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Darwinopterus, Pterorhynchus and Wukongopterus

Darwinopterus, Pterorhynchus and Wukongopterus

As Jaime has pointed out, Darwinopterus and Pterorhynchus are clearly distinct 
from one another. Pterorhynchus has a relatively small skull, short neck and 
short legs compared to Darwinopterus and the dentition would appear to be quite 
different. This conclusion is consistent with the phylogenetic analysis that Lü 
et al (2009) conducted for Darwinopterus where the two taxa are separated by 
around 20 steps.  

Wukongopterus was collected from the same locality as Darwinopterus and in a 
rerun of our (i.e. Lü et al. 2009) phylogenetic analysis that included this 
taxon it paired with Darwinopterus in a well supported sister group 
relationship with Pterodactyloidea. Excluding Darwinopterus had no impact on 
tree topology. I attempted to repeat Wang et al’s analysis so that I could 
include Darwinopterus, but have been unable to replicate their results so far. 
Direct comparison of Darwinopterus with published details of Wukongopterus 
suggests that they are very similar although, as already noted by Jaime, there 
seem to be some minor differences in dentition and jaw shape. Whether these are 
sufficient to justify continued separation of these taxa has yet to be resolved 
but, in any case, it doesn’t appear that IVPP V15113 adds much either to our 
understanding of Darwinopterus, or of pterosaur interrelationships. As I 
mentioned at SVP, we have already come across numerous examples of 
Darwinopterus (Zhou, Zhou and Schoch presented an abstract on another very nice 
specimen of Darwinopterus at SVP this year) and this taxon looks set to become 
one of the better known pterosaur genera. Watch out soon for another paper on 
Darwinopterus which will comment on the taxonomic issues raised above. 


Reader in Palaeobiology
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