Researchers announced the discovery of a new (extinct) species of pterosaur from the Patagonia region of South America. The discovery was made from the cranial remains of a specimen that were found to be a pretty well preserved condition, probably dated from the Early Jurassic period (around 200 – 175 million years ago). Interestingly enough, the new species was named as the Allkauren koi, from the native Tehuelche language – with ‘all’ roughly translating to ‘brain’ and ‘kauren’ meaning ‘ancient’.
The very name ‘Pterosaur’ comes from the Greek for ‘winged lizards’. These astounding flying reptiles ruled the skies between the late Triassic to the end of the Cretaceous Period; and quite unsurprisingly, one of the largest known flying animals of all time – Quetzalcoatlus, comes from this extinct clade. In terms of size, the larger variant of Quetzalcoatlus’ is estimated to have had an incredible wingspan of over 36 ft. But interestingly this was just one end of the size spectrum, with some Pterosaur specimens also showcasing the diminutive dimensions of small sparrows.
Now beyond the size and flight factors, the scope of neuroanatomy of Pterosaurs is still mostly mired in mystery. But this study could shed some new light into the origin and evolutionary pattern of these flying reptiles from millions of years ago –
Pterosaurs are an extinct group of flying reptiles that lived during most of the Mesozoic Era. This group had an extraordinary adaptation to flight, including pneumatic bones to lighten its weight, and an elongated digit supporting a wing membrane. However, pterosaur neuroanatomy is known from only a few three dimensionally preserved remains and, until now, there was no information on the intermediate forms. This study therefore provides new information on the origin, tempo and mode of evolution in this particular group of flying reptiles.
To that end, the recovered remains of this newly discovered Pterosaur species included an incredibly preserved brain-case, discovered in northern central Chubut Province (Patagonia Argentina). Later CT scan helped in establishing the creature’s cranial anatomy, thus allowing 3D observations of the components like cranial endocast and the inner ear. The study of these sections led to a comprehensive phylogenetic assessment of the said Pterosaur group. As Dr Diego Pol, one of the researchers said –
Allkaruen, from the middle lower Jurassic limit, shows an intermediate state in the brain evolution of pterosaurs and their adaptations to the aerial environment. As a result, this research makes an important contribution to the understanding of the evolution of all of pterosaurs.
The study was originally published in the journal PeerJ.