Pelican-osaurus found, according to ScienceShots and National Geographic News 11 September 2014, and Scientific Reports doi:10.1038/srep06329. Two specimens of a previously unknown pterosaur have been unearthed from the Jiufotang Formation of northeast China. The new pterosaurs have been given the scientific name Ikrandraco avatar after a flying creature named Ikran in the science fiction movie Avatar. Draco is Latin for dragon.

They are dated as early Cretaceous – around 120 million years old.

The creatures were about 75 cm (30 in) long, with a skull approximately 28 cm (10.5 in) long, and had 40 pairs of small teeth. Its lower jaw is unusual for a pterosaur in that it has a 13 cm (5 in) long crest projecting from it. The crest has a hook at the end and the scientists suggested it could have supported a throat pouch similar to that of a pelican.

The research team also suggested it trawled for fish by flying low over water and skimming the surface. They wrote: “The particular skull shape hints at a distinct feeding habit for pterosaurs that potentially includes temporary skimming and an extensible skin acting as a throat pouch that was more developed than in any other pterosaur known so far”.

Other pterosaur experts are not convinced, as trawling this way would involve flying perilously close to the water surface and would slow it down. Mark Witton, a pterosaur expert at University of Portsmouth in England commented: “The proposed feeding strategy sounds unlikely and bizarre to me”. He went on to say “Modern animals show us that flying relatively low over the water to catch prey is a successful ecological strategy, but they do this without any bizarre crest trawling”.

National Geographic, ScienceShots

Editorial Comment: Isn’t it amazing what a large story can be made from such small evidence? The actual fossil found was one bony crest with a hook on it. The ‘pelican pouch and skim feeding behaviour’ are all speculation. As with all fossil finds it is important to keep in mind what was actually discovered vs what stories are told about it. There is always a large leap of faith between dead bones and living behaviour, especially when there are no live examples to study.

The name given to this dinosaur reminds us that until Richard Owen invented the word ‘dinosaur’ in 1841 these creatures were called dragons, even by Owen himself. The Chinese still refer to them as dragons, and several recently discovered dinosaurs have the Chinese word for dragon, long, incorporated into their names, e.g. Guanlong wucaii, a dinosaur featured at our Jurassic Ark site. It is interesting to see this trend continuing in another language. (Ref. pterosaurs, reptiles)

Evidence News vol. 14, No. 16
1 October 2014
Creation Research Australia