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Rare 95 million-year-old flying reptile Aetodactylus halli is new pterosaur genus, species
Date:4/27/2010

lus, changes in tooth size along the jaw follow a similar pattern to those of other ornithocheirids. However, Aetodactylus differs from all other ornithocheirids in that its jaws were thin and delicate, with a maximum thickness not much greater than 1 centimeter, Myers says. But the specimen does compare favorably with Boreopterus, a related pterosaur from the Early Cretaceous of China, in terms of the number of teeth present in the lower jaw, he says.

Myers has estimated the wingspan around roughly 3 meters, or about 9 feet, indicating Aetodactylus would have been a "medium-sized" pterosaur, he says. While it's not known how Aetodactylus died, at the time of death the reptile was flying over the sea and fell into the water, perhaps while fishing, Jacobs says.

Find hints at new diversity of pterosaurs

North American pterosaurs that date from the Cretaceous are all toothless, except for Aetodactylus and Coloborhynchus, Myers says. The thinness of the jaws, the upward angle of the back half of the mandible and the lack of a pronounced expansion of the jaw tips indicate that Aetodactylus is different from other ornithocheirids and represents a new genus and species of pterosaur.

"Discovery of another ornithocheirid species in Texas hints at a diversity of pterosaurs in the Cretaceous of North America that wasn't previously realized," Myers says. "Aetodactylus also represents one of the final occurrences of ornithocheirids prior to the Late Cretaceous transition to pterosaur faunas that were dominated by the edentulous, or toothless, species."

Texas now claims the only two of their kind

Much of Texas was once submerged under the Western Interior Seaway. The massive sea split North America from the Gulf of Mexico to the Arctic Ocean.

On shore, the terrain was flat and flowering plants were already dominating flora communities in this part of North America, according to paleobotanist Bonnie Jacobs, associ
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Contact: Margaret Allen
mallen@mail.smu.edu
214-768-7664
Southern Methodist University
Source:Eurekalert  

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