Terrifyingly toothy new species of pterosaur found in South America

I wouldn't make fun of this strange-looking dinosaur for fear of it swooping down to snatch your fluffy Golden-doodle puppy off the sidewalk when the creatures return from extinction.

Meet Allkauren koi, a pterosaur with arched, membranous wings and needle beak teeth that prowled the primeval skies 190 million years ago.  The flying reptile's fossilized skeleton was recently discovered in the Patagonia area of South America by a team of international researchers directed by Oliver Rauhut from the Paleontological and Geological Museum in Munich, Germany.  In a detailed new research paper published in PeerJ, the paleontologists describe this goofy new species of pterosaur, which lived during the Early Jurassic period.  The pristine skeleton comes from a single location within the Cañadón Asfalto Formation in northern central Chubut Province, Argentina.


The name Allkauren koi is a translation from the native Tehuelche, with Allkauren meaning “ancient brain” and koi being the lake located near the excavation site.  The extinct animal was given this cool official name because of its perfectly preserved and uncrushed braincase. Using computed tomography scans (CT), scientists were able to peek inside the dino-bird's braincase in 3D, inspecting the interior of the skull and inner ear, allowing for observations that may lead to data bridging the evolutionary gaps in these creatures' development.

First appearing in the Late Triassic and flourishing into the Mesozoic, pterosaurs are one of the most mysterious and least understood classes of dinosaurs due to the limited availability of viable fossil speciments.  More than 150 species have been discovered to date.  Since they were airborne, their skeletons were extremely light and subject to splintering and destruction as a result of their fragile pneumatic bones. The term “Uncrushed braincase” means that not only are all the brain bits there, but they’re all positioned in their original life configuration.  

Pterosaurs are usually divided into two major groups, rhamphorhynchoids and pterodactyloids.

Rhamphorhynchoids are referred to as non-pterodactyloids and are mostly characterized by a long tail and short neck and metacarpus, whereas pterodactyloids have a much bigger body size, elongated neck and metacarpus, and a disinctively shorter tail.  This latest dino find should open up new research into its specific neuroanatomy and evolutionary divergences and give researchers a much better understanding of these striking Jurassic pterosaurs.  Watch the skies!

(Via Gizmodo)

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