Thursday, February 21, 2013

Can you identify this cast?

Some of you may know that I've been trying to track down all manner of 'missing' Solnhofen pterosaurs. All kinds of specimens have been sold off over the years and are in collections all over the world. Many of these are 'known' to curators and visitors, but they don't realise that the material has never been described in the literature and is not readily known to the scientific (or at least pterosaur) community. If any of you do know of pterosaurs languishing in collections that have not been described, do please let me know in the comments.

The flip-side of this, is that things turn up that need to be identified. The other day Matthew Parkes, a curator in Dublin, e-mailed with with this photo. It's a plaster cast of a pterodactyloid pterosaur from the Solnhofen and labeled as being Pterodactylus longicollum (which has only just got a new generic name of Ardeadactylus). This seemes reasonable, the unusually long and tube-like cervical centra of this taxon are visible at the upper left part of this cast and the size and gross proportions are about right (even if few details are visible). However, Matthew wanted to know what original specimen this could be a cast *of* and that's where I'm stuck. I've seen most Ardedactylus specimens and don't recognise it, and I've checked through my extensive collection of photos and papers of all manner of Solnhofen material and can't find a match.

The records in Dublin show that it has been in their catalogue since 1891, so it's at least this old and probably rather older. The catalogue suggest it may be figured as a plate in von Meyer's 1854 Neues Jarbuch paper, but I don't have, and can't find, a copy. Matthew suspects it may be a lost specimen and in which case, this may be the only remainder. Of course if we can work out which it pertains to, we can check at the original institute, but the first step eludes us. So, anyone recognise it? Has it been spotted in Frankfurt or Haarlem? Or is there a figure in some obscure Wellnhofer paper I've missed?

Any help is welcome, and I'm still on the lookout for other Solnhofen pterosaurs, so please let me know of any you've spotted. Thanks and good hunting.