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Istiodactylus skull revised in PLoS ONE



From: Ben Creisler
bcreisler@gmail.com


New online in PLoS ONE:

Witton MP (2012)
New Insights into the Skull of Istiodactylus latidens
(Ornithocheiroidea, Pterodactyloidea).
PLoS ONE 7(3): e33170
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0033170
http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0033170



The skull of the Cretaceous pterosaur Istiodactylus latidens, a
historically important species best known for its broad muzzle of
interlocking, lancet-shaped teeth, is almost completely known from the
broken remains of several individuals, but the length of its jaws
remains elusive. Estimates of I. latidens jaw length have been
exclusively based on the incomplete skull of NHMUK R3877 and, perhaps
erroneously, reconstructed by assuming continuation of its broken
skull pieces as preserved in situ. Here, an overlooked jaw fragment of
NHMUK R3877 is redescribed and used to revise the skull reconstruction
of I. latidens. The new reconstruction suggests a much shorter skull
than previously supposed, along with a relatively tall orbital region
and proportionally slender maxilla, a feature documented in the early
20th century but ignored by all skull reconstructions of this species.
These features indicate that the skull of I. latidens is particularly
distinctive amongst istiodactylids and suggests greater disparity
between I. latidens and I. sinensis than previously appreciated. A
cladistic analysis of istiodactylid pterosaurs incorporating new
predicted I. latidens skull metrics suggests Istiodactylidae is
constrained to five species (Liaoxipterus brachyognathus,
Lonchengpterus zhoai, Nurhachius ignaciobritoi, Istiodactylus latidens
and Istiodactylus sinensis) defined by their distinctive dentition,
but excludes the putative istiodactylids Haopterus gracilis and
Hongshanopterus lacustris. Istiodactylus latidens, I. sinensis and Li.
brachyognathus form an unresolved clade of derived istiodactylids, and
the similarity of comparable remains of I. sinensis and Li.
brachyognathus suggest further work into their taxonomy and
classification is required. The new skull model of I. latidens agrees
with the scavenging habits proposed for these pterosaurs, with much of
their cranial anatomy converging on that of habitually scavenging
birds.