Pterodaustro guinazui: The Pink Pterosaur.
Size: Adults had a wingspan of 8.2 feet (250 centimeters) to 9.84 feet (300 centimeters) in length.
Time Period: The Albian Stage of the Early Cretaceous period.
Locale: The Largacito Formation of Argentina and the Santa Ana Formation of Chile.
Name: The generic name means “wing of the south,” referencing the animal’s flying capabilities and South American locale. This is derived from the phrase ‘ptero de austro.’
Another pterosaur post is here! This time, focus is on a derived pterodactyloid, Pterodaustro. This animal had a unique niche and looks very weird. It had a very long skull, which was almost a foot (30 centimeters) long. The upward curving snout in front of the eyes actually comprises over 80% of its skull length. Pterodaustro has a thousand bristle-like modified teeth in said snout, which may have been used to filter crustaceans, plankton, and other small creatures out of the water. The teeth don’t stand in separate alveoli, but in two grooves that are parallel to the edges of the jaw. At first, it was actually thought that Pterodaustro’s teeth weren’t teeth at all, but they contain enamel, dentine, and a pulpa, so they were built like regular teeth and were basically teeth. The teeth were held by ligaments in a tooth pad that was covered with bone plates. Finally, the back of the skull may have carried a low crest of some kind.
Pterodaustro probably lived life like a flamingo, wading in the shallows and straining food with its teeth. Once the food was in its mouth, Pterodaustro mashed it with the small, globular teeth in its upper jaw. The flamingo analogy goes further when you listen to Bob Bakker’s theory that Pterodaustro’s diet may have resulted in a pink color because of the pigment in its food. Speaking of diet, gizzard stones have been found in the stomach cavity of Pterodaustro, the first ever reported for pterosaurs. These stones support the idea that Pterodaustro ate hard-shelled, small aquatic crustaceans via filter-feeding. This is convenient, because such invertebrates were very common at the fossil site where Pterodaustro has been found.
The scleral rings of Pterodaustro and modern reptiles and birds show that Pterodaustro might have been nocturnal. Combining this knowledge to its feeding style, and it might have had similar activity patterns to night-feeding anseriform birds.
Juvenile Pterodaustro grew fairly fast in their first two years, and reached half of their adult size. After these two years, they became sexually mature and grew for another five years until they stopped growing. This may support the theory that pterosaurs didn’t keep growing throughout life like some other reptiles did.
Pterodaustro is a member of the family Ctenochasmatidae, which had its roots in the Middle Jurassic and is represented by less well-known pterosaurs such as Huanhepterus and Beipaiopterus. It’s unknown what happened to this group, save for the fact that it didn’t make it to the end of the Mesozoic (the only pterosaur group definitely known to do so is the Azhdarchidae, for reasons unknown).
Pterosaurs are pretty cool, and Pterodaustro is just a case in point. Though it’s no dinosaur, I still find it to be an interesting animal. I suppose I’ll do another post on pterosaurs at some point… What kinds of pterosaurs would you guys like for me to cover (Aerotitan and Nemicolopterus come to mind)?