Darwinopterus robustodens

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Since the description of the amazing Darwinopterus modularis there has suddenly been a huge rash (or even rush) of new Darwinopterus-like taxa to be described from the Middle Jurassic Chinese beds. A few of them I’ve managed to get hold of photos for and pictured in my great Chinese pterosaur roundup earlier this year.

Clearly at least some taxonomic revision is going to be needed here as, even assuming every named genus and species is valid (which I rather doubt), some of the current descriptions and definitions don’t really overlap. So many taxa have come out so fast (and from two different research groups) that inevitably things have been published without any kind of real comparison to the others which were unpublished at the time.

Into this maelstrom comes Darwinopterus robustodens which as you might have already guessed has rather robust teeth, but otherwise is incredibly similar to the other taxa in this little assortment. What makes this stand out in at least one way is the simply magnificent condition of the holotype (shown here thanks to Lu Junchang). Every one of the others so far has a bit missing (like most of the skull of Wukongopterus) or is not actually that well preserved (like the referred specimen of D. modularis) or is a bit disarticulated (like Kunpengopterus) or some combination of these.

This on the other hand is all but perfect. It’s complete (right down to the end of the tail) it’s articulated, and it’s in great condition. There is more to see in this specimen than any of the other dozen or so that have already been refereed to this group of pterosaurs. That will be most helpful when it comes to sorting out the taxonomy of these animals and makes for a near perfect display piece.

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