Friday, September 12, 2014

[Paleontology • 2014] Ikrandraco avatar • An Early Cretaceous Pterosaur with An Unusual Mandibular Crest from China and A Potential Novel Feeding Strategy

Ikrandraco avatar
Wang, Rodrigues, Jiang, Cheng & Kellner, 2014

The Aptian Jiufotang Formation of northeast China is a Konservat Lagerstätte particularly rich in pterosaurs, notably azhdarchoids. Here we describe a new genus and species of toothed pteranodontoid pterosaur, Ikrandraco avatar gen. et sp. nov., based on two laterally flattened specimens. Ikrandraco avatar is diagnosed by a suite of features, including a very low and elongate skull, strongly inclined quadrate, and a deep, blade-like bony mandibular crest with a hook-like process on its posterior edge, an unusual structure so far unique to this taxon. The particular skull shape hints at a distinct feeding habit for pterosaurs that potentially includes temporary skimming and an extensible skin acting as a throat pouch that was more developed than in any other pterosaur known so far. The presence of two other taxa of purported piscivorous pterosaurs in the Jiufotang Formation suggests distinct resource exploitation in this part of China during the Early Cretaceous.

ancient pterosaur Ikrandraco avatar had at least 40 pairs of small teeth and possibly a throat pouch for catching fish.
illustration: Chuang Zhao

Systematic paleontology

Pterosauria Kaup, 1834
Pterodactyloidea Plieninger, 1901

Dsungaripteroidea Young, 1964
Pteranodontoidea Marsh, 1876

Ikrandraco gen. nov.

Type species: Ikrandraco avatar, type by monotypy.
Etymology: Ikran, from the fictional flying creature portrayed in the movie Avatar that shows a well developed dentary crest, and draco, from the Latin meaning dragon.

Diagnosis: The same for the type species.

Ikrandraco avatar sp. nov.
Etymology: Avatar, in allusion to the homonymous science fiction movie.

The remains of an extinct flying reptile (shown here in a reconstruction) that lived some 120 million years ago reveal the creature had a wingspan of 4.9 feet (1.5 meters). The pterosaur now called Ikrandraco avatar may have stored food in a throat pouch similar to a pelican.
illustration: Chuang Zhao


Xiaolin Wang, Taissa Rodrigues, Shunxing Jiang, Xin Cheng and Alexander W. A. Kellner. 2014. An Early Cretaceous Pterosaur with an unusual Mandibular Crest from China and A Potential Novel Feeding Strategy. Scientific Reports 4, Article number: 6329 DOI: 10.1038/srep06329

 Humphries S, Bonser RHC, Witton MP, Martill DM (2007) Did Pterosaurs Feed by Skimming? Physical Modelling and Anatomical Evaluation of an Unusual Feeding Method. PLoS Biol. 5(8): e204. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0050204

Ancient Flying Reptile Ate Like a Toothy Pelican