Thursday, July 5, 2012

Europejara olcadesorum: Pterosaurs Get Invited to the Party!!!

Announced this week from the Las Hoyas lagerstat of Cuenca, Spain is the first Laurasian member of the pterosaur clade Tapejarinae, Europejara olcadesorum. 

Red represent found bones

Previously only known from sites in Gondwana, this discovery suggests a major early Cretaceous world-wide radiation of this pterosaur family. Ecologically this is important because tapejarids are most often interpreted as toucan analogues- frugivores. And the distribution of tapejarids in time and space closely parallels the distribution of radiating flowering plants- i.e. fruit. It now seems that this family of pterosaurs can be included alongside various insect, mammal, bird, and reptile families as part of the Cretaceous Terrestrial Revolution (KTR). The KTR represents a suite of families that, through coevolution with flowering plants, more or less gave rise to a "modern" world ecosystem. By eating the fruits/seeds of primitive flowering plants tapejarids distributed these plants and thus were architects of the modern world.

Illustration by Author. Here I have Europejara snapping up a fruit (hypothetical avocado type fruit) mid-flight. I don't know if tapejarids would have plucked fruit in midair like this- but why not?


Vullo R, Marugán-Lobón J, Kellner AWA, Buscalioni AD, Gomez B, et al. (2012) A New Crested Pterosaur from the Early Cretaceous of Spain: The First European Tapejarid (Pterodactyloidea: Azhdarchoidea). PLoS ONE 7(7): e38900. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0038900

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