New toothed flying reptile found from the Early Creataceous of Western Liaoning, China

March 23, 2012
Fig.1: Holotype of Guidraco venator (IVPP V17083), from the Early Cretaceous Jiufotang Formation of western Liaoning, China: complete specimen (a), scal bar 5 cm; cervical vertebrae (b), scal bar 3 cm; and coprolites (c, d), scal bars 1 cm. Credit: WANG Xiaolin

Although paleontologists have greatly increase the pterosaur diversity in the last decades, particularly due to discoveries made in western Liaoning, China, very little is known regarding pterosaur biogeography. An international team led by Dr. WANG Xiaolin, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, described a new pterosaur, Guidraco venator gen. et sp. nov., from the Early Creataceous Jiufotang Formation, western Lianing, China, adding significantly to our knowledge of pterosaur distribution and enhancing the diversity of cranial anatomy found in those volant creatures, researchers report in the April 2012 issue of the journal of Naturwissenschaften.

The specimen, skull with most elements articulated or in close association and the anterior portion of a neck, was unearthed from the Early Cretaceous Jiufotang Formation, Sihedang, Lingyuan City, western Liaoning, China. The skull is 380 mm long (measured between the tip of the premaxillae and the posterior margin of the squamosal), with the rostrum (length: 205 mm) occupying 54% of the cranial length.

Fig.2: Line drawing (a) and reconstruction (b) of Guidraco venator (IVPP V17083), Scale bars 5 cm. Credit: WANG Xiaolin

Guidraco has a nasoantorbital fenestra, a typical trait of the Pterodactyloidea. It has an unusual upward-directed frontal crest and large rostral teeth, some of which surpass the margins of the skull and lower jaw when occluded. It differs from the pteranodontoid Istiodactylidae and the Pteranodontidae by features such as the dentition and the shape of the nasoantobital fenestra. A frontal crest is present in pteranodontids but, in all cases, differs from that of Guidraco.

The cranial morphology clearly indicates that Guidraco is closely related to a rare taxon, Ludodactylus, from the Brazilian Crato Formation of Araripe Basin, with whom it shares the rounded ventral margin of the orbit and an extensive frontal crest. The main differences found in the Chinese taxon that justifies the separation at a generic level are the more inclined rostral teeth, the direction and position of the frontal crest, the absence of a spike-like lacrimal process, the comparatively smaller nasoantorbital fenestra, and the more constricted ventral portion of lower temporal fenestra. Luddodactylus was reported to bear a dentary crest, but none could be found in Guidraco.

“Our overall knowledge regarding the distribution of those volant vertebrates is still very limited compared to other Mesozoic reptiles such as nonavian dinosaurs. In particular, the paucity of the African record, where most specimens are rather incomplete, hampers a more comprehensive knowledge of the pterosaur evolutionary history. Nonetheless, there have been suggestions that several of the main Early Cretaceous pterodactyloid clades may have originated in Asia such as the Anhangueridae and the Tapejaridae. The occurrence of Guidraco is consistent with that hypothesis”, said study coauthor Alexander W. A. Kellner, professor at the Laboratory of Systematics and Taphonomy of Fossil Vertebrates, Department of Geology and Paleontology, Museu Nacional Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), Brazil.

“Several cranial elements such as the frontal and the premaxillae are unfused suggesting that this was a subadult animal at time of death”, said WANG Xiaolin, lead author and project designer, “The association of the new specimen with coprolites and the cranial morphology suggest that Guidraco venator preyed on fish”.

Explore further: New Scaphognathid Pterosaur found from Western Liaoning, China

More information: This study was mainly supported by the National Science Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars and the National Basic Research Program of China (973 Program).

Related Stories

New Eosauropterygian found in Eastern Yunnan, China

June 1, 2011

The marine Triassic deposits in southwestern China have yielded numerous vertebrate fossils (ichthyosaurians, sauropterygians, thalattosaurians, and fishes). A new eosauropterygian, Diandongosaurus acutidentatus gen. et sp. ...

Brain Endocast of Nanjing 1 Homo erectus Reconstructed

June 22, 2011

Endocasts are the most direct evidence for studying human brain evolution. Endocasts can provide information on brain size, general shape, morphology, and anatomical features of the external surface. Dr. WU Xiujie, Institute ...

Recommended for you

Ancient parrot fossil found in Siberia

October 26, 2016

(—A Russian paleontologist has discovered a parrot fossil uncovered in Siberia several years ago—the first evidence of parrots living in Asia. In his paper published in Biology Letters, Nikita Zelenkov describes ...

Ancient burials suggestive of blood feuds

October 24, 2016

There is significant variation in how different cultures over time have dealt with the dead. Yet, at a very basic level, funerals in the Sonoran Desert thousands of years ago were similar to what they are today. Bodies of ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Mar 23, 2012
I think they used to call those " Dragons ".

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.