Now a new species of flying reptile has been discovered. While all new species are important news, this particular specimen is significant for two main reasons. The first is that it was discovered in Britain, a country not well known for pterosaur diversity. The second is rather more amusing. The creature was given the nickname of torydactyl, as its rather pointy head is reminiscent of a caricature of the Tory MP and ex prime minister Margaret Thatcher by British, satirical artist, Gerald Scarfe.
Yet what is this new pterosaur? The specimen in question a single, well preserved, 33 centimetre long skull, was discovered in the Jurassic Kimmeridge Clay by amateur palaeontologist and fossil enthusiast Steve Etches. It was handed over to Dr David Martill from the University of Portsmouth who subsequently identified it as a new species and named it Cuspicephalus scarfi. 'It is also remarkable to find such a complete skull, allowing us to identify the species more easily' he stated.
|The fossil skull, a virtual image of the |
bones and the complete reconstruction
Dr Martill also believes that Cuspicephalus is important for its place in evolution.'We believe this discovery is significant because it seems to be filling a gap between primitive, small, long-tailed pterosaurs evolving into a more advanced short-tailed form.' The fossil is now on display in Dorset's Museum of Jurassic Marine Life. Baroness Thatcher still has yet to make a statement about her views on her new prehistoric counterpart or on Mr Scarfe's caricature.