Enigmatic Hellasaur Thursday, er Friday, er whatever…

11 April 2008

Raeticodactylus as played by Bela Lugosi, as seen at the newly revamped Hairy Museum of Natural History.

I mean, is anyone really surprised? It’s taken me almost two years to thrash myself halfway through a measly list of 10 beautiful birds, what were the chances that I might actually be able to successfully kick off a weekly feature?

So, it turns out, bizarrely, that I actually have a lot more to say about Longisquama than I thought, despite the fact that everyone and their mom has speculated the crap out of it already. So, look for the dreadfully detailed post next week…I guess.

In the meanwhile I wanted to flesh out that crack about Raeticodactylus, preying on baby placodonts. I know you all thought I was kidding…but check out this quote from Giovanni Pinna (1991).

As happens for living young sea turtles, young placodonts were caught by pterosaurs on the seashore after they had hatched In this way it is possible to explain the early ossification of the armour that occurs in the representatives of the species, in contrast with the slower [i.e. later] armours’ ossification that occours [sic] in earlyer [sic] species living in times lacking in flying reptiles.

Pterosaurs prey on living sea turtles!? Okay, okay, I know he’s analogizing to gulls or whatever, but still I began flipping about madly trying to find some concrete evidence for this scenario…Then I stumbled across the disclaimer which I had somehow missed on the previous page:

“The following reconstruction is obviously highly hypothetical and incomplete…”

Ah ha…

Still, maybe there’s something to it. While I’m basically desperate to turn Eudimorphodon into an insectivore, we apparently have some good evidence that it was probably foraging in the marine realm (e.g. fish scales in the gut). The qunti-cuspid teeth of Raeticodactylus don’t look especially piscivorous to me (though neither do those of Eudimorphodon so, shows what I know), but maybe they would have been good for crunching through fish covered with heavily ossified scales. And they actually do kinda look like a baby “walrus-turtle’s” worst nightmare…if you squint just so.

In fact, why not, I’ll go one further and assert that the nasal protuberance and the bizarre ventrally deflected retroarticular process are adaptations for excavating buried placodont nests to get at the eggs. Hey man, put those eyebrows down. You wanna take this outside?

And watch this: for bonus points, I think we just solved the mystery of what juvenile Tanystropheus was eating too…hanging out on the shore crunching on baby placo-nuts till it was ready to swim with the big boys.



Pinna, G. 1991 “The norian reptiles of northern Italy” in Evolution, Ecology and Biogeography of the Triassic Reptiles edited by Mazin and Pinna.

2 Responses to “Enigmatic Hellasaur Thursday, er Friday, er whatever…”

  1. Love the caption! Can’t wait for more “Hellasaur” installments…

  2. Zach Miller Says:

    I…I have a sudden urge to draw this new pterosaur snacking on a baby placodont. DAMN YOU, BELA LUGOSI!

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