Posts Tagged 'China'

A population of Shantungosaurus, the largest ornithischian

Hone Fig 2

Sadly I have to report that after many years working on various diapsids and having published plenty of papers on dinosaurs generally and theropods specifically, and yes even sauropods, I’ve gone and published two papers on ornithischians. I hang my head in shame, obviously, and I hope too many readers won’t think too little of me (though I doubt Tom Holtz will ever return my calls now). The first is on the wonderful Protoceratops and delves deep into dinosaur behaviour (and should be out on Wednesday), but this time it’s the monstrous hadrosaur Shantungosaurus, which has not really had anything like enough attention given just how much material is floating around.

The paper is a chapter in the new ‘Hadrosaurs’ volume that has been long in the making (and indeed publishing, since it as basically done a year ago) and if at this point effectively out. Actually I’m not sure quite how available things are, but the volume has appeared on Google Books (with the incorrect date of 2015 on it) and copies are apparently in mail, plus at least some coverage of various chapters is already out. As a result, I don’t think I’m jumping any particular embargo. though I appreciate not everyone may be able to read it in the next few days. Anyway, onto colossal hadrosaurs.

After the initial excavations of the 1960s, not much happened in the quarries where the remains of Shantungosaurus were first found. It was identified as a giant hadrosaur, plenty of isolated remains were collected and distributed to various collections and then, well, not much. The new digs over the last decade or so have seen a raft of new finds, but all the attention has really been on the other things coming out of the quarries, namely the new tyrannosaurs, ceratopsians and other beasties. That’s a shame as there are literally thousands of elements available to study and these are coming out in multiple quarries.

Over several visits, my good friend and longtime collaborator Corwin Sullivan and I went over the largest of the three main sites at Zhucheng, the Kugou Quarry, and took note of every bone that we could find and identify. The quarry maxes out at some 300 by 30 m, so it’s truly giant, and both ends are missing thanks to the erosion of the hill and it’s not clear how deep it might be. We also could not access every part of it safely and thus although we noted some 3000 elements, we estimate there are closer to 5000 exposed, and there could be huge numbers still to find. Out of these, barely a handful belonged to anything other than Shantungosaurus – a tyrannosaur tooth, a couple of tyrannosaur bones, a croc osteoderm and a bit of turtle. (And, oddly the near complete and articulated Zhuchengceratops, though I suspect it is from a different horizon). In short, this entire area and material essentially represents just one genus and probably a single aggregation.

All the material is essentially disarticulated and while basically every part of the skeleton is there, it is horribly jumbled. There’s no evidence of scavenging or trampling, and little sorting either, so this looks like a pretty major event that led to a rapid burial of the remains. We don’t dwell on what might have done this, but bearing in mind the size of these animals and how many there were and this is clearly something big, and also probably quick (this is not a long term accumulation of material).

Already 5000 elements is quite a bit, but the bones are also big. Shantungosaurus is well known as being a really large hadrosaur, but more than that, it’s absolutely colossal. While femur length is not the best size proxy out there, neither is it that bad, and was the only thing we could reliably measure for large numbers of the elements preserved that would give a decent size estimate. The largest femur we could accurately measure was 172 cm long – bigger than the largest specimens of Diplodocus and comparable to many big sauropods like Apatosaurus and Antarctosaurus. While they do have very different builds as animals, don’t forget that hadrosaurs were not pneumatic, so it’s quite reasonable that these animals had similar masses to those huge sauropods. Similarly that also means that  perhaps many sauropods were not as heavy as the largest hadrosaurs which does have implications for how we look at things like the reasons sauropods did get so large. Mass estimates that are available or can be calculated for Shantungosaurs are extremely varied and this is perhaps due to it being so much larger than anything else known when it comes to hadrosaurs or even other ornithischians. Is is basically off the charts (few ornithischians have femora that exceed 1 m in length, and the smallest specimens we measured were bigger than this) and it probably needs to be tackled with a specific rigorous analysis to get a good estimate. Still, I’d be very surprised if the larger individuals were under 10 tons, and it is probably the heaviest ornithischian known and by extension, probably the heaviest terrestrial biped, since I didn’t see anything in the available material to suggest it could not walk bipedally.

