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Harpactognathus gentryii

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My entry for #MorrisonWeek: a restoration of the pterosaur Harpactognathus gentryii, one of the few pterosaurs known from the Morrison formation. The Morrison Formation is famous for its dinosaur fossils, specially those of giant sauropods, but there are plenty of remains that belong to other animals: mammals, crocodiles, fish, turtles... and some pterosaur remains. Those of Harpactognathus were found in Wyoming, in rocks belonging to the Salt Wash Member. At at 155 million years old, this part of the formation includes a lower number of fossils than the younger Brushy Basin Member, which contains other pterosaur genera, like Kepodactylus and Mesadactylus.

Though only known from fragments of the skull and the jaw, it is thought that Harpactognathus was the largest known member of its family, the rhamphorhynchids: the head was around 30cm long, and the estimated wingspan is 2.5m, larger than any other long-tailed pterosaur. The skull shows that it had a crest over its head, though it wasn't a bony one. Harpactognathus was a carnivore, probably a fish eater; however, here I depicted it predating a small dinosaur, similar to Hesperornithoides. I guess that, being the largest flying carnivore in the area, it could have also had a more varied diet.
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© 2021 DiegoOA
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RWGN's avatar

Seems like it's using lipstick. I liked the details in the feathers.

DiegoOA's avatar

Thanks! :) Things got a bit nasty when the pterosaur went for a meal^^;

SpeculaTimsauru5's avatar

Now I picture that one scene from the David Attenborough pterosaur documentary, but with this guy instead of Darwinopterus.

DiegoOA's avatar

Nice:D What was the scene about? I remember watching trailers, but not the documentary itself

SpeculaTimsauru5's avatar

They were talking about the earlier pterosaurs, the ones with long tails and how they had been evolving a bit more to thrive in certain environments.

They then talk about Darwinopterus and how it was (presumably) an areal predator of the forests. And the show a scene of it nabbing and killing an Anchiornis. Funnily enough Anchiornis was twice the size of Darwinopterus IRL so that scene wouldn't happen in real life.


But now with this guy out and about... maybe.

DiegoOA's avatar

Oh, I see. I remember Witton talking about that "paleomeme" some years ago. But yeah, with these other guys the jurassic skies would have certainly be more dangerous :D

There is Sericipterus, which was also a big member of the family and was found closer to Anchiornis, in NW China (still a bit far though)

Inmyarmsinmyarms's avatar

Actually I think there were a few papers defuting a mostly piscivorous diet. Mark Witton interprets scaphognathines as mostly analogous to modern corvids.

DiegoOA's avatar

Thanks for the info, I might reword the description. I saw texts talking about the 2 hypothesis, though think this genus was moved to another subfamily recently, the rhamphorhynchines (the point for Harpactognathus could still be valid though)

Given the Morrison environment, this thing actually makes more sense as a hunter of small vertebrates and large arthropods. Certainly has a sturdy enough skull for something like that....

DiegoOA's avatar

It certainly had a massive head :D I guess it might have had a more terrestrial-based diet, or it could have been like fishing eagles, which eat mostly fish but don't mind hunting birds and other animals

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