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Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Bonus pterosaur (anurognathid) art you've never seen before! (sort of)

Anurognathus ammoni makes itself like a tree, but doesn't leave. Prints are available.
Last week I unceremoniously dumped several revamped pterosaur images on the blog after they were prepared for a talk on one of my favourite topics - pterosaur functional morphology and biomechanics. Turned out that I wasn't quite done tinkering with old images however, because another piece - above - was set for 11th hour reworking. It shows one of the subject taxa of my talk - an anurognathid pterosaur - hunched up and perched in a tree, its cryptic colouration helping it to blend in somewhat with the underlying branch. The original version can be found in my book, with this newer variant merely adding more detail, depth and a bit of background.

This depiction of anurognathid palaeobiology isn't merely idle speculation on my part. In 2007, pterosaurologist Chris Bennett described a famously spectacular, tiny specimen of Anurognathus from the Jurassic of Germany preserved with its limbs and wing fingers folded around its body. Chris noted that this posture is common in anurognathid fossils but largely unseen in other pterosaurs, and suggested it reflected a common in vivo limb configuration specific to this group. He further speculated that the purpose of this pose was to make the animals compact and inconspicuous, for which cryptic colouring would also be beneficial. There are obvious parallels to make here with insect-chasing birds like nightjars and potoos, which also rely on specific postures and colouration to blend into their surroundings. This is not merely to avoid detection by predators, but also gives an advantage for ambushing prey. Given that anurognathids are widely considered insect-chasers, the surprising difficulty associated with catching some insect prey and the explosive flight ability of these little pterosaurs (stay tuned!), Bennett's speculations about their appearance and habits fit neatly into current models of anurognathid palaeobiology, and can be considered a reasonable way to depict these animals in palaeoart.

Coming soon - hopefully - a host of theropods, more pterosaurs, and the most exciting dinosaur art of all... a solitary hadrosaur!


  • Bennett, S. C. (2007). A second specimen of the pterosaur Anurognathus ammoni. Pal√§ontologische Zeitschrift, 81(4), 376-398.


  1. I love the Whippoorwill-Brown Creeper presentation of Anurognathus. It has a very biologic living feel to it!

  2. Mike from Ottawa28 January 2015 at 20:40

    "explosive flight ability of these little pterosaurs" - you tease! Looking forward to more on that.

  3. I like your art work! You have have the fibers correct. The soft fossils I have don't show the fuzz that the artwork coming out of China shows. Have several soft fossils in different matrix and fibers are a golden color - sorta like the modern golden pheasants ... just thought I'd share.

    Stan Conard