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One in a Million



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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Atlantis536's avatar
Somehow, I think of it as a cross of Pterodactylus and Rhamphorhyncus!