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One in a Million

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By Qilong   |   
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Pterorhynchus has a storied history, and much of it has nothing to do with being a pterosaur, but more interesting than that is the presence of unique features on the slab. When the material was first recovered, much of it was buried under matrix, and little was doctored. This allowed preparators to peel off layers of sandstone finely and efficiently, resulting in several interesting and fascinating discoveries, which cannot be attributed to the nature of hoaxes, due in large part to recorded photography of the specimen during preparation, before, and after.

This image is based on the results after the specimen was published, after it was fully prepared. This shows several features that are worth mentioning:

1) It has a long, gracile skull, with a long nasoantorbital region subdivided (barely) by the nasal, which normally separates the nares and antoribital fenestra in basal pterosaurs; here, it resembles the condition in early pterodactyloids;

2) however, unlike pterodactyloids, Pterorhynchus preserves an elongated tail, with over 30 vertebrae in it, as well as a short metacarpal IV, which supports the wing finger, features of nonpterodactyloids;

3) the hyoid bones of the throat, which in most animals that have them support the musculature of the tongue, rear throat, and vocal cords, are HUGE;

4) there appears to be a large gular sac, or throat pouch, and this may be associated with the hyoid bones, although in normal gular'd animals such as pelicans or the average anole, the hyoids are very thin and slender, so this animal was doing something different with its "togue bones";

5) the tail is associated with unusual preservation of soft-tissue remnant of a segmented ornamentation on two sides, which are here intepreted as dorsal and ventral due to the asymmetrical arrangement of the elements (the "ventral" features are shorter).

All in all, Pterorhynchus is sorta "one in a million", an animal on the cusp between two large grades of pterosaurs, the short-tailed/large-headed pterodactyloids, and the long-tailed/broad-headed "rhamphorhynchoids", and it may not be either as a result, but a little of both.
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Comments44
anonymous's avatar
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Atlantis536's avatar
Atlantis536Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Somehow, I think of it as a cross of Pterodactylus and Rhamphorhyncus!
Orionide5's avatar
What a strange pterosaur; it looks almost like a dragon with the long snout and spiky tail.
Qilong's avatar
It does have that sort of draconic look to it, doesn't it?
ShinyAquaBlueRibbon's avatar
ShinyAquaBlueRibbonStudent General Artist
Do you know where I could find some of the photographs you mentioned? I can't find any pictures of the fossils on the internet.
ShinyAquaBlueRibbon's avatar
ShinyAquaBlueRibbonStudent General Artist
It says "Page not found"...

Thank you, though! XD
ShinyAquaBlueRibbon's avatar
ShinyAquaBlueRibbonStudent General Artist
YAAAAAAAY! :happybounce: Thank you!!!
Algoroth's avatar
AlgorothProfessional General Artist
Fascinating! :sherlock: This must be looked into more!!!! :sherlock:
Qilong's avatar
It is under works, I hear.
Algoroth's avatar
AlgorothProfessional General Artist
Good! :sherlock: Vee haff vays of finding out things!!!!! :sherlock:
cryptidsaurian's avatar
cryptidsaurianHobbyist Traditional Artist
did you mean when you said feathers? because i knew some pterosaurs had fur but none with feathers (unless this actually had feathers)
Qilong's avatar
Hmmm ... I may not have written "feathers." I said "features" once. What are you referring to?

As for the beard or the integument, the first is speculative and I won't comment further on it; the second is based on a study by various authors in which the "hair-like" covering many pterosaurs, especially anurognathids, pterodactylids, etc., have been preserved with was called pycnofibres, and are analogouys to dinosaurian stage I "feathers" and mammalian "hair," but they may not be homologous.
cryptidsaurian's avatar
cryptidsaurianHobbyist Traditional Artist
i misread it, i was really tired upon reading si sorry, also is there any way to determine if the structure of pterosaur "fur" or pyconfibres as you said and mammilian fur are different?
Qilong's avatar
They seem to have different evolutionary origins. Both dinofuzz (feathers) and pycnofibers occur in groups with more basal scaled members. This is also true in mammals, where scaly or glandular skin precedes fur. They are different by origin. Structurally, they are similar, but still distinct.
cryptidsaurian's avatar
cryptidsaurianHobbyist Traditional Artist
hm ok thanks for telling me :)
NTamura's avatar
Nice!
I am intrigued by the segmented ornamentation you said is preserved as soft tissue impressions in the fossil. Czerkas did not mention it in his original 2002 paper and his life reconstruction just depict a broadened tail without any segmentation. Is there a new paper out or in preparation describing all these intriguing features? Thanks...
Qilong's avatar
The fossil underwent two stages of preparation, the first before Czerckas, and thr second after the fossil was returned to China. This new prep is unpublished.
NTamura's avatar
Thanks for the info. I wish somebody will publish a full description of this pterosaur some day...
MattMart's avatar
MattMartHobbyist Digital Artist
Hi NT! Sorry to but in but just followed this trail from your journal post. The segmentation is pretty evident in the fossil, and Czerkas did include it in some of his models. See the pdf here:
[link]

If you look closely you can see the tail in his model is segmented.
NTamura's avatar
Thanks! I haven't seen that pdf. I was referring to the original paper by Czerkas and the following illustration which came with it:
[link]
Did Czerkas or somebody else published a second paper with a more detailed description of the fossil?
MattMart's avatar
MattMartHobbyist Digital Artist
Not that I know of. People seem to be wary of Czerkas' specimens due to their dislike of his somewhat shoddy self-publication of the descriptions as well as the fact that until recently (or still?) they've been in a touring exhibition and unavailable for study.
NTamura's avatar
A pity for this unique fossil... I don't seem to be able to find a good picture of the specimen. Do you happen to have one?
MattMart's avatar
MattMartHobbyist Digital Artist
The only image I have is the one from that pdf unfortunately. :(
anonymous's avatar
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