Femora were also measured as they are large elements that are relatively easy to identify correctly and were in relatively decent condition, and so go some way to determining a minimum number of animals in the quarry. We counted 110 and so there is a minimum of 55 animals here, and I would be stunned if there were not very considerably more than that in reality (or indeed many more femora in there that are simply not exposed). But any measure then, this is a lot of animal – over 50 individuals, the smallest of which had a femur over 1 m long, and many of which were large sauropod sized. Indeed, the distribution of the femora actually tells us something too.

Hone Fig 4The range of sizes seen is actually really narrow: almost 85% of them fall between 135 and 175 cm and aside from three small ones that were little more than a meter, the rest form an almost perfect normal distribution. In short, this looks like a natural population of adult animals and we can infer they are adult both on the general size and the fact that all the elements of things like sacra in the quarry were fully fused. It has been suggested before that hadrosaurs form separate groups and that adults may have aggregated without juveniles, and with juvies and /or subadults forming separate groups, and that fits well with what we see here (and this also fits with the ideas covered in the forthcoming Protoceratops paper).

Collectively then the remains from this quarry do look something close to a natural aggregation, representing a pretty massive accumulation of biomass (over 50 animals and likely closer to 100, and probably over 10 tons each). It’s hard not to think about just what this means for a Mesozoic landscape, even a big Zhuchengtyrannus would be pretty much outclassed by one of these, let alone dozens together, and they would presumably have been able to strip huge swathes of vegetation clear as they foraged. For me at least it’s a nice evocative image, though perhaps not a long lasting one given that something massive rather dismembered and buried them shortly afterwards. Happily for palaeontologists we have now found this graveyard and there’s a massive amount of material available on these massive dinosaurs, and I hope that there is much more to come now that it is becoming available for study.

 

Academics on archosaurs: You Hai-lu

Dr Hai-lu You, Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences
Specialist in dinosaurs, especially Cretaceous ornithischian dinosaurs.

1. What first got you interested or involved in your research field?

By chance. I applied my Master degree for paleoanthropology, but was suggested to switch to dinosaurs.


2. What is your favourite piece of research?

My favorite piece of research is on the re-discovery and research on Gansus, an Early Cretaceous bird from northwestern China that at the beginning of the branch leading to modern birds. Before our research, only a partial foot was discovered, and our team now excavated ~100 specimens. Our result was published in Science, and the various medias reported it, including a documentary by Science Channel.

3. What do you think is the most interesting or important discovery in your field in recent years?

“Proto-feathers” from China , which changed our view on the concept of birds, and the evolution of the function of feathers.

4. What do you think is the biggest unanswered question in your field right now?

The using of PhyloCode, which will have fundamental influence on our view of the tree of life.

5. What advice would you give to students about research?
Go through everything on dinosaurs, from the field to preparation to research to museum activities.

Qinglongopterus

Many months ago Lu Junchang was kind enough to send me this draft figure that was intended to go with a  description of a new pterosaur he was naming. The paper came out a while back so I’m finally in a position to show this. The specimen is effectively complete, though as with many of these Middle Jurassic beds, the bones have split between plate and counterplate, so you’re more looking at the internal moulds and fragments of bones than their surfaces.

What should be clear even from this picture is that this is a very young animal (look at the size of that heard and the sclerotic ring!) and f you know the scale bar is 10 mm then that helps a bit too! The head is remarkably similar in anatomy (well, as far as can be seen) to young specimens of Rhamphorhynchus, and indeed the whole animal is. Nevertheless, there are differences and thus is named as Qinlongopterus (you can guess where it’s from, right?).

