A new species of dinosaur has been discovered that had hundreds of tiny hooked teeth and ate in a manner similar to ducks and flamingos.
A fossil of an almost complete Balaenognathus maeuseri, belonging to the pterosaur family, was accidentally discovered in a quarry in Bavaria, Germany, while scientists were excavating a large block of limestone containing crocodile bones.
Since the discovery of the first pterosaur in Bavarian limestone in the 18th century, hundreds of remains of flying reptiles have been discovered, making the quarries of the Franconian Jura one of the richest pterosaur sites in the world.
The research was led by prof. David Martill from the University of Portsmouth in Hampshire, and paleontologists from England, Germany and Mexico participated.
Professor Martill said: “The almost complete skeleton was found in very finely layered limestone, which preserves the fossils beautifully.
“The jaws of this pterosaur are really long and covered with small, tiny, hooked teeth, with small gaps between them like a rivet comb.
“The long jaw is curved upwards like an avocet and widens at the end like a spoonbill. There are no teeth at the end of its mouth, but there are teeth along both jaws, all the way to the back of its grin.
“Even more unusual is that some of the teeth have a hook at the end, something we have never seen before in a pterosaur.
“These little hooks would have been used to catch the tiny shrimp that the pterosaur probably ate – making sure they went down its throat and didn’t get pinched between its teeth.”
The name translates as whale’s mouth
The animal probably amused itself by wading through shallow lagoons, sucking in tiny aquatic shrimps and copepods, then filtering them through its teeth in the same way as ducks and flamingos.
The name “Balaenognathus” roughly means whale’s mouth due to the filter feeding style, while the specific name “maeuseri” is in honor of co-author Matthias Mauser, who died while writing the article.
Professor Martill said: “Matthias was a friendly and warm-hearted colleague who is hard to find. To keep his memory alive, we named the pterosaur in his honor.”
Article entitled A new pterodactyloid pterosaur with a unique filter apparatus from the Late Jurassic in Germany has been published in the Palaontologische Zeitschrift.
The specimen is currently on display at the Natural History Museum in Bamberg, Germany.