A new kind of flying, fish-eating dinosaur has left German palaeontologists waving their trowels in glee. After a year of examining, dusting and head-scratching, they are putting the fossil on show this Saturday.
Thought to be around 155 million years old and with remnants of its last fish supper in its belly, scientists found the creature's skeleton in Wattendorf, Bavaria last year. It is the only one of its kind ever found and the dinosaur world is excited about the still unnamed animal.
“It's an extremely rare and wonderful specimen,” said pterosaur (flying dinosaur) expert Eberhard Frey from the Karlsruhe natural history museum.
“It had very long arms and very long legs, almost like stilts which were probably an advantage when wading through the water,” he added.
And despite being only around the height of a raven when standing, the pterosaur had a wingspan of around 1.20 metres, director of the Bamberg museum of natural history Matthias Mäuser told The Local.
To top off its oddly-proportioned shape, the creature had a long flamingo-like beak packed with 400 long, blunt teeth, which Mäuser explained were used to filter “fish, little crabs and other bits of food from shallow rock pools while standing.”
Scientists inspecting the fossil even found remains of its last meal in its stomach – bits of fish – solidifying the theory that it lived near water.
“It did have wings, but that does not mean it was a bird,” said Mäuser, adding that the new pterosaur did not have feathers, but instead was covered in wiry bristles and was a flying reptile.
Little is known about Germany's new Jurassic age curio, but after a year of rigorous investigations and research, Mäuser said that it may have died from an injury to its jaw, which showed signs of damage.
The Wattendorf limestone where the skeleton was found is a renowned hotspot for fossils. Scientists have unearthed more than 5,000 fossils of sharks, turtles, fish, snails and crocodiles there since excavation begun in 2004.
“It is a treasure trove of fossils,” said Mäuser. The new pterosaur is the oldest to have been found in the area, and Helmut Tischlinger, one of the scientists working on the project believes that links can be seen between the animal and much later giant pterosaurs – which had a wingspan up to ten metres.
The new pterosaur will be on display from Saturday in a special exhibition at the Bamberg natural history museum.
It would have been nice if they indicated the fossils size. Like how tall it would have been approximately when alive.
It makes me speculate that some classical era or medieval era citizen found one of these fossils, and theorized the existence of angels or something on those lines.
The late Jurassic Wattendorf lagerstätte, a plattenkalk-outcrop in Upper Franconia has been discovered only a few years ago. It exhibits the same exceptional preservation of its fossils as other plattenkalks.
The Wattendorf Plattenkalk (Upper Kimmeridgian) a new conservation lagerstatte from the northern Franconian Alb, southern Germany
A new occurrence of fossiliferous plattenkalks from the lower Upper Kimmeridgian Eudoxus Zone at Wattendorf, northern Franconian Alb, is briefly described. The laminated micritic limestones consist of two types of microfacies, graded packstones and microbial bindstones. The plattenkalk facies occurs as several decimetre-thick intercalations between graded pack- to rudstones, which accumulated in depressions of a distinct submarine palaeorelief. This relief was formed by microbialite-sponge reefs, which are now preserved as massive dolostone. So far, more than 70 taxa have been recovered from the plattenkalk. The biota are dominated by benthic molluscs and brachiopods, but fossils present include also algae, plants, sponges, crustaceans, polychaetes, ammonites, belemnites, echinoderms, fishes, and fragments of reptiles. The ecological and taphonomic analysis of the benthic faunal elements shows that probably none of them were autochthonous, but that most of them were swept into the plattenkalk environment from neighbouring topographic highs via storm-produced suspension clouds. It cannot be excluded with certainty that the most common bivalve, Aulacomyella, episodically colonised the soupy substrate, but a pseudoplanktonic mode of life is regarded as more likely. It is proposed that the plattenkalk formed in small, restricted depressions of the topographic relief provided by dead microbialite-sponge reefs. In these depressions lack of circulation led to establishment of dysoxic to anoxic conditions favouring preservation of soft parts and of articulated skeletons.
It would have been nice if they indicated the fossils size. Like how tall it would have been approximately when alive. There's no sense of scale in this photograph.