Pterosaur diversity and faunal turnover in Cretaceous terrestrial ecosystems in China

Abstract

New specimens and an analysis of the Jehol pterosaur faunae of northeastern China show an unexpected diversity of flying reptile groups in terrestrial Cretaceous ecosystems1,2,3,4. Here we report two new pterosaurs that are referred to European groups previously unknown in deposits of northeastern China. Feilongus youngi, from the Yixian Formation1,3, is closely related to the Gallodactylidae5,6 and is distinguished by the presence of two independent sagittal crests and a protruding upper jaw. Nurhachius ignaciobritoi, from the Jiufotang Formation2,3, has teeth formed by labiolingually compressed triangular crowns, only previously reported in Istiodactylus latidens7 from England. With these new discoveries, the Jehol pterosaurs show a wide range of groups including both primitive and derived forms that are not matched by any other deposit in the world. The discoveries also document the turnover of pterosaur faunae, with the primitive Anurognathidae and early archaeopterodactyloids being replaced by derived pterodactyloids. Furthermore, these deposits offer an opportunity to examine the interaction and competition between birds and pterosaurs—it indicates that the avian fauna during the Lower Cretaceous (and possibly most of the Mesozoic) dominated terrestrial, inland regions, whereas pterosaurs were more abundant in coastal areas.

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Figure 1: Feilongus youngi gen. et sp. nov., a new archaeopterodactyloid from the Yixian Formation.
Figure 2: Nurhachius ignaciobritoi gen. et sp. nov., a new istiodactylid from the Jiufotang Formation.
Figure 3: Drawing of the skull and lower jaw of Nurhachius ignaciobritoi gen. et sp. nov.
Figure 4: Cladistic analyses of the new pterosaur species and others from the Jehol Biota.

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Acknowledgements

We thank M. Chang for supporting this work; J. Huang, M. Yang and V. Machado for the drawings and help with preparation of the illustrations; W. Gao for the photos; and Y. Li and L. Xiang for the preparation of the specimens. This study was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the National 973 Project, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Brazilian Academy of Sciences, Fundação Carlos de Chagas Filho de Amparo a Pesquisa do Rio de Janeiro (FAPERJ) and Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq). A.W.A.K. and D.dA.C. are members of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences.

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Correspondence to Xiaolin Wang or Alexander W. A. Kellner.

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Supplementary Methods

A phylogenetic analysis of the new pterosaur species. To access the phylogenetic position of the new pterosaur species described, we performed a phylogenetic analysis using PAUP 4.0b10 for Microsoft Windows (31). (DOC 101 kb)

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Wang, X., Kellner, A., Zhou, Z. et al. Pterosaur diversity and faunal turnover in Cretaceous terrestrial ecosystems in China. Nature 437, 875–879 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature03982

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