Have we found a new species of pterosaur from the Solnhofen Limestone?

Hays, Kansas
Raised of $1,974 Goal
Ended on 1/03/14
Campaign Ended
  • $385
  • 20%
  • Finished
    on 1/03/14

About This Project

Two specimens thought to be Pterodactylus micronyx [now Aurorazhdarcho micronyx] have markedly different proportions and may be the first new species found in the Solnhofen Limestone in nearly 90 years. This research aims to compare those two specimens to other specimens of Aurorazhdarcho micronyx and skulls of Gnathosaurus subulatus to find out.

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What is the context of this research?

The pterosaur 'Pterodactylus' micronyx was known from about a dozen small and immature specimens from the Upper Jurassic Solnhofen Limestone of southern Germany. In a paper published in 1996 I noted that it did not belong in the genus Pterodactylus and probably was the same as Gnathosaurus subulatus, which is known from a few isolated large skulls. In a taxonomic revision of Pterodactylus published in early 2013, I examined skull and limb measurements of 'Pterodactylus' micronyx specimens, found that most had proportions similar to a large headless skeleton recently described as Aurorazhdarcho primordius, and combined the 'Pterodactylus' micronyx and Aurorazhdarcho primordius specimens under the name Aurorazhdarcho micronyx. However, two immature specimens have different proportions from the rest and may represent a new species or genus. I put off dealing with those two different specimens until all specimens of Aurorazhdarcho micronyx and Gnathosaurus subulatus could be restudied, and this project will do just that.

A more detailed description of the project from a previous proposal is available here.

What is the significance of this project?

The research is significant for two main reasons:

1) If the two different specimens in the sample of Aurorazhdarcho micronyx do represent a new species, it will be the first new species found in the Solnhofen Limestone in over 80 years.

2) If the Gnathosaurus subulatus skulls can be associated with Aurorazhdarcho micronyx or the possible new species, that will complete the taxonomic revision of the Solnhofen pterosaur fauna that I have been working on since 1993.

The Solnhofen Limestone of southern Germany is important to the study of pterosaurs because it provides the best view of an Upper Jurassic pterosaur fauna by way of hundreds of excellently preserved specimens that reveal their anatomy including soft tissues and wing structure, pattern of growth, and diversity, and the micronyx-Gnathosaurus problem is the last taxonomic loose end to tie up.

What are the goals of the project?

The goals of this project are:

1) to study the available specimens of the pterosaur Aurorazhdarcho micronyx and determine whether there is a new species mixed in the sample.

2) to search for evidence that can associate Gnathosaurus subulatus skulls with Aurorazhdarcho micronyx or the possible new species.

I will provide lab notes monthly before the research travel, at least weekly during the museum visits, and as needed afterward.


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The funds will be used to pay for airplane and train travel to and in Europe planned for the Summer of 2014 to visit museums holding pertinent specimens. I need to study specimens of Aurorazhdarcho micronyx and Gnathosaurus subulatus in London, Uppsala, Berlin, Dresden, Bamberg, Budapest, Munich, Basel, Haarlem, and Leiden. Within Europe I will fly from London to Stockholm, and Stockholm to Berlin because going by train would waste 3-4 days. The rest of the travel within Europe will be by train with travel planned for evenings after museum work and weekends as much as possible so as to maximize research time. An 8 day 5 country Eurail Select Pass will provide most of travel in Europe, but I need a separate train ticket to get back to London to catch the return flight to Pittsburgh. An additional $100 is included to cover incidental travel by train, bus, tram, etc. while in Europe. Note that the budget presented below does not cover lodging, but if pledges exceed the proposed budget any excess will be used to cover lodging.

Meet the Team

Chris Bennett
Chris Bennett

Team Bio

Chris Bennett is an Associate Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Fort Hays State University. He has conducted research on pterosaurs since 1985 and published on many different aspects of pterosaur biology: descriptive morphology; functional morphology of flight and terrestrial locomotion; ontogeny; sexual dimorphism; and taxonomy and systematics. Since 1993 he has had a long term research project on the anatomy and taxonomy of the pterosaurs from the Solnhofen Limestone.

Lab Notes

Nothing posted yet.

Additional Information

Bennett, S. C. 1996. Year-classes of pterosaurs from the Solnhofen Limestone of Germany: taxonomic and systematic implications. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 16:432-444.
Bennett, S. C. 2013. New information on body size and cranial display structures of Pterodactylus antiquus, with a revision of the genus. Paläontologische Zeitschrift, 87:269-289.
See also the Research page on my website at: http://bigcat.fhsu.edu/biology/cbennett/research.html.

Project Backers

  • 10Backers
  • 20%Funded
  • $385Total Donations
  • $38.50Average Donation
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