Pterosaur Bone With Crocodile Toothmarks Reveals Flying Reptiles Weren’t Safe From Aquatic Attack

In the movie Crocodile Dundee, the titular character reveals a big scar he calls a “love bite” on his leg from when a crocodile attempted to consume him. As revealed by toothmarks on a pterosaur legbone, it appears to be crocodiles and their relations have been offering such adore bites for at minimum a hundred million several years.

The bone is explained in the journal Alcheringa and in contrast with yet another pterosaur femur located 355 kilometers (220 miles) away but relationship from close to 10 million decades earlier. Irrespective of the time amongst them, the two bones have been remarkably very similar – at least right until a freshwater crocodylomorph took a chunk out of one particular of them.

Initial writer, Swinburne College PhD student Adele Pentland, informed IFLScience it is really unachievable to convey to if the crocodile bite transpired though the pterosaur was even now alive, or if it signifies postmortem scavenging. Even so, Pentland included, seasoned paleontologists had confident her there was no way the pterosaur would have, Dundee-like, escaped and built its way to security. “Once a crocodile got hold of you that was it,” she explained.

Reconstruction of a earlier Australian pterosaur Pentland studied and the ecosystem in which it died. It is possible at least one particular of the new finds was the identical species. Graphic Credit score: Ruairidh Duncan

It appears to be bites to the leg ended up a thing of an occupational hazard of remaining an Australian pterosaur. Twelve decades ago, some of Pentland’s co-authors have been aspect of a research of the continent’s sparse stock of traveling reptile specimens, obtaining that a person carried a collection of marks seemingly designed by the tooth of an unidentified marine predator.

Not only is there some real truth to the meme that everything in Australia is seeking to destroy you, but it’s been that way for a very long time. For creatures so dominant in the air, the hazard came from the drinking water.

With only a single bone to go on for every specimen, Pentland could not match either to a species. Even so, she and her co-authors conclude both of those belonged to the Anhangueria, a quite prevalent clade Pentland previously shown survived very long more than enough to incorporate equally of these specimens.

“It’s seriously challenging to estimate wingspan from just legbones,” Pentland observed, “But from comparison we would say these may well have experienced spans of 4 meters.”

It is astonishing that these types of creatures could acquire off from the h2o just after catching fish, but other analysis has shown it was without a doubt aerodynamically doable. Carrying out it with a crocodile hanging off your leg, even so, would have been an solely different make any difference.

What was when rich forests and the shores of an inland sea has grow to be hostile territory hiding some of Australia’s richest fossil deposits, here demonstrating the web site the place one of the bones was identified. Graphic Credit score: Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum

A pair of isolated legbones is an extremely minimal resource to analyze, but paleontologists who want to focus in pterosaurs have to get utilized to producing a great deal out of a very little. The gentle bones that allowed them to become the biggest traveling animals in Earth’s background had been fossilized extremely poorly. The problem is even even worse for any one functioning in Australia, whose deficiency of geological uplift has made fossils from the Jurassic and Cretaceous considerably harder to uncover than on other continents. For Pentland, the actuality the bite marks presented exceptional ecological context was a fortunate crack.

Inspite of delicate differences, these as a tiny ridge on one particular aspect of one particular of the bones, the two femurs have been remarkably related offered the dissimilarities in their ages. “It appears they were extremely steady,” Pentland informed IFLScience. “There was not a great deal of selective strain on these elements of their anatomy.”