Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 

Lower Cretaceous Pterosaurs

Pterosaurs (Pterosauria, aka pterodactyls) were flying reptiles that are present in the fossil record from the Late Triassic to the Cretaceous with a widespread distribution. Their wing construction consisted of a web of skin that stretched from the tip of the elongated 4th finger to the hind leg. The rhamphorynchoids, the earliest known pterosaurs, were generally small and had teeth in their jaws and a long tail with a membranous rudder at the tip. Pterodactyloids were more advanced forms that typically had a short tail and they had fewer teeth or no teeth, and some grew to a gigantic size.

In the Toolebuc Formation some have been found near Boulia in western Queensland, though in Australia they are extremely rare fossils. Included among the specimens found near Boulia are fragments of jaws, vertebrae, wing bones, a scapulocoracoid (shoulder girdle) and pelvis that have been attributed to ornithocheiroids. This group of pterodactyloids had a wide distribution that included South America, North America, Asia and Europe. The crested Pteranodon belongs to this group.

Of the few pterosaurs found in Australia a single species has been named, Mythunga camara, based on a partial skull that had very robust conical teeth that were widely spaced. It is believed to be an ornithocheiroid, though its relationships are equivocal. The authors1 suggest it was probably a fish-eating form with a wingspan of about 4 m.

The Eumeralla Formation and the Griman Creek Formation have both produced pterosaur bones. Though non-diagnostic they indicate the pterodactyloids probably inhabited coastal estuaries and the margins of the inland epicontinental sea.

Sources & Further reading

  1. Kear, B.P. & Hamilton-Bruce, R.J., 2011, Dinosaurs in Australia, Mesozoic life from the southern continent, CSIRO Publishing.
Author: M. H. Monroe
Last Updated 16/12/2011



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