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Rare 89 million-year-old flying reptile fossil from Texas may be world's oldest Pteranodon
Date:3/1/2011

Department of Earth Sciences.

Myers reported and described the specimen in "Earliest Occurrence of the Pteranodontidae (Archosauria: Pterosauria) in North America; New Material from the Austin Group of Texas" in the Journal of Paleontology. See www.smuresearch.com for a link to the abstract and the article, and to see a video of Myers talking about the fossils.

Left wing suggests Pteranodon; cause of death a mystery

Key to identifying the SMU fossils as Pteranodon is a humerus of 5.7 inches, or 14.5 centimeters. The humerus is the uppermost bone in the wing and attaches to the torso. The humerus of the SMU specimen, while complete, did suffer some damage during fossilization when it became compressed and distorted through millions of years of compaction.

"If it wasn't crushed so badly, it would be possible to determine if it really is Pteranodon," Myers said. "These bones are easily flattened. They are hollow inside, because they have to be lightweight to allow a pterosaur to fly. So they compress like a pancake as they're embedded in layers of rock."

While it's difficult to narrow the humerus definitively to a specific genus and species, some features clearly identify the specimen as part of the Pteranodontidae family, most likely the genus Pteranodon. It exhibits, for example, the prominent warped deltopectoral crest that is characteristic of members of the Pteranodontidae family, called pteranodontids, he said.

Discovered along with the humerus were parts of the elongated fourth finger that in pterosaurs forms the wing. The SMU specimen's metacarpal at 20 centimeters is incomplete, missing an estimated 37 percent of its length.

The fossils do not solve the mystery of the reptile's cause of death, Myers said. But it appears the animal probably died in flight over the sea and then fell in
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Contact: Margaret Allen
mallen@smu.edu
214-768-7664
Southern Methodist University
Source:Eurekalert  

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