Friday, 16 December 2011

Yet Another New Species Of Pterosaur

The fossils and a reconstruction of the skull of Pterofiltrus qiui
The Yixian Formation in the Liaoning Province of China is one of the most celebrated fossil localities on Earth. The remote rocks in the middle of a harsh scrub land have yielded a rich variety of creatures from small, rodent-like mammals to water- dwelling amphibians and reptiles, such as turtles, to dinosaurs both herbivorous and carnivorous. Many of the discoveries have been developmental, such as the early eutherian mammal Eomaia or the ancient bird Confuciusornis.

Now palaeontologists excavating at the early Cretaceous, siciliclastic rocks believe that they have discovered yet another new species: a member of those leather-winged flying reptiles, the pterosaurs. The team, led by Dr Jiang Shunxing and Dr Wang Xiaoli, discovered a strange skull. Analysis revealed it to be a pterosaur and radiometric dating gave it an age of 125 million years old. The skull was unlike that of any other flying reptile and led the team to the conclusion that it was an undescribed species.

They gave it a name of Pterofiltrus qiui in honour of Professor Qiu Zhanxiang. Its length of 20.8 centimetres, 112 teeth and slightly concave cranium, lacking in ornaments, showed the team that Pterofiltrus was part of a small pterosaur group called the ctenochasmatids.'The Jehol Biota comprises many pterosaurs and ctenochasmatids play a very important role' said Xiaoli. 'The amount of clade members is not big but this clade has more taxa than many others. This new member provides further information on the global distribution of the ctenochasmatid, in Asia, Europe and America.'