Any more lost Solnhofen pterosaurs out there?

There have recently been a number of papers describing ‘lost’ or little known pterosaurs from around the world. I’ve covered the Rhamphorhynchus that sat undescribed in Dublin for over a century, and I’ve mentioned specimens on display in Japan that have never been in the literature. There are others too that are starting to come out, like a Pterodactylus in France and others in Hungary. While obviously some of these are making it into the literature, there are others that haven’t (like those in Tokyo and I know of one in Kiel) and I’m most interested in finding them.

There’s an obvious reason for this – completeness. While Peter Wellnhofer did a great job in the 70s of collating Solnhofen specimens and measurements in two major papers, a lot of time has passed since. New material has been discovered, and old material has come to light. I’m sure there’s a significant number of specimens now out there available for study that are either not in the literature at all, or are only mentioned or illustrated and have no good descriptions or measurements put down.

These are of course well worth knowing about. Pterosaurs remain rare and history alone means that the Solnhofen is the best studied and best known set of pterosaur fossils going. Combined with the presence of both pterodactyloids and more basal forms, and generally large numbers of good quality material it is perhaps our premier source of data right now. As such knowing what we have and maximising this is important for science and can allow us to do bigger and better analyses, or sort through what we have and select specimens that can be sacrificed for sampling or are worthy of further attention and preparation.

In my experience many of these ‘lost’ specimens are often on display, right there and easy to see (as pterosaurs are rare and often a prime piece worthy of exhibition). Provided of course you are in the museum to see them! The Kiel specimen I mentioned was one such – to my knowledge or that of any of my colleagues I’d spoken too, they simply didn’t have any Solnhofen material at all, none. So a pterosaur expert is rather unlikely to there to check out a tiny palaeontological collection which shouldn’t contain anything of interest and let’s face it, there’s a lot of museums out there.

Bearing that in mind, if you do come across a Solnhofen pterosaur in an odd and usual place (i.e. not the Carengie, or London NHM or the like) do please let me know. Sure it might turn out to be a cast, or even a well-known specimen, but the number that are increasingly coming out of the woodwork make me suspect there’s rather more out there and it would be great to try and track them all down and one day get them into the formal literature. If you have a photo or specimen number, even better, but a simple mention of what you saw in which museum would be a great start. I’m convinced there’s a significant number of specimens out there and they are well worth finding.

15 Responses to “Any more lost Solnhofen pterosaurs out there?”

  1. 1 Mike Habib 15/03/2012 at 8:16 am

    The Royal Tyrrell has a new, very nice Solnhofen Rhamph. It is essentially complete, partially 3D, shows some nice wing membrane preservation and has food remains in it. Francois Therrien has a grad student who will probably be describing it soon.

  2. 5 Lars Dietz 15/03/2012 at 12:18 pm

    There’s a collection of original Solnhofen fossils, including some pterosaurs (Pterodactylus and Rhamphorhynchus, don’t remember any others), in the Tierpark and Fossilium Bochum, a small zoo/museum in the Ruhr area, Germany. Here’s what it says on their home page (in German):
    They’re originally from the private collection of Helmut Leich. Don’t know if any of them have been described in the literature.

    • 6 David Hone 15/03/2012 at 1:59 pm

      I didn’t know there was a collection there at all and my guess is no, they’re not in the literature. The real question though is therefore are these in private hands effectively or is this regarded as a proper museum.

      On that note I should add while obviously proper collections are more important, even knowing what is in private hands is often useful.

  3. 7 Andy Farke 15/03/2012 at 4:16 pm

    The Raymond M. Alf Museum of Paleontology (Claremont, California) has a small collection of Solnhofen material. It’s mostly invertebrates, but we do have a partial Rhamphorhynchus skeleton that is on display. That one has featured parenthetically in one or two papers, but most folks don’t seem to know about it otherwise. I’m happy to send measurements or photos if interested.

  4. 9 steve cohen 15/03/2012 at 7:00 pm

    I’m a “fossil explainer” at AMNH which has a reasonably extensive display which includes from Solnhofen:

    Skeletons of:

    Pterodactyluys longirostris — AMNH 1942
    P. elegans — AMNH 5147
    Rhamphorhynchus muensteri — AMNH 1943

    Also from US sites skulls of:

    Pteranodon sp. — AMNH 7515
    P. longiceps — AMNH 6158

    From Brazil skull of:

    Anhanguera santande — AMNH 22555

    Also seven casts.

    Hope this helps.

    • 10 David Hone 15/03/2012 at 7:38 pm

      Hi Steve,

      I do know of the AMNH material, but didn’t know the exact specimen nos (well, not without digging deep) so that’s nice to have, thanks. Any chance of a couple of photos I could put up on here? That’d be even better.


  5. 11 steve cohen 15/03/2012 at 8:40 pm

    Photography is my hobby so I’ll see what I can do.

  6. 13 maz 19/03/2012 at 10:02 pm

    HI There, found your site by lucky chance! My neighbour’s daughter came running in the other day to show me a very interesting specimen that got me quite excited. Knowing very little about fossils and being initially somewhat misled by her story of finding it on the beach last year (I live in Cornwall, South west England) I thought we had the find of the century on our hands! I took a photo, told her father to look after it carefully and spent a few hours searching the net. I quickly established it was a pterosaur – but was it genuine? The detailing on the tiny white bones was incredible, the teeth in perfect relief against the stone, surely the Natural History Museum was going to be very interested in this! But it was late – I had work the next day – and anyway I didn’t yet want to burst our little bubble – I went to bed…
    Today I continued my research and think I have found the little treasure a twin elsewhere! I’m 99% sure this is a cast from a Sohlhofen pterosaur – i would love to upload the picture here but I don’t think I can – I would so love to know for sure! I would also love to get hold of a cast myself as it is, regardless of its provenance, a thing of beauty in itself – does anyone know how?

    • 14 David Hone 19/03/2012 at 10:33 pm

      The place to go is the website I set up ‘’ just click on the ‘ask a question’ button and stick something in the reptiles category. You can upload photos there and I’ll be able to see it and comment, and we have a couple of other people famalir with Solnhofen material and casts in general who can pitch in.

  1. 1 Pterosaurs of the AMNH pt 1 – Solnhofen « Dave Hone's Archosaur Musings Trackback on 27/03/2012 at 7:18 am
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