Tapejarid Pterosaur Discovered in United Kingdom

A new genus and species of pterosaur has been discovered in the United Kingdom!

On the Isle of Wight, a discovery of particular magnitude has been made, as England’s first tapejarid pterosaur is unveiled. The animal, named Wightia declivirostris, was identified as a tapejarid thanks to the structure of its upper jaw bone, the premaxilla. The discovery of Wightia is one of the oldest recorded occurrences of tapejarids outside of China. Tapejarids are characteristically known for their strange, high cranial crests, which paleontologists believe were brightly colored, and used as sexual display. The discovery of this animal further solidifies the Wessex Formation of the Isle of Wight (which Wightia‘s name is derived from) as one of the world’s most important and diverse cretaceous fossil locales.

A reconstruction of Wightia. Artist Credit: Dan Folkes

Wightia would have soared over cretaceous floodplains and forests, subsisting on an omniverous diet of insects, fruits, seeds, and maybe even some plants, as its relative Sinopterus is known to have consumed foliage directly. Tapejarid pterosaurs would have had heightened sensory perception along their beaks in order to detect food. Wightia would have shared the environment with small, ancient mammals in addition to well known dinosaurs such as Hypsilophodon, iguanodontids like Mantellisaurus, the spinosaurid Baryonyx, tyrannosaurids such as Eotyrannus, and allosauroids like Neovenator, making its home a true bastion of paleoecological diversity.

The remains of the premaxilla of Wightia declivirostris. Scale bars – 10 mm. Image credit: Martill et al

 

  • David M. Martill et al. 2020. First tapejarid pterosaur from the Wessex Formation (Wealden Group: Lower Cretaceous, Barremian) of the United Kingdom. Cretaceous Research 113

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