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[dinosaur] Pterodactylus and Rhamphorhynchus: soft tissues interred from taphonomy

Ben Creisler

A new paper:

S.R. Beardmore, E. Lawlor & D.W.E. Hone (July 2017)
Using taphonomy to infer differences in soft tissues between taxa: an example using basal and derived forms of Solnhofen pterosaurs.
The Science of Nature 104:65 (advance online publication)
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00114-017-1486-0

In fossilised vertebrates, the presence of soft tissues is the most obvious way to determine aspects of anatomy and functional morphology; however, occurrences are rare and other lines of evidence must be sought to indicate its extent and strength. For example, pterosaurs possessed a large wing membrane that enabled powered flight but other tissues are not widely preserved. A semi-quantitative analysis comparing skeletal articulation and completeness of the pterodactyloid Pterodactylus and non-pterodactyloid pterosaur Rhamphorhynchus from Solnhofen-type deposits implies there were anatomical differences between soft-tissue structure and attachments articulating skeletal joints of each. Typically, skeletons of Pterodactylus disarticulate to a greater extent than those of Rhamphorhynchus, which in turn suggests decay progressed to more advanced states in the former. However, this generalisation masks a mosaic of differences between different body parts, for example Rhamphorhynchus tends to lose the wings as complete units but retains a complete and still articulated tail in a greater number of specimens than Pterodactylus.