Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Ornithocheiroids known from the earliest Early Cretaceous


"The assignment of a fragment of the anterior tip of a pterosaur rostrum from the Cenomanian Cambridge Greensand of eastern England to the ornithocheirid Coloborhynchus capito (Seeley, 1870) is confirmed. The fragment represents partial left and right fused premaxillae and retains broken teeth within alveoli. A width across the palate of 56 mm, a height at the anterior rostrum in excess of 95 mm and a tooth with a diameter of 13 mm at the base of the crown indicates a remarkably large individual, tentatively estimated to have had a skull length in excess of 0.75 m and a wing span of up to 7 m. This fragment represents the largest toothed pterosaur yet reported. This find, and several other large postcranial fragments from the Cambridge Greensand, suggest that ornithocheirids, toothed ornithocheiroids known from the earliest Early to early Late Cretaceous (Valanginian–Cenomanian) achieved very large, but not giant size. Pteranodontids, edentulous ornithocheiroids currently known only from the mid Upper Cretaceous (Coniacian–early Campanian), reached similar dimensions (up to 7.25 m in wing span) but, contrary to popular myth, did not attain the giant sizes (wing spans of 10 m or more) achieved by azhdarchids in the late Late Cretaceous (Campanian–Maastrichtian)."

Flying Ornithocheiroids in the "earliest Early Cretaceous" developed into some of the primitive flying bird taxa later in the Cretaceous.

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