UFRJ presents unpublished discovery of pterosaur eggs
Discovery was presented on Thursday (30/11) by paleontologist Alexander Kellner, one of the members of the international team of researchers
It is the first time embryos are found with three-dimensional bones
Brazilian and Chinese researchers have found more than 300 eggs and hundreds of remains of pterosaur skeletons in the northwest China’s Hami region. It is the highest concentration of eggs of extinct vertebrates known until then and that were in a block with just over 3sqm. The material comes from rocks formed approximately 100 million years ago, a geological period called the Lower Cretaceous. It also includes young and adult animals, the first embryos preserved in three dimensions of this group, already found.
The discovery was presented on Thursday (30/11) at a press conference at the National Museum of UFRJ by paleontologist Alexander Kellner, one of the Brazilian members of the research team in China. In addition, other study researchers were present. According to Kellner, to date only three embryos have been known: two from China and one from Argentina, all preserved compacts.
“This is the first time that embryos are found with three-dimensional bones that have made possible the unprecedented elaboration of studies of osteohistological sections, which are bones of embryos,” says the researcher. The study will be published in the edition of the journal Science that circulates from this Friday (1/12).
Pterosaurs form an extinct group of winged reptiles, which were the first vertebrates to establish active flight. For this they developed an extensive fourth digit (corresponds to the ring finger), which became the base of support of an alar membrane, in addition to extremely fine bones. In this way, its skeleton is very fragile, which makes its fossilization difficult.
Computed tomography analysis showed that in the newborn animals the bones linked to the flight were not yet well ossified, unlike the bones of the legs. This fact suggests that at least this species of pterosaur, called Hamipterus tianshanensis, developed parental care, with parents caring for their offspring for some time after birth.
Another important point of the discovery is the fact that, at a height of 2.2 meters, eight layers with concentrations of pterosaurs were found, four of them containing eggs. Each represents a different time in the scale of years. This led to the conclusion that these pterosaurs were gregarious animals, lay their eggs in groups and possibly returned seasonally to the same region to spawn.
Paleontologists Alexander Kellner of the National Museum / UFRJ and Xaolin Wang of the Institute of Paleontology of Vertebrate and Paleoanthropology of China in the field at the time of discovery. Photo: Alexander Kellner
The public will be able to know the new discovery in a small exhibition with replicas of part of the findings that will be exposed, starting this Friday at the National Museum, in Quinta da Boa Vista, Imperial Quarter of São Cristóvão, Rio de Janeiro.
This is one of the actions of the National Museum, the first museum in Brazil and the oldest scientific institution of Natural History and Anthropology in the country, which in 2018 celebrates 200 years of creation.
art: Chuang Zhao
source: Federal University of Rio de Janeiro