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New Pterosaur Species

A new genus and species of dsungaripterid pterosaur that lived during the Early Cretaceous epoch has been identified from the incomplete lower jaws found in China.

Life reconstruction of Ordosipterus planignathus. Image credit: Chuang Zhao.

Life reconstruction of Ordosipterus planignathus. Image credit: Chuang Zhao.

Pterosaurs are highly successful flying reptiles that lived at the same time as dinosaurs, between 210 million and 65 million years ago.

They were Earth’s first flying vertebrates, with birds and bats making their appearances much later.

Some pterosaurs, such as the giant azhdarchids, were the largest flying animals of all time, with wingspans exceeding 9 m (30 feet) and standing heights comparable to modern giraffes.

The newly-identified species, dubbed Ordosipterus planignathus, lived between 120 and 110 million years ago during the Cretaceous period.

This flying reptile belongs to Dsungaripteridae, a family of robust pterosaurs that includes several genera and species from Asia and South America.

“As a member of the Dsungaripteridae family, Ordosipterus planignathus enlarges the geographical distribution of the dsungaripterid pterosaurs from the northwestern China — with western Mongolia — to central North China,” said Dr. Shu-an Ji, a paleontologist in the Institute of Geology at the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences and the Key Laboratory of Stratigraphy and Palaeontology at China’s Ministry of Natural Resources.

Incomplete articulated lower jaws of Ordosipterus planignathus: (a) dorsal view, (b) left lateral view, (c) ventral view. Image credit: Shu-an Ji, doi: 10.31035/cg2020007.

Incomplete articulated lower jaws of Ordosipterus planignathus: (a) dorsal view, (b) left lateral view, (c) ventral view. Image credit: Shu-an Ji, doi: 10.31035/cg2020007.

The fossilized remains of Ordosipterus planignathus were found in the Luohandong Formation near Xinzhao village in Inner Mongolia, China.

“The specimen consists of the anterior portion of articulated lower jaws, with a partial tooth and several alveoli,” Dr. Ji said.

“The rostral tip of the mandibular symphysis is missing.”

“The preserved segments of the left and right dentaries measure 7.7 cm (3 inches) and 4.5 cm (1.8 inches) long, respectively.”

Ordosipterus planignathus represents the first convincible pterosaur from the Ordos Region in Inner Mongolia, and the second pterosaur species from the Ordos Basin after Huanhepterus quingyangensis in Gansu Province,” he concluded.

“This fossil further strengthens the opinion that the northern China and Mongolia belong to a unique and endemic dinosaur biogeographic realm featured by the presence of Psittacosaurus and pterosaurs during the Early Cretaceous period.”

The discovery of Ordosipterus planignathus is described in a paper published in the journal China Geology.

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Shu-an Ji. 2020. First record of Early Cretaceous pterosaur from the Ordos Region, Inner Mongolia, China. China Geology 3 (1): 1-7; doi: 10.31035/cg2020007

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