Darwinopterus robustodens

Since the description of the amazing Darwinopterus modularis there has suddenly been a huge rash (or even rush) of new Darwinopterus-like taxa to be described from the Middle Jurassic Chinese beds. A few of them I’ve managed to get hold of photos for and pictured in my great Chinese pterosaur roundup earlier this year.

Clearly at least some taxonomic revision is going to be needed here as, even assuming every named genus and species is valid (which I rather doubt), some of the current descriptions and definitions don’t really overlap. So many taxa have come out so fast (and from two different research groups) that inevitably things have been published without any kind of real comparison to the others which were unpublished at the time.

Into this maelstrom comes Darwinopterus robustodens which as you might have already guessed has rather robust teeth, but otherwise is incredibly similar to the other taxa in this little assortment. What makes this stand out in at least one way is the simply magnificent condition of the holotype (shown here thanks to Lu Junchang). Every one of the others so far has a bit missing (like most of the skull of Wukongopterus) or is not actually that well preserved (like the referred specimen of D. modularis) or is a bit disarticulated (like Kunpengopterus) or some combination of these.

This on the other hand is all but perfect. It’s complete (right down to the end of the tail) it’s articulated, and it’s in great condition. There is more to see in this specimen than any of the other dozen or so that have already been refereed to this group of pterosaurs. That will be most helpful when it comes to sorting out the taxonomy of these animals and makes for a near perfect display piece.


10 Responses to “Darwinopterus robustodens”

  1. 1 kattato Garu 23/06/2011 at 2:25 pm

    Wow what a fabulous specimen… As someone who is not all that familiar with pterosaur anatomy, 1) is it normal for them to be this, er, flat-footed, and b) what are the strange paired bones visible through the antorbital fenestra?

    • 2 David Hone 23/06/2011 at 2:47 pm

      The feet are a bit splayed yes, and that’s not normal. Without having seen the original my guess is they have just separated a bit. The toes often do spread a bit, but not the metatarsals. The other bones are the hyoids which normally support the tongue. Here they are pushed up and are visible and also have rather unusually big expanded ends. Incidentally all pterosaurs seem to have pretty big hyoids and they can vary a fair bit – check out the nice ‘tuning fork’ ones in Ludodactylus: https://archosaurmusings.wordpress.com/2009/06/02/ludodactylus/

  2. 3 kattato Garu 23/06/2011 at 3:07 pm

    Thanks Dave. Great post on Ludodactylus too!

  3. 4 220mya 23/06/2011 at 5:53 pm

    Can you please provide the citation for the paper?

    • 5 David Hone 24/06/2011 at 2:56 am

      Sure thing!

      Lü, J., Xu, L., Chang, H. and Zhang, X. 2011b. A new darwinopterid pterosaur from the Middle Jurassic of Western Liaoning, northeastern China and its ecological implicaitions. Acta Geologica Sinica, 85: 507-514.

      I’ll remember to do it without your asking one day. Probably….

  4. 6 Mark Robinson 24/06/2011 at 6:50 am

    I wonder whether Kattato’s comment regarding the apparent flat-footedness of the specimen was more about the angle of the ankle rather than the separation of the toes? Am I correct in thinking that all pterosaurs are believed to have been plantigrade, and did they evolve from plantigrade or digitgrade ancestors?

    If the latter, why might they have reverted? Thanks.

    • 7 David Hone 24/06/2011 at 7:07 am

      Well if it was about the angle of the ankle then this looks fine as yes, all pterosaurs are indeed regarded as plantigrade.

      As for the ancestral condition that depends on what you think their ancestors were, but I’m happy they are ornithodirans and thusyes they had digitigrade ancestors. Quite what prompted this reversal I don’t think anyone’s discussed in detail, and off the top of my head I admit I’m struggling for a decent explanation.

  5. 8 Taylor Reints 06/07/2011 at 12:48 am

    What a beautiful specimen…

  1. 1 DinoAstur - » Darwinopterus robustodens Trackback on 04/08/2011 at 9:01 am
  2. 2 My very own Darwinopterus « Dave Hone's Archosaur Musings Trackback on 13/07/2012 at 9:11 am
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