giovedì 31 gennaio 2013

Researchers describe a New Azhdarchid Pterosaur from the Late Cretaceous of the Transylvanian Basin, Romania

The 'vulture azhdarchid' hypothesis, as depicted by Jan Sovak (this is from Philip Currie's poorly known 1991 book The Flying Dinosaurs). Credit: SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN
Just in case you've forgotten how big the biggest azhdarchids were, here's a Hatzegopteryx to scale with a human and a big bull giraffe. Image by Mark Witton. Credit: SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN
Speculative reconstruction of Eurazhdarcho langendorfensis (in quad launching pose), by Mark Witton. From Vremir et al. (2013). Credit: SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN
Some geological units reveal evidence of two or even three sympatric azhdarchid species. Diagram produced by Mark Witton and map used with kind permission of Ron Blakey, Colorado Plateau Geosystems, Inc; from Vremir et al. (2013). Credit: SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN
Yesterday (30/01/2013) it appeared on PLOS ONE the publication of the new azhdarchid pterosaur Eurazhdarcho langendorfensis, a new species from the Upper Cretaceous Sebeş Formation of the Transylvanian Basin in Romania (Vremir et al. 2013). Vremir’and Mátyás Vremir; he worked together with Alex Kellner of the Museu Nacional in Rio de Janeiro, and Gareth Dyke (both of the University of Southampton) in the description of this new species.
Azhdarchids will already be familiar to a great many Tet Zoo readers; indeed, in recent years they’ve become more familiar to interested people in general thanks to appearances in books, TV documentaries and films. These are the often gigantic, long-necked, long-skulled pterosaurs of the Cretaceous (and especially of the Late Cretaceous), best known for Quetzalcoatlus from Texas, a giant form in which the wingspan was about 10 metres and the total weight was somewhere round about 200-250 kg (Witton 2008, Witton & Habib 2010).
Eurazhdarcho is not a giant: it had a wingspan somewhere round about 3 m (Vremir et al. 2013), making it one of the smallest known azhdarchids. But it’s significant for several reasons, one of them being that it’s known from a comparatively large amount of material. Most azhdarchid fossils consist of isolated vertebrae and other fragmentary remains, with associated or articulated skeletons being very rare. Our description of Eurazhdarcho is based on 15 bones, all discovered together at Sebeş-Glod in Transylvania, and most of which were collected by Mátyás in 2009. We know that other bones from the same specimen were collected later on, but they’re currently inaccessible to our research group. More Informations at: SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN "A new azhdarchid pterosaur: the view from Europe becomes ever more interesting".

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