Year of the ghost dragon – Guidraco

I try to eschew posting on other people’s papers and new taxa especially as these are things that tend to get picked up widely and blogged about. Occasionally though something a little special comes along and is well worth a mention, especially as for once no one seems to have leaped on the paper.

Guidraco. From Wang et al., 2012.

And here is the critter in question, Guidrao, a pteranodontoid (or depending on your systematic preferences, an ornithocheiroid) from, no big surprise, China. No matter how many pterosaurs get described the variety of head-crests and teeth seem to keep increasing and here we have rather unusual forms of both. The crest is very helmet-like and extends more or less straight up from the top of the head. It’s got a passing resemblance to that of Pteranodon sternbergi, but not that much and among the ornithocheirids it would pretty much stand alone.

The teeth are pretty special too. With the boreopterids we have recently seen some pterosaurs with hugely elongate teeth that massively overlap the upper and lower jaws. These have been thin and very needle-like affairs, but those here are every bit as long but also clearly rather robust and capable of resisting a fair bit of force one would imagine.

The analysis in the paper finds this as the nearest relative of the Brazilian Ludodactylus which also had some decent sized teeth and a crest at the back of the skull (if rather different in shape). This might surprise given the distance between the two localities but for me, well, pterosaurs, and especially all the Pternodon and Ornithocheirus-like forms could fly pretty well and were most likely ocean going. Ornithocheird remains are known from Brazil, the UK, China and even Australia so they clearly got around and you would expect them to.

All in all though a very interesting animal. The only real question is what is going to turn up next in this year of the dragon?

Wang, X., Kellner, A.W.A., Jiang, S. & Cheng, X. 2012. New toothed flying reptile from Asia: close similarities between early Cretaceous pterosaur faunas from China and Brazil. Naturwissenschaften in press.

7 Responses to “Year of the ghost dragon – Guidraco”

  1. 2 Christopher 28/02/2012 at 1:37 pm

    With just one sweet drawing of it kicking a predator with its hind legs, it would be all over the papers in a heartbeat.

    (Thanks for sharing!)

  2. 3 Celestino Coutinho 28/02/2012 at 2:05 pm

    Please answer this question – pterosaur coprolites are easy found or in contrast are very scarce?
    I have the paper and this pterosaur coprolite seems to be verey poor described and with a very small scientific interest. I’m I right?
    Celestino Coutinho, Portugal

    • 4 David Hone 28/02/2012 at 2:17 pm

      I’ve never heard of one referred to a pterosaur before so in that respect they are rare. Personally I’m not that convinced they belong to the pterosaur, but either way they do need to be prepared and described more at some point.

  3. 5 Robert A. Sloan 28/02/2012 at 4:56 pm

    Wow. Now that’s some fish trap. I can see that those front teeth could really help hauling big struggling fish out of the water, either piercing them or holding them in the mouth or both. Gorgeous specimen. Thanks for posting this!

  4. 6 Bruce J. Mohn 28/02/2012 at 5:02 pm

    What is the scale of the scale bar in the pic?

    • 7 David Hone 28/02/2012 at 6:02 pm

      According to the paper 5 mm, but I assume it should be 50 mm, something backed up by the measurements in the text. They list it as being a 38 cm long skull.

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