Strategic Pilot Project of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (B) and the Youth Promotion Association of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. (Source: China Science Daily Cui Xueqin)

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