Discovery of a rare pterosaur bone bed in a cretaceous desert with insights on ontogeny and behavior of flying reptiles

PLoS One. 2014 Aug 13;9(8):e100005. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0100005. eCollection 2014.


A pterosaur bone bed with at least 47 individuals (wing spans: 0.65-2.35 m) of a new species is reported from southern Brazil from an interdunal lake deposit of a Cretaceous desert, shedding new light on several biological aspects of those flying reptiles. The material represents a new pterosaur, Caiuajara dobruskii gen. et sp. nov., that is the southermost occurrence of the edentulous clade Tapejaridae (Tapejarinae, Pterodactyloidea) recovered so far. Caiuajara dobruskii differs from all other members of this clade in several cranial features, including the presence of a ventral sagittal bony expansion projected inside the nasoantorbital fenestra, which is formed by the premaxillae; and features of the lower jaw, like a marked rounded depression in the occlusal concavity of the dentary. Ontogenetic variation of Caiuajara dobruskii is mainly reflected in the size and inclination of the premaxillary crest, changing from small and inclined (∼ 115°) in juveniles to large and steep (∼ 90°) in adults. No particular ontogenetic features are observed in postcranial elements. The available information suggests that this species was gregarious, living in colonies, and most likely precocial, being able to fly at a very young age, which might have been a general trend for at least derived pterosaurs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone and Bones / anatomy & histology*
  • Brazil
  • Flight, Animal*
  • Fossils*
  • Phylogeny
  • Reptiles / anatomy & histology*
  • Reptiles / classification
  • Reptiles / physiology
  • Species Specificity

Grants and funding

AWAK acknowledges funding from the Fundação Carlos Chagas Filho de Amparo à pesquisa do Rio de Janeiro (FAPERJ # E-26/102.737/2012) and the Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq # 307276/2009-9). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.