|The perfectly preserved, 150 million year old |
fossil of Bellubrunnus rothgaengeri
Hundreds past it until a group of professional palaeontologists had a look. One was reported to have said 'how lovely, another Rhamphorhynchus.' However, David Hone from the University of Bristol saw something rather different. What leaped out at him was the incredible, complete nature of the fossil.
It was not just another Rhamphorhynchus.
The clinching feature was the ends of the wing bones which, unlike all other pterosaurs, curved back on the rest of the wing. In the end, he named the new species Bellubrunnus rothgaengeri or 'Brunn beauty' on account of its complete and well preserved nature. Pterosaurs were, by nature, fragile creature with light, hollow bones and thin wing membranes. Bellubrunnus's size, just 14 centimeters from head to tail and a 20 centimeter wingspan, would have increased its delicate state.
|An artist's impression of Bellubrunnus rothgaengeri|
Pterosaurs of that group possessed tails which consisted of overlapping rods of bone, creating a stiff, inflexible structure which helped stabilize the creatures in flight. By contrast, this creature had a flexible tail combined with back turned wings which would have destabilized its flight, but allowed it to make sharp, darting turns and dive quickly. This suggests that it was a completely aerial predator, possibly hunting insects and other flying creatures.
The Solnhofen Plattenkalk will continue to throw up new species of incredible significance. From the first birds to giant armored fish, aerial predators and ammonites, the limestone quarry is of the utmost importance to science. While commercial quarrying activities are in decline, and may even cease in the next few years, palaeontologists will continue to split the ancient, 150 million year old rocks to uncover the next generation of marvels.