A bizarre spatula-billed pterosaur with outrageous amounts of tooth was found in a German quarry. Its distinctive facial anatomy indicates it shares a few of the feeding traits of present day whales and ducks.
While Pterodaustro from Argentina might even have more teeth, the mouth protrusions from this recently found species are strangely long and thin in comparison. The researchers compared these 480-plus teeth with the prongs of a nit brush.
“some of the teeth possess a hook on the end, something we’ve never seen before in a pterosaur,” David Martill, University of Portsmouth paleontologist, said.
“These little hooks may have been used to capture the small shrimp that the pterosaur most likely fed on, making sure they went down its throat and weren’t squeezed between the teeth,” he said.
These teeth were frequently utilized as traps as opposed to tearers and chompers. This suggests the metre -long-wing-spanned pterosaur need to have been a filter feeder, like baleen whales are these days.
“There are no teeth in the end of its mouth, but all the way along both jaws right on the rear of its laugh, there’re teeth,” Martill stated.
The wide spatula portion of the beak likely scooped water in its down-curving length. The pterosaur either passively filtered or squished between its teeth, capturing any planktonic creatures, such as the small shrimp, which had been swimming in there. This implies they hunted in the shallows, dipping their feet in the water, while they waded as flamingos on long legs.
“Filter feeding among pterosaurs most likely developed from animals which gathered food items from the water surface or directly under without using a piercing bite,” the team writes in their paper.
“The elongation of rosette tooth and the decrease of interdental space, along with the elongation of teeth, improved the filtration effect,” he said.
The paleontologists marveled at the near completeness of the skeleton, amazingly preserved in facial levels of limestone for over 150 million yrs. Pterosaurs are quite uncommon in the fossil record due to the fragility of the thin-walled hollow bones of theirs, but this particular sample actually provided tiny patches of wing membrane.
“It should have been installed in sediment almost once it’d died,” explains Martill.
The staff identified the pterosaur belongs on the family Ctenochasmatidae, that existed during the late Jurassic as well as early Cretaceous.
Martill and also colleagues called the early animal Balaenognathus maeuseri – the species name in honor of 1 of the scientists on the team, Matthias Mäuser, who unfortunately passed away recently.
This research was published in Paläontologische Zeitschrift.