Originally Posted: December 8, 2015
New species marks only the third toothed pterosaur identified from North America’s Cretaceous — each one discovered in North Texas
A new species of toothy pterosaur is a native of Texas whose closest relative is from England.
The new 94-million-year-old species, named Cimoliopterus dunni, is strikingly similar to England’s Cimoliopterus cuvieri.
Identification of the new flying reptile links prehistoric Texas to England, says paleontologist Timothy S. Myers, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, who identified the fossil as a new species.
Pterosaur relatives from two continents suggests the prehistoric creatures moved between North America and England earlier in the Cretaceous — despite progressive widening of the North Atlantic Ocean during that time.
The Texas and English Cimoliopterus cousins are different species, so some evolutionary divergence occurred, indicating the populations were isolated from one another at 94 million years ago, Myers said.
The similarity between the two species, however, implies minimal divergence time, so gene flow between North American and European populations would have been possible at some point shortly before that date.
“The Atlantic opened the supercontinent Pangea like a zipper, separating continents and leaving animal populations isolated, so gene flow ceased and we start to see evolutionary divergence,” said Myers, a research assistant professor in the Roy M. Huffington Department of Earth Sciences at SMU. “Animals start to look different and you see different species on one continent versus another. Pterosaurs are a little trickier because unlike land animals they can fly and disperse across bodies of water. The later ones are pretty good flyers.”
Based on fossils discovered so far, it’s known that toothed pterosaurs are generally abundant during the Cretaceous in Asia, Europe and South America. But they are rare in North America. READ MORE