Paleontologists propose that this airborne reptile, uncovered within a German rock quarry, was not yet fully matured when it became encased in sediment. Nonetheless, it boasted an impressive two-meter wingspan and an impeccably parted pompadour reminiscent of Elvis Presley.
During its existence, this creature likely frequented the shores of shallow seas, with potential forays into estuaries and lakes. Its extended jaw, adorned with numerous small teeth, would have been adept at seizing small fish, shrimp, and other aquatic prey.
Standing out within its subgroup, it possessed the most substantial crest and ranked among the largest pterosaurs of the late Jurassic epoch.
This formidable entity belonged to the Ctenochasmatidae clade of pterosaurs. However, unlike its nearest kin, it exhibited a posterior skull expansion, enabling the attachment of robust jaw muscles. This anatomical feature endowed it with a more potent bite compared to many of its contemporaries.
“The animal was nicknamed ‘Elvis’ when the fossil was first unearthed in Bavaria, Germany because of the giant pompadour-like bony crest on its skull,” said Bruce Lauer of the Lauer Foundation as well as the study co-author.
Lauer collaborated with a group of paleontologists from Britain, the United States, and Germany. Together, they formally designated it as Petrodactyle wellnhoferi, a name that signifies ‘Wellnhofer’s stone-finger,’ in tribute to the renowned German paleontologist Peter Wellnhofer. Wellnhofer had dedicated his career to the study of German pterosaurs, distinguishing it from the previously proposed name Petrodactyle presleyi.
“Petrodactyle is a member of a group of pterosaurs called the ctenochasmatids that were mostly small filter feeders,” Lauer explained. “The specimen was located in a quarry which is producing scientifically important fossils that provide additional insights into Late Jurassic Pterosaurs.”
The prevailing belief is that pterosaurs primarily employed their bony crests as signals of sexual nature towards fellow members of their species. However, among the ctenochasmatids, Pterodactylus boasts the most immense crest ever observed.
“Big though this crest is, we know that these pterosaurs had skin-like extensions attached to it, so in life Petrodactyle would have had an even larger crest,” Dr. David Hone said. He is from Queen Mary University and the study lead author. “[I]t is one of the largest pterosaurs known from the Late Jurassic period.”
It’s truly strange to contemplate that such an enormous mouth and menacing visage were connected to a filter feeder, much like a duck. The Jurassic Era was teeming with colossal creatures, and it stands to reason that although the methods of procuring sustenance mirrored those of the animals coexisting with us today, the key to survival was possessing a substantial body capable of both hunting and safeguarding against the other massive beings that roamed the Earth during that era.
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