In the Early Cretaceous Jehol Biota, the toothless pterosaurs flourished with the chaoyangopterids and tapejarids playing a key role in understanding the early diversity and evolution of the Azhdarchoidea. Unlike the more diverse tapejarids, the rarer chaoyangopterids are characterized by a long and low rostrum, supporting a close relationship with the huge azhdarchids. Unfortunately, our knowledge is still limited in the osteology, paleoecology, and taxonomy of the Chaoyangopteridae. As one of the best preserved skeletons, the type and only specimen of Jidapterus edentus provides an opportunity to understand the morphology and paleoecology of the chaoyangopterids.
Our study of the osteology of Jidapterus edentus reveals valuable information about the morphology of the Chaoyangopteridae such as a rostrum with a curved dorsal profile, high Rostral Index (RI), larger angle between the dorsal and postorbital processes of the jugal, sequentially shorter fourth to seventh cervical vertebrae, sternum with a plate wider than long, contact of the metacarpal I with the distal syncarpal, pneumatic foramen on first wing phalanx, hatchet-like postacetabular process with unconstricted neck and small dorsal process, distinctly concave anterior margin of pubis, subrectangular pubic plate with nearly parallel anterior and posterior margins, longer proximal phalanges of pedal digits III and IV, as well as reduced and less curved pedal unguals. These features further support the validity of Jidapterus edentus as a distinct species and the close relationship of the chaoyangopterids with the azhdarchids. Paleoecologically, the chaoyangopterids are probably like the azhdarchids, more terrestrial than the contemporaneous and putatively arboreal tapejarids, which may have been limited to the forest-dominated ecosystem of the Jehol Biota.
The osteology of Jidapterus edentus further supports the close relationship of the Chaoyangopteridae with the Azhdarchidae in sharing a high RI value and reduced and mildly-curved pedal unguals, and it also implies a possible paleoecological similarity in their terrestrial capability. Combined with the putatively arboreal and herbivorous tapejarids, this distinct lifestyle of the chaoyangopterids provides new insights into the diversity of pterosaurs in the ecosystem of the Jehol Biota.