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.
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.