Well this is the last of the IVPP pterosaurs for this week, but this will hopefully be the most interesting. It’s certainly the most recent having only been described in late 2010. This is the latest in the series of Darwinopterus-like pterosaursa from China (along with yesterday’s Wukongopterus) that have been sprouting up rapidly. While the Darwinopterus holotype is especially nicely preserved, many of those that have followed were rather less nice fossils (based mostly on aesthetics I admit, but also to a degree scientific information) and so it’s nice to see something this pretty and ‘clean’.
Here then is Kunpengopterus which is known from this largely complete and articulated specimen. It should be clear that this is rather Darwinopterus-like as it has that classic long pterodactyloid-like skull with a confluent nasoantorbital fenestra, but that tail (bits of it are on the left by the skull) and those lovely long fifth toes on the feet are only otherwise seen on rhamphorhynchoids. This then houses that combination of characters that sits these taxa between the two classic pterosaurian divisions.
Thus the ‘novelty’ value of Darwinopterus has rubbed off rapidly with others (a second Darwinopterus species has been named along with Wukongopterus and Kunpengopterus) appearing all over the place. However, this is quite possibly more interesting as it means that Darwinopterus was not an evolutionary one-off as part of a rapid transition from rhamphorhynchoid to pterodactyloid but that this may well have been a very important step in pterosaur evolution with numerous taxa potentially filling important niches and being significant components of pterosaurian faunas.