An international team of paleontologists led by Dr. Xiaolin Wang of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology has discovered a new species of pterosaur in western Lianing, China.
The new species called Guidraco venator is described in the April issue of the journal Naturwissenschaften.
The specimen of this flying reptile, which lived about 120 million years ago, – a skull with most elements articulated or in close association and the anterior portion of a neck – was collected from the Early Cretaceous Jiufotang Formation, Lingyuan City, western Liaoning, China.
The skull is 380 mm long with the rostrum occupying 54% of the cranial length.
G. venator has a nasoantorbital fenestra, a typical trait of the Pterodactyloidea. It has an unusual upward-directed frontal crest and large rostral teeth, some of which surpass the margins of the skull and lower jaw when occluded.
It differs from the pteranodontoid Istiodactylidae and the Pteranodontidae by features such as the dentition and the shape of the nasoantobital fenestra. A frontal crest is present in pteranodontids but, in all cases, differs from that of Guidraco.
The cranial morphology clearly indicates that Guidraco is closely related to a rare taxon Ludodactylus from the Brazilian Crato Formation of Araripe Basin, with whom it shares the rounded ventral margin of the orbit and an extensive frontal crest.
The main differences found in the Chinese taxon that justifies the separation at a generic level are the more inclined rostral teeth, the direction and position of the frontal crest, the absence of a spike-like lacrimal process, the comparatively smaller nasoantorbital fenestra, and the more constricted ventral portion of lower temporal fenestra. Luddodactylus was reported to bear a dentary crest, but none could be found in Guidraco.
“Our overall knowledge regarding the distribution of those volant vertebrates is still very limited compared to other Mesozoic reptiles such as nonavian dinosaurs,” said Dr. Alexander Kellner, a co-author on the study and a professor at Museu Nacional Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
“In particular, the paucity of the African record, where most specimens are rather incomplete, hampers a more comprehensive knowledge of the pterosaur evolutionary history. Nonetheless, there have been suggestions that several of the main Early Cretaceous pterodactyloid clades may have originated in Asia such as the Anhangueridae and the Tapejaridae. The occurrence of Guidraco is consistent with that hypothesis.”
“Several cranial elements such as the frontal and the premaxillae are unfused suggesting that this was a subadult animal at time of death”, added Dr. Wang. “The association of the new specimen with coprolites and the cranial morphology suggest that G. venator preyed on fish.”