Biggest Crests in Town

I’ve been on a pterosaur kick lately, especially focusing on “tapejaroids” — and only tangentially related to my recent report of the first European tapejaroid, Europejara olcadesorum — those pterosaurs that split off from azhdarchids with the crazy huge nasoantorbital fenestrae and amazing cranial crests. There are two varieties: “thalassodromines,” which have shallow jaws much like their azhdarchid relatives, very long skulls, and extensive bony crests. Unlike the other group, the “tapejarines,” thalassodromines develop extensive bony cores to their crests, which persist from the rostrum and follow the skull caudally to the end of the “occipital cone.” In life, they probably looked a lot like this:

Thalassodromeus sethi, Keller & Campos, 1997. By me, and protect by CC BY-ND-NC license.

There have been recent suggestions that “pterofuzz,” or pycnofibres, covered the entire body, by which I mean save for the flexible tissues between the jaws (“pseudo-cheeks”) and maybe around the naris and the soles of the feet, the whole body, including the wings, would have been covered in the stuff. This is explored here, and in the further two images.

One will also notice that I have not preserved the typical caudal V-cut that is common in depictions of this animal, even from leading pterosaur workers. I am extrapolating that, like tapejarines, and indeed like most pterosaurs in which a soft-tissue crest has been found extending to the end of the parietal crest, it would form a largely U-shaped, parabolic curve. Thalassodromeus sethi had a 1.2 meter skull, about 4 feet, and almost half of that was crest.

Tapejarines, on the other hand, have shorter skulls. Very short. And were it not for the likely huge crests they sported, they would seem rather small in proportion. Tapejarines encompasses somewhat of a dual split between the Sinopterus and the Tapejara branches. The term, “tapejarine,” is not meant to taxonomic but merely effective. I am not going to be touching on that issue for some time — Darren Naish has a fair go at it here, and you can read that and the lit on it if you wish (but, it needs revision).

Tapejara wellnhoferi, Kellner, 1989. By me, and protected by a CC BY-NC-ND license.

Here, I continued to use the “pycnofibres on everything” trend, and threw in sexual dimorphism (though largely in implied coloration and size). This demonstrates the “Tapejara lineage” in which the mandible sports a huge ventral keel, a small dorsal pair of tomial processes, and the rostrum also sports a distinctive high keel. The “Sinopterus lineage,” by contrast, have longer, lower skulls, little to no mandibular keels, and a small almost vestigial dorsal rostrum keel.

Tapejara wellnhoferi, by the way, is my favorite pterosaur. I like short-skulled, toothless animals, although by now, no one can tell.

I’m trying to make a statement with this one, drawn as a montage (these pieces are all on the same sheet, exactly as they were made, and I had no room to finish the wings), but see if you can tell. The recumbent pterosaur with the pronated arms and folded wings? That’s not it.

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