Lü, J.C., Unwin, D.M., Zhao, B., Gao, C., Shen, C. 2012. A new rhamphorhynchid (Pterosauria: Rhamphorhynchidae) from the Middle/ Upper Jurassic of Qinglong, Hebei Province, China. Zootaxa 3158: 1-19.

The proliferation of Chinese dinosaur museums

 This link has been doing the rounds for the last few days. It shows a pair of sauropod models that straddle the Chinese-Mongolian border. I think the author is being a bit disingenuous by castigating this as a failed tourist spot. It’s a decorative border post, if a bit naff, though it likely was done to help advertise the nearby dinosaur localities.

However, the central point it makes (“build it and they might not come”) is very pertinent. China is undergoing a massive economic expansion and they are pushing a vast amount of money into science. Coupled with a general pattern of producing large public works and the obvious rich fossil beds it’s perhaps no surprise that new dinosaur and palaeontological museums and parks are springing up around China. What might be a surprise is just how many there are.

I’m not in a position to even guess at the real number, but I have either visited or know about at least a dozen that have started or opened in the last half dozen years and I’ve been to a fair few myself. Huge buildings and collections are appearing in Tinayu, Zhucheng, Shenyang, Zhengzhou, Macau, Lufeng, Xixia and right across Liaoning. I think there are now about a dozen or more in Liaoning alone (and it’s not a big province). While China is a huge country in terms of population and area, I do find it hard to believe that all of these are going to be viable in the long term. Having visited many of these places they are often are in less than perfect condition despite being new and they rarely have many visitors, this at a height of both novelty and public interest in dinosaurs. If nothing else in places there’s one in each town and it’s hard to conceive of each of them drawing in huge crowds with competition in every town within 50 or 100 km. Even with public funding, I’m sceptical that many of these will still be viable in the next dozen years.

All of this is a worry. At the moment there’s a huge ‘gold rush’ to exploit the available fossils and get things into museums. From at least a couple of places I’ve been to I’d suggest that these may not all be being collected in the best manner they could be and that not everything on display should really be there. Nor for that matter is all of it being kept properly and I fear for some specimens. In short the collections are being assembled and curated by people lacking expertise.

Moreover, what might happen to collections that go bust? I’m not used to the concept of museums housing hundreds of specimens going bankrupt. I’m sure it happens on occasion and material has to be moved on or stored for a bit, but what would happen if a major collection suddenly went under? Or will the local authorities step in and fund expensive but failing institutes, draining budgets for science elsewhere to support them?

Perhaps I’m being overly worried, but while I don’t know that much about the economics of museums and catchment areas, and governmental financing, I have seen how many of these places there are and what they are like and how (some) are being run. Some seem to be running out of investment before they have even been built, so it’s not a major leap of imagination to think some will bite the dust and then, well, I don’t know. But I am a bit worried.

Mongolian ceratopsids


Although the Cretaceous beds of the Gobi contain far more ceratopsids than is good for them, it’s actually rare that I get to see Protoceratops in all it’s glory. In short, there are a ton of these in various museums, so most people prefer not to collect them anymore when time and money is limited. Or if they do pick them up, they end up at the bottom of the preparation ‘to do’ pile. So despite my own work in the field (where you can find a dozen ceratopsid teeth a day in places and dozens of partial skeletons over a season), specimens like these are still a novelty for me.

Above is Protoceratops and below Bagaceratops. I really can’t tell you why, these are the assignments I was told and I don’t know enough about the distinctions to confirm this and don’t have the time to go digging into the literature (and remember this?). Anyway, nice material, enjoy.


Zhuchengtyrannus strikes

Well you knew it was coming right? Yes Zhucheng does now meature a mounted Zhuchengtyrannus. Or rather inevitably, more accurately, it features a T. rex mount with the maxilla and dentary replaced with cases of the holotype. This is quite clear on the photos below as the added parts are of rather better quality and have been pained a little differently too. OK, so otherwise this is basically just another rex mount but forgive me for liking it. And it is in the process of absolutely mashing a juvenile Shantungosaurus, so what’s not to like?

