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A new small-bodied azhdarchoid pterosaur from the Lower Cretaceous of England and its implications for pterosaur anatomy, diversity and phylogeny

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  • Qh301 Biology
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  • Medicine

Abstract

pone.0058451 1..16 A New Small-Bodied Azhdarchoid Pterosaur from the Lower Cretaceous of England and Its Implications for Pterosaur Anatomy, Diversity and Phylogeny Darren Naish1*, Martin Simpson1, Gareth Dyke1,2 1Ocean and Earth Sciences, University of Southampton, Southampton, United Kingdom, 2 Institute of Life Sciences, University of Southampton, Southampton, United Kingdom Abstract Background: Pterosaurs have been known from the Cretaceous sediments of the Isle of Wight (southern England, United Kingdom) since 1870. We describe the three-dimensional pelvic girdle and associated vertebrae of a small near-adult pterodactyloid from the Atherfield Clay Formation (lower Aptian, Lower Cretaceous). Despite acknowledged variation in the pterosaur pelvis, previous studies have not adequately sampled or incorporated pelvic characters into phylogenetic analyses. Methodology/Principal Findings: The new specimen represents the new taxon Vectidraco daisymorrisae gen. et sp. nov., diagnosed by the presence of a concavity posterodorsal to the acetabulum and the form of its postacetabular process on the ilium. Several characters suggest that Vectidraco belongs to Azhdarchoidea. We constructed a pelvis-only phylogenetic analysis to test whether the pterosaur pelvis carries a useful phylogenetic signal. Resolution in recovered trees was poor, but they approximately matched trees recovered from analyses of total evidence. We also added Vectidraco and our pelvic characters to an existing total-evidence matrix for pterosaurs. Both analyses recovered Vectidraco within Azhdarchoidea. Conclusions/Significance: The Lower Cretaceous strata of western Europe have yielded members of several pterosaur lineages, but Aptian pterosaurs from western Europe are rare. With a pelvis length of 40 mm, the new animal would have had a total length of c. 350 mm, and a wingspan of c. 750 mm. Barremian and Aptian pterodactyloids from western Europe show that small-bodied azhdarchoids lived alongside ornithocheirids and i

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