Thursday, December 16, 2010

Pterosaur mandibular fenestrae

So after that huge hiatus, suddenly P.net is back up and running and you get a raft of posts close together. Obviously as this is Dave again, I'm not going to totally recycle my posts form my own blog, but actively send you over there to read what I have already written. Still, this is an interesting paper because it tackles that terminally vexing problem of pterosaur origins.

The problem with specialising for flight is that it tends to require you remodel your skeleton rather drastically and for palaeontologists working just from bones, that can make it difficult to work out exactly which features are there, or are there but radically changed, or have gone. Thus while the pterosaur fossil record is pretty good in some respects, we have really struggled when it comes to working out their ancestors / nearest relatives from among the other reptiles. (Obviously we've narrowed it down a lot, but pinning it exactly is tricky).

One major character they have always seemed to lack is a mandibular fenestra, basically a hole in the jaw, which is otherwise present in many dinosaur and croc-like reptiles that pterosaurs are supposed to be related to. No fenestra, perhaps no close ties. But specimens both new-ish and old show that actually this might be present, and the discovery of various dinosaur relatives show some rather pterosaur like features. In short, the gap in our knowledge and the gap in the supposed differences in anatomy is starting to shrink.

If you want the full details, then head on over to the Musings where you can read part 1 and part 2 of my report on my new paper (with Sterling Nesbitt). Enjoy.

5 comments:

  1. "... the discovery of various dinosaur relatives show some rather pterosaur like features."

    Any details on that? I assume you mean something besides Scleromochlus which has been known for decades...

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  2. That's slightly badly written and should be 'chaarcters in poterosaurs' rather than 'pterosaurian characters'. I'm only referring to the paper and noting more expansive.

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