Zhucheng week: starting with Shantungosaurus

Yes I’m back from Zhucheng, home of you-know-who and of course, the most magical bone in China. Previously I’ve been in a complex position of being unwilling and sort of unable to show much off about what is going on in and around these fossil sites, but as publications start to appear and the museum / display sections begin to get completed, then I can do a little better than things like this skull picture.

Currently there are three major excavations of bones going on at Zhucheng, two that all but abut one another and another just a few hundred meters away, plus a large trackway site a good few km further out. Between them these are yielding *thousands* of bones and hundreds of tracks. This place is going to keep palaeontologists busy for a very long time. Between the tyrannosaur and hadrosaur work, I’ve now been out there four or five times and each visit brings new surprises. Major excavations of fossils aside, numerous buildings for visitors, display and construction as well as work on the material continue to spring up.

Most of this will likely be completed late this summer with at least one ‘museum’ building opening soon (they are planning a whole series, based around the quarries themselves). Still an impressive (if temporary) visitors centre is now open and coupled with the existing small museum in the centre of town, I’m in a position to show off some what what has been going on here. Since the Musings has been a bit quiet of late, I thought I’d spread this out over the whole week with themed posts on various aspects of the place and the displays (sorry, not many actual bones will be coming).

Here, very obviously, I’m starting with some mounts of the colossal Shantungosaurus. A massive hadrosaur which dominates these beds and makes up the vast majority of the bones found here. It’s probably hard to get a real sense of scale, but in short, they are sodding huge. You might just be able to spot me between a couple of them in one of this last image as a sense of scale.


Notes on the taxonomy and identity of Zhuchengtyrannus

After the quick intro to the new taxon, now it’s time to talk in a bit more detail about the bones of Zhuchengtyrannus. All we have is a maxilla and a dentary but that’s actually quite useful. A few ribs and some caudal vertebrae wouldn’t have told us much as these are rather conservative in tyrannosaurs, but happily maxillae are not and have lots of useful and important taxonomic characters in them. It is also worth remembering that pretty much any bone, or even part of one, that is diagnostically different from everything else out there is reasonable to use as the basis for erecting a new taxon (like Brontomerus and various others).

I should of course add, before I go much further, that this is a blog, not a paper. There is more detail and commentary in the actual publication than here in internet land and if you really want to dive in then go read the paper (though again the paper as it stands online is an uncorrected proof, and that has cut off part of the taxonomy stuff!!!). This here is little more (as ever) than a surface discussion of the issues for general consumption and if anything more general than normal as I hope (expect?) that a few more people than normal will be finding the Musings right now as a result of the media coverage.

For those that don’t know their tyrannosaur taxonomy as well as they’d like it’s worth noting that Zhuchengtyrannus is a tyrannosaurine and that puts it in the group of especially large and derived tyrannosaurs and as part of a Late Cretaceous group that was restricted to eastern Asia and North America. We can tell this at least in part because it is a huge theropods from the end Cretaceous of China, but the relatively straight anterior edge of the maxilla supports this, and the shape of the teeth and dentary put it well within the tyrannosaurs in general.

Zhuchengtyrannus teeth. From Hone et al., in press

At this juncture, it’s worth remembering that there are different ways of identifying species, or more specifically, distinguishing them from others. Obviously with a fossil we’re working on a morphological species concept (that is, identifying a species buy it’s anatomy), but more specifically we can separate out differences in different ways. First off we can look for genuinely unique features – a giant tooth in socket 5, only one finger on the hand, a skull twice as long as tall etc. Things that appear in our new species that don’t appear in any others (or at least any other close relatives – stripes are characteristic of tigers since even though other cats are stripey, you’d never confuse the two because of the obvious size differences etc.). Secondly though, you can look for unique combinations of characters. One species may have a long and wide skull, another a short and narrow skull. The characters of ‘long’, ‘short’, ‘wide’ and ‘narrow’ are all in play here, but you could distinguish a possible new species with a clearly distinct combination of ‘long and narrow’ or ‘short and wide’.

