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Rare 95 million-year-old flying reptile Aetodactylus halli is new pterosaur genus, species

osed by excavation of a hillside next to a highway. The site was near the city of Mansfield, southwest of Dallas. Hall donated the specimen to SMU.

Pterosaurs ruled the skies from the late Triassic, more than 200 million years ago, to the end of the Cretaceous, about 65 million years ago, when they went extinct. They represent the earliest vertebrates capable of flying.

Fossil hunter saw long row of teeth sockets

The Aetodactylus halli jaw was discovered in the geologic unit known as the Eagle Ford Group, which comprises sediments deposited in a shallow sea, Myers says. Outcrop of the Eagle Ford Group extends northward from southwestern Texas into southern Oklahoma and southwestern Arkansas.

"I was scanning the exposure and noticed what at first I thought was a piece of oyster shell spanning across a small erosion valley," Hall recalls of the discovery. "Only about an inch or two was exposed. I almost passed it up thinking it was oyster, but realized it was more tan-colored like bone. I started uncovering it and realized it was the jaw to something but I had no idea what. It was upside down and when I turned over the snout portion it was nothing but a long row of teeth sockets, which was very exciting."

SMU vertebrate paleontologist Louis L. Jacobs, a dinosaur expert internationally recognized for his fossil discoveries in Texas and Africa, and SMU paleontologist Michael J. Polcyn, recognized for his expertise on the extinct marine reptiles called mosasaurs, both told Hall it was a pterosaur and an important find.

Unique jaw differs from others

The 38.4-centimeter Aetodactylus jaw originally contained 54 slender, pointed teeth, but only two remain in their sockets, Myers says. The lower teeth were evenly spaced and extended far back along the jaw, covering nearly three quarters of the length of the mandible. The upper and lower teeth interlaced when the jaws were closed.

In Aetodacty

Contact: Margaret Allen
Southern Methodist University

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