Saturday, 19 June 2010

Australian Pterosaurs

Australia is a vast continent with a relatively small population.  It was in 1980 that the first pterosaur remains were recorded and published in Nature.  They included a scapulo-coracoid of an unusual type that had a strut at the back of the articular joint.  There are some similarities with pteranodontid specimens, but essentially it is an unknown species that has not been seen anywhere else.
 The model in the photograph gives an impression of the overall shape.  The original specimen QM-F10612 From the Flaggy Limestones of the Toolebuc Formation about 13km from Hamilton Hotel is now in the Queensland Museum.  About 500m away, two other specimens of pterosaur were discovered.  QM-F10613 a fused mandible with 5 pairs of alvioli and QM-F10614 a single vertebra.  It is not known if they represent the same pterosaur.
In the New Zealand Geological Survey collection is NZGS CD467 collected from Mangahouanga Stream, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand.  This is a distal Ulna fragment from an azdarchid pterosaur.  It is considered to be similar to Arambourgiania though the detail suggests a different type of pterosaur.

Another specimen is of a Mid-jaw fragment from the Allaru Mudstone of Queensland, Australia. This specimen is considered to show a resemblance to Anhanguera santanae but like most of the Australian material it has unique features which may well set it apart from the rest of the world.

A few additional pterosaur fragments indicate that Australia was colonised by pterosaurs from the major Groups during the Cretaceous.  It is also likely that the pterosaur fauna of the Jurassic was specific to the Australian continent, but with so few finds it is not possible to make sensible conclusions.  Many of the continents show this pattern of finds over much of their geological history.  It is only at specific sites that the fine pterosaur fossils tend to be found, where preservation is very good.  As there has not been such a site discovered in Australia, the finds tend to be representative of the normal background evidence for the fossil record.

  • Molnar, R. E., Thulborn, R. A., 1980 First Pterosaur from Australia, Nature, London, Vol.288, Pp.361-363
  • Molnar, R. E. 1987 A Pterosaur pelvis from western Queensland, Australia, Alcheringa, 11, 87-94 ISSN 0311 5518
  • Wiffen, J., Molnar, R. E., 1988 First pterosaur from New Zealand. Alcheringa 12, 53–59.
  • Molnar R. E., 1998. Anhanguera sp. P. 82. In Tomida, Y. (ed.) Dinosaurs of Gondwana. (Yomiuri Shimbun: Tokyo) (in Japanese)
  • Molnar, R.E., and Thulborn, R.A., 2007. An incomplete pterosaur skull from the Cretaceus of north-central Queensland, Australia. Arquivos do Museu Nacional, Rio de Janeiro 65(4):461-470. 
  • Fletcher, T. L., Salisbury S. W. and Cook, A. G, 2007. New pterosaur fossils from the Early Cretaceous (Aptian-Albian) of western Queensland, Australia. In: Warren, A., Geological Society of Australia Abstracts No. 85. 11th Conference on Australian Vertebrate Evolution, Palaeontology and Systematics, 2007, Melbourne, Australia, (26-26). April, 2007.