So onto Zhuchengtyrannus. This is diagnosed in our paper by two unique characters – a short of shelf on the anterior part of the maxilla and an odd notch in the maxillary fenestra (see figure below). Neither of these does, to our knowledge (or indeed that of the referees or various other colleagues we consulted), turn up in any other tyrannosaur specimen ever. There is also a unique combination of characters to further separate it from other tyrannosaurs in the position of the antorbital fossa and size of the maxillary fenestra.

Drawing of the Zhuchengtyrannus maxilla. The unique shelf is labelled 'S' and the notched fenestra 'mf'. From Hone et al., in press

Although the specimen was not entirely complete when recovered (and sadly the maxilla was later damaged as can be seen from the picture of the maxilla in the previous post) it was initially in very good condition. We have good reason to think therefore that all of these characters are valid ones. The bones were not broken (well they are a bit, but not where the critical characters appear) or distorted or altered and there was no sign of disease or pathologies. This is also not an issue of ontogeny (age-related changes). The animal is easily big enough that it’s hard to credit that it was anything other than an adult, and possibly a large one at that. Moreover, there is a decent literature on both ontogenetic changes in tyrnanosaur skulls and on intraspecific variation. Zhuchengtyrannus exhibits several characters that are normally only seen in adult tyrannosaurs (like the heavy sculpting on the maxilla, more on that later) and the characters we use in our diagnoses are not known to vary either through growth, or within putative populations.

For all of this, lumping taxonomists out there might well not regard this as valid (“To synonymy, and beyond!”). There are those who would still have Tarbosaurus as ‘just’ a species of Tyrannosaurus and I can only suspect they won’t like this much as a result (though I don’t know for sure of course). All I can say is that we are happy with the distinctions, and the referees and other colleagues who have examined the material were too. Taxonomy really does operate at little more than a consensus level and while this can all change, already (from what I have seen and discussed so far) the consensus is that this is a perfectly valid taxon. Of course there’s also a good chance that we will get more material of this species (indeed as noted previously, we may already, even if referral is currently an issue) which will help our cause. Given what bones we currently have, Zhuchengtyrannus seems to be as diagnostic as any other large tyrannosaur and while it could be better (we don’t have that much material), it is sufficient.

Even so, this is only the second tyrannosaurine from China and one that very probably overlaps in time, and space, with Tarbosaurus. As such, it is worth making special note of the differences between these two and again there are some more in the palatal shelf and at the back of the maxilla. In short, it should be very hard to confuse the two if you have a maxilla of either in your hands and there is even better reason to think the two are different and thus again that Zhuchengtyrannus is a genuinely new genus.

I was also reminded in comments in yesterday’s post about ‘Tyrannosaurus zhuchengensis‘ which is detailed in the paper, but initially forgotten here! Whoops. back in the 1970’s several tyrannosaurus-like teeth were recovered from this quarry and, in the manner of the day, named as a new species: Tyrannosaurus zhuchengensis. Later on a single isolated metatarsal (foot bone) was assigned to this species. What of this? Well none of these teeth or the metatarsal show any unique features that would make them diagnostic from any other tyrannosaurin short, if you got a Tarbosaurus or Tyrannosaurus tooth or metatarsal and compared them to the T. zhuchengensis material, you wouldn’t seen any real difference. As such we cannot consider this to be valid and we therefore call Tyrannosaurus zhuchengensis a ‘nomen dubium’ –  a dubious name that should never have been created and should no longer be used (and hence the use of quote marks around it in it’s initial appearance here). Of course this material might be a much earlier record of Zhuchengtyrannus, but we can’t be sure, it might belong to the second taxon, or who knows, even another tyrannosaur!

That’s rather more than I intended to say so I’ll cut it ‘short’ there. More to come tomorrow where I’ll delve into the ecology of ZT and then we’ll be onto the glorious artwork and its genesis and importance in science communication.

