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Jurassic Pterosaur Had Wingspan of At Least Ten Feet

by News7

A team of paleontologists has unearthed the fossil remains of a ctenochasmatoid pterosaur from the Kimmeridge Clay Formation in Oxfordshire, central England. The specimen represents one of the largest known examples of a Jurassic pterosaur, with an estimated wingspan of at least 3 m (10 feet), and is one of the first pterodactyloid pterosaurs to be reported from the Jurassic of the United Kingdom.

A selection of outlines of large Jurassic pterosaur wingspans: pterodactyloids (left), including the new fossil (EC K2576), and rhamphorhynchoids (right). Image credit: Etienne et al., doi: 10.1016/j.pgeola.2024.05.002.

Pterosaurs were flying reptiles of the Mesozoic Era, characterized by a flight membrane stretched between the fore and hind limbs that incorporated a hyper-extended fourth wing-finger composed of four elongate phalanges.

In the largest Cretaceous forms such as Arambourgiania, Hatzegopteryx and Quetzalcoatlus, the total wingspan achieved lengths of 10 m (33 feet) or more.

But Triassic and Jurassic forms were considerably smaller with typical wingspans of 0.5-2 m (1.6-6.5 feet).

There is evidence that a few Jurassic forms reached large wingspans too, but they rarely exceeded 3 m (10 feet).

The new pterosaur fossil was found in the Kimmeridge Clay Formation near Abingdon-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, England.

The specimen is a wing bone, which was broken into three pieces but still well-preserved.

According to the team, it belongs to an adult ctenochasmatoid, a group of pterosaurs known for their long, slender wings, long jaws and fine bristle-like teeth.

“When the bone was discovered, it was certainly notable for its size,” said University of Portsmouth’s Professor David Martill.

“We carried out a numerical analysis and came up with a maximum wingspan of 3.75 m (12.3 feet).”

“Although this would be small for a Cretaceous pterosaur, it’s absolutely huge for a Jurassic one.”

“This fossil is also particularly special because it is one of the first records of this type of pterosaur from the Jurassic period in the United Kingdom.”

“This specimen is now one of the largest known pterosaurs from the Jurassic period worldwide, surpassed only by a specimen in Switzerland with an estimated wingspan of up to 5 m (16.4 feet).”

“Abfab, our nickname for the Abingdon pterosaur, shows that pterodactyloids, advanced pterosaurs that completely dominated the Cretaceous, achieved spectacularly large sizes almost immediately after they first appeared in the Middle Jurassic right about the time the dinosaurian ancestors of birds were taking to the air,” said University of Leicester’s Dr. Dave Unwin.

A paper on the findings was published in the Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association.


James L. Etienne et al. A ‘giant’ pterodactyloid pterosaur from the British Jurassic. Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association, published online May 24, 2024; doi: 10.1016/j.pgeola.2024.05.002

Source : Breaking Science News

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