Wednesday, December 9, 2015

[Paleontology • 2015] A Specimen of Rhamphorhynchus with Soft Tissue Preservation, Stomach Contents and A Putative Coprolite

Rhamphorhynchus, a long-tailed pterosaur, hypothetically feeding on squid.
illustration: Julius Csotonyi || RoyalTyrrellMuseum || DOI: 10.7717/peerj.1191

Despite being known for nearly two centuries, new specimens of the derived non-pterodactyloid pterosaur Rhamphorhynchus continue to be discovered and reveal new information about their anatomy and palaeobiology. Here we describe a specimen held in the collections of the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, Alberta, Canada that shows both preservation and impressions of soft tissues, and also preserves material interpreted as stomach contents of vertebrate remains and, uniquely, a putative coprolite. The specimen also preserves additional evidence for fibers in the uropatagium.

Figure 1: Specimen TMP 2008.41.001 of Rhamphorhynchus muensteri.

Locality Information: Solnhofen, Schernfeld quarry, from Bavaria, Southern Germany.

Systematic Palaeontology
Pterosauria Kaup, 1834
Rhamphorhynchidae Seeley, 1870

Rhamphorhynchus Von Meyer, 1847
R. muensteri Goldfuss, 1831

Numerous pterosaur specimens had been found previously, preserving fish remains in their gut, indicating these animals lived near water bodies and fed on fishes.  This particular Rhamphorhynchus specimen is the first to preserve the remains of a fish, shark, and potential tetrapod (i.e., a four-legged animal) in its stomach, and a coprolite filled with strange hooklets. Although the identities of the material preserved in the stomach and coprolite could not be determined, they reveal that Rhamphorhynchus did not feed exclusively on fish. This spectacular specimen gives researchers unique insight into dietary and ecological traits of this small Late Jurassic pterosaur.

David Hone​, Donald M. Henderson, François Therrien and Michael B. Habib. 2015. A Specimen of Rhamphorhynchus with Soft Tissue Preservation, Stomach Contents and A Putative Coprolite. PeerJ. 3:e1191. DOI: 10.7717/peerj.1191

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