Zhuchengtyrannus is here!

Zhuchengtyrannus life reconstruction by Bob Nicholls

So, as probably everyone knows by now, I have a new paper out and this is the first dinosaur I have named (as a first author) so welcome please, Zhuchengtyrannus magnus. This is a very large tyrannosaurine theropod that is comparable in size to that legendary source of all dinosaur comparisons: Tyrannosaurus rex. Yep, Zhuchengtyrannus, (or ZT as I’ve been informally calling it) is a big guy with a skull over a metre in length, in the 10 metre range for total length and thus also probably around 6 tons or so.

Obviously this is a big deal for me so there’s lots more to come on this over the next few posts and so don’t panic if this first introduction doesn’t give you all the details you were hoping for. Despite the apparent paucity of the available material (as will become clear) there is a lot that can be said about this and other things that are mentioned in the paper.

First off is that name. Those who are long time readers will know I’m not at all fond of ‘place-name-saurus’ type names but some of us are born with bad names for dinosaurs, some achieve bad dinosaur names, and (in this case) some have bad names thrust upon them! Anyway, if you’ve not guessed the genus name Zhuchengtyrannus simple means ‘tyrannosaur from Zhucheng’ and the species ‘magnus’ refers to the large size. Zhucheng, if you don’t know, is a small town in eastern China and has recently achieved fame for the huge amount of dinosaur fossils that have been found there and this is the latest of a number of new taxa. It’s can be pronounced as either ‘Zoo-cheng-tie-rannus’, or with more of a ‘Joo’ for the first syllable. The latter being closer to the formal Chinese pronunciation of the name, the former a less formal anglicised one.

Locality map for Zhuchengtyrannus. From Hone et al., in press

On that note, while 2010 was celebrated as the year of ceratopsians by many, it should not be overlooked the huge number of tyrannosaurs that have cropped up in the last year or so. Teratophoneus, Raptorex, Xiongguanlong, Sinotyrannus, Bistahieversor and others have all come through recently which adds massively to the number of tyrannosaurs of various ranks in the literature. That’s quite an increase for a clade known from only about 15 species or so as little as 3 years ago and now you can rack up two more. Yes, two.

Zhuchengtyrannus maxilla (bone above, cast below). From Hone et al., in press

As for Zhuchengtyrannus itself, I’m a few paragraphs in and have yet to talk about the thing yet. It is, sadly, represented by a less than complete specimen – we have a near complete maxilla (above) and a dentary (below), both with most of the teeth intact. The maxilla is one of the main bones of the face that makes up most of the side of the snout and holds most of the teeth for the upper jaws, while the dentary is the main part of the lower jaw that again, holds the teeth. That’s not much, but happily (as I’ll be covering in a later post) tyrannosaur maxillae are full of important taxonomic characters and as a result we are quite happy with this being diagnostic as a new genus and species. While that’s not much the material we do have is in great condition (well, more on that too). As noted it is a big one and comparisons to the maxillae and dentaries of other tyrannosaurs show that it’s bigger than anything out there except Tyrannosaurs and Tarbosaurus and it’s comparable in size to both of them. Obviously there’s just one specimen here and there are bigger specimens of Tyrannosaurs at least, but this is right in the mix. There’s nothing really odd or unusual about ZT so we it is ‘basically’ just another giant tyrannosaurine in the mould of these two more famous giants.

Zhuchengtyrannus dentary. From Hone et al., in press

But it’s not the only one. While we don’t describe it or figure it, we do mention in the paper that ZT is one of, what we think, are two new tyrannosaurs at the site. In addition to the elements of Zhuchengtyrannus, there are a variety of teeth and postcranial elements including vertebrae, femora and various metatarsals. Significantly there are also another maxilla and another dentary, neither of which match ZT or those of other tyrannosaurs meaning there are probably two taxa here. However, it also complicates that postscranial material – with these pieces being isolated and there being two genera present, it’s not possible to assign them to one or the other reliably at the moment. Thus there quite probably is a lot more of Zhuchengtyrannus already in our possession, but we can’t prove it, limiting us (for now) to just the skull pieces that were found together.

