UK Museum Discovers Pterosaur is Not Sharks Fin

in STEMGeeks2 years ago

In a rather interesting twist a 26-years old fossil hunter discovered that a fossil kept in a drawer at the Booth Museum in Brighton (UK) was n and PhD studentot what its label said it was. Labeled and stored as sharks fin, the fossil may be more than 66 million years old and originate from a pterosaur (winged lizard) alike animal.

Portsmouth University student Roy Smith noticed that several fossils had small holes, which are where nerves come to the surface ned used for sensitive feeding by pterosaurs. According to Smith sharks fin don’t have those tiny holes, something earlier paleontologists who labeled the fossils oversaw.

Smith discovered the differences while studying the sharks fin fossils, which were unearthed in the 19th century by workmen digging for phosphates. While noting the difference, he recognized the fossils as being similar to the beak of pterosaurs.

All combined there are two different types of pterosaurs Smith identified: two fossils come from a pterosaur type ornithostoma, while a third fossil is from an unknown, yet possibly UN identified type. Smith and other archeologists who studied the fossil assume a likeliness to the alanqa, a type of pterosaur with a wingspan of 4 meters or more, which has been found in Northern Africa.

the Alanqa

Pterosaurs roamed earth between 228 and 66 million years ago and were among the first creatures known to have evolved powered flight.

Smith who discovered the fossils almost by accident as he had some spare time left and went through some drawers of the museum to kill time, has been fossil hunting since he was a boy. In earlier years he visited coal mines in the hope of finding fossils, but he still can be found on archeologic digs near to Portsmouth. He did say his drawer find was the most exciting of all his finds though.

While Smith was able to identify the third fossil as being from a newly discovered species, the fragment is too small to start naming the new species. There are no known additional fossils from the same location available, which may make identifying the new species almost impossible and for now archeologists will have to satisfy themselves with referring to the likeliness with the alanqa. Which is pretty exciting in itself, we think.

The results of the discovery, which were published in the Proceedings of Geologists’ Association journal, also excited Smith’s supervisor, Prof. Dave Martill.

“This is extremely exciting – to have discovered this mystery pterosaur right here in the UK. This find is significant because it adds to our knowledge of these ancient and fascinating flying prehistoric reptiles, but also demonstrates that such discoveries can be made, simply by re-examining material in old collections.”

While there are no known remnants of the same fossil origin locations, it seems scientists haven’t yet given up hope they may discover more of the same species and possibly find new fossils in other older collections.

We think many archeologists may recently have dug through their drawers, hoping to find something which could be from a yet to be identified pterosaur. I just checked my desk drawers but didn’t find anything truly exciting, or too old, in it. Coming closest to a “fossil” was an empty bottle of Tanqueray which may have been in that drawer for more than a year since I stopped drinking gin while back.

Maybe there’s more interesting stuff in your drawers? Possibly even some exciting archeological finds?


Image Credits

  • Leadpic by Dmitry Bogdanov, licensed Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
  • Alanqa illustration by Davide Bonadonna, source

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