“Is it safe?” The dentists’ nightmare – meet Zhenyuanopterus

So today I had to drop into CAGS to see Lu Jungchang, one of the leading researchers on pterosaurs in China and he handed me a reprint of his latest paper. Zhenyuanopterus is a truly remarkable boreopterid pterosaur with a 4 m wingspan and one hell of a set of teeth. To cap it off, the specimen is truly excellent – both complete and articulated and in wonderful condition.

Skull of Zhenyuanopterus holotype. Image courtesy of Lu Jungchang.

As you can see the skull is very long with quite a big midline crest, but it’s the teeth that stand out. For a start, there are a huge number of them about 180 all told, and not only are the anterior teeth truly huge, but they are about ten times the length of the smallest teeth at the back of the jaw. It’s quite a combination, and one certain to make life difficule for any Mesozoic surgeons but also anything that Zhenyuanopterus was trying to catch. As a boreopterid (and thus close to the ornithocheids) this was probably fish, though I have to wonder if such slender teeth were not vulnerable to being broken by large prey and suggests to me at least that perhaps smaller fish were normally targeted.

As the paper is really just a morphological description there’s not much else to add here that won’t be very technical and about as exciting at read as it would be for me to write. So I’ll leave you with a nice picture of the whole, wonderfully preserved, specimen in all it’s toothy glory.

Lu, J. 2010. A new boreopterid pterodactyloid pterosaur from the Early Cretaceous Yixian Formation of Liaoning Province, northeastern China. Acta Geologica Sinica. 24, 241-246.

16 Responses to ““Is it safe?” The dentists’ nightmare – meet Zhenyuanopterus”

  1. 1 Zach Miller 06/03/2010 at 9:32 am

    WOW! What a beautiful animal! Those midline crests are pretty widespread among basal pterodactyloids, aren’t they?

  2. 3 Christopher Collinson 06/03/2010 at 11:53 am

    So weird!

  3. 4 Ville Sinkkonen 06/03/2010 at 4:06 pm

    so cool! Can’t wait to get my hands on that paper.

  4. 5 Joel Rivers 06/03/2010 at 10:29 pm

    Thanks for this post. Amazing! I that was a big, ugly/beautiful brute. Pterosaurs are uniquely ugly and beautiful at the same time.

  5. 7 Rutger Jansma 09/03/2010 at 5:34 am

    This looks awesome! The skull reminds me of a crestless Tropeognathus! 🙂

  6. 8 Carlos 10/03/2010 at 3:20 am

    On regards to this pterosaur, does it provide any clues if piscivorous pterosaurs did in fact feed on the water surface bird style or if they snatched prey on the wing frigate bird style?

    Because lately I’m unaware of the current situation (last time I heard only Anhanguera and a few showed specialised neck vertebrae indicating aerial feeding), and if the teeth are so fragile and only relatively small fish were targetted I wonder if it seized its prey from the water surface, from where fish hunting would be more easy, specially on inland areas where boreopterids generally occur

    • 9 David Hone 10/03/2010 at 8:54 am

      As I say above the description of the new specimen is quite short and designed to sort out it’s basic taxonomy. There are no details in the paper at all about lifestyle etc. so we need to wait for a more detailed publciation on the subject.

  7. 10 Hexo 10/03/2010 at 7:58 pm

    Wow, that dude is freaking beautyfull. Was he playing Hamlet when he met his terrific fate? I guess that we’ll never know it. 🙂

  8. 11 Davor 10/03/2010 at 9:21 pm

    Mr. Hone, this is gorgeous. Any hope of UV photos of Zhenyuanopterus?

    • 12 David Hone 11/03/2010 at 8:06 am

      Nope sorry, the only guy doing UV work is Helmut Tischlinger and he’s in Germany and the specimen is in Beijing. We just don’t have the equipment or expertise here.

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