Not your typical pterosaur

Beautifully preserved fossil displays novel wing feature

4:13pm, July 9, 2012
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For a decade, scientists largely ignored a fossil of a juvenile, late-Jurassic flying reptile that’s just 14 centimeters long. It appeared to be just another of some 120 specimens of the genus Rhamphorhynchus excavated at Germany’s famed Solnhofen limestone beds.

Closer inspection now shows it’s something new, David Hone of the University of Bristol in England and his colleagues report July 5 in PLoS ONE. They’re creating a genus dubbed Bellubrunnus, or Brunn beauty, to honor the German quarry where it was unearthed.

The tiny flyer has fewer teeth and a more flexible tail than other Rhamphorhynchus-like pterosaurs. And the outermost bone of each wing curves outward, distinguishing it from any known flying vertebrate alive or extinct. This would have made flying somewhat harder, Hone explains, but afforded somewhat improved maneuverability to this animal, which had a perhaps meter-wide wingspan at maturity.

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