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Research & Collections

Feeding Traces on a Pteranodon (Reptilia: Pterosauria) Bone from the Late Cretaceous (Campanian) Mooreville Chalk in Alabama, USA

A) Close-up picture of scavenging marks present on the ventral surface of ALMNH 8630. B) Partial dentary of Saurodon leanus, ALMNH 5101, demonstrating the size and spacing of the teeth in relation to the darker brown scavenging marks. Scale bars = 1 cm.
Ehret, D. and T.L. Harrell, Jr. 2018. Feeding traces on Pteranodon (Reptilia: Pterosauria) bone from the late Cretaceous (Campanian) Mooreville Chalk in Alabama, USA. PALAIOS 33(9):4145-418. https://doi.org/10.2110/palo.2018.024

Pterosaur remains are exceptionally rare in the Late Cretaceous marine chalks of Alabama and the few specimens found are typically very fragmentary. We report the occurrence of a metacarpal of Pteranodon cf. longiceps from the Mooreville Chalk (Campanian, 83 million years old) of Dallas County, Alabama.

The Pteranodon specimen exhibits serrated teeth marks on the surface of the bone and a second set of larger, unserrated teeth marks unlike those of any contemporary shark species. These feeding traces compare favorably with the tooth spacing and morphology of Squalicorax kaupi, and a small to moderate-sized saurodontid fish, such as Saurodon or Saurocephalus, respectively. In both instances, feeding traces appear to be scavenging events due to the lack of any healing or bone remodeling. During the Campanian, Dallas County, Alabama, was a shallow-marine environment comprising part of the Mississippi Embayment. It is hypothesized that the specimen represents a pterosaur that either fell into marine waters or was washed out from nearshore areas and then scavenged by both a chondrichthyan and osteichthyan. This type of scavenging behavior has been recorded on other taxonomic groups from Alabama during the Late Cretaceous. However, the fragile, hollow bones of pterosaurs make their preservation rare.

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