Between these new taxa and others recently described Asia now seriously rivals north America in the tyrannosauroid diversity stakes. While that’s perhaps not a big surprise in the basal tyrannosauroid stakes which already had a strong Asian base and were not that big in the Americas, that the tyrannosaurids and tyrannosaurines are catching up in diversity is rather more notable. No longer is Tarbosaurus the only Cretaceous giant tyrannosaurine in Asia, so once more I must ask you to please welcome Zhuchnegtyrannus to the world and do come back, there’s lots more to say.

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Hone, D.W.E., Wang, K., Sullivan, C., Zhao, X., Chen, S., Li, D., Ji, S., Ji, Q. & Xu, X. 2011. A new, large tyrannosaurine theropod from the Upper Cretaceous of China. Cretaceous Research, in press.

DOI: 10.1016/j.cretres.2011.03.005

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And of course, my thanks to Bob Nicholls of Paleocreations for the magnificent artwork. And thanks to those bloggers who have held off on their own posts on this before I was ready, it’s very much appreciated. I should also make a final extra point that once again a journal has stuck up an uncorrected proof of a paper – I can see already that a rather critical part of one table has been cut off and there are a couple of errors that need fixing which is why I don’t like these things.

Xinjiang fieldwork report

My fieldwork this year has been curtailed by both my upcoming departure and Flugsaurier 2010, but in addition to the resident wildlife, it seemed worth completing a short post on the event. The rest of the crew is out there now looking for dinosaurs and other taxa but I had to return early to talk pterosaurs so there will be more to come from them and I am aware that more things than I saw are already being found and excavated.

Continue reading ‘Xinjiang fieldwork report’

Yet another new pterosaur – Fenghuangopterus

From Lu et al., 2010.

Published just a week or so ago, Fenghuangopterus is the latest in a long line of Chinese pterosaurs. Obviously new species in all groups are being described all the time but pterosaurs have certainly had quite a boost in the last few months with half a dozen new taxa being named. Given that there are still under 150 pterosaurs known (after over 200 years of research) more than 1 a month for any sustained period of time is quite something. Fenghuangopterus (skull shown above) is represented by a single nearly complete specimen that it’s rather crushed. I’ve actually taken a quick look at it this morning and it’s a much better specimen that the photos would suggest (the contrast here is not too good and the only images I have, while I’m permitted to use them, have a CAGS stamp on the body).

From Lu et al., 2010.

This is a scaphognathine pterosaurs (which also include things like Scaphognathus and Sordes) making it one of the rhamphorhynchoids. It’s the earliest known too, coming from Middle Jurassic beds and so extending the range of the scaphognathines back from the Upper Jurassic. More and more specimens are coming out of these beds and like the Middle Jurassic dinosaurs of western China are filling a long empty gap in our knowledge of this time for fossil reptiles. There will surely be more to come on this. This is a very short preliminary description so I can’t say much more without just repeating the content of the paper and describing the bones so I’ll leave it there.

Lu, J., Fucha, X. & Chen, J. 2010. A new scaphognathine pterosaur from the Middle Jurassic of western Liaoning, China. Acta Geoscientica Sinica, 2010: 263-266.


Flugsaurier 2010 second circular

This has just arrived from Jungchang Lu. This year’s pterosaur meeting will be held in Beijing with talks, posters, discussions and a fieldtrip to Liaoning. I’m sure I’ll see at least a few of you there. I have left out some details of the registration and payment methods etc. contact JC or Dave Unwin (or me I suppose, since I have a copy of the forms) for details.

The previous version posted had some errors in it. These have now been fixed and this is the full and correct circular.

Continue reading ‘Flugsaurier 2010 second circular’


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