Thursday, February 21, 2013

Can you identify this cast?

Some of you may know that I've been trying to track down all manner of 'missing' Solnhofen pterosaurs. All kinds of specimens have been sold off over the years and are in collections all over the world. Many of these are 'known' to curators and visitors, but they don't realise that the material has never been described in the literature and is not readily known to the scientific (or at least pterosaur) community. If any of you do know of pterosaurs languishing in collections that have not been described, do please let me know in the comments.

The flip-side of this, is that things turn up that need to be identified. The other day Matthew Parkes, a curator in Dublin, e-mailed with with this photo. It's a plaster cast of a pterodactyloid pterosaur from the Solnhofen and labeled as being Pterodactylus longicollum (which has only just got a new generic name of Ardeadactylus). This seemes reasonable, the unusually long and tube-like cervical centra of this taxon are visible at the upper left part of this cast and the size and gross proportions are about right (even if few details are visible). However, Matthew wanted to know what original specimen this could be a cast *of* and that's where I'm stuck. I've seen most Ardedactylus specimens and don't recognise it, and I've checked through my extensive collection of photos and papers of all manner of Solnhofen material and can't find a match.

The records in Dublin show that it has been in their catalogue since 1891, so it's at least this old and probably rather older. The catalogue suggest it may be figured as a plate in von Meyer's 1854 Neues Jarbuch paper, but I don't have, and can't find, a copy. Matthew suspects it may be a lost specimen and in which case, this may be the only remainder. Of course if we can work out which it pertains to, we can check at the original institute, but the first step eludes us. So, anyone recognise it? Has it been spotted in Frankfurt or Haarlem? Or is there a figure in some obscure Wellnhofer paper I've missed?

Any help is welcome, and I'm still on the lookout for other Solnhofen pterosaurs, so please let me know of any you've spotted. Thanks and good hunting.



  1. von Meyer's 1854 paper doesn't have any plates or figures (it's freely available via Google Books), at least none that I could see, even at the end of the issue. The specimen might be mentioned in the text, but it's not figured there.

  2. Dave Unwin has been in touch to point to it. It is listed in Wellnhofer 1970, but without a specimen number and it's not illustrated! It's a lost specimen, and only a few casts remain, so this is quite a nice find.

  3. There is a cast specimen in the NHM London (37990a/b) of a part and counterpart which conforms in shape to the manus of this cast. It is labelled "Pterodactylus longicollum Meyer, Kimeridgian, Bavaria, Cat PtI,p,a. Purchd 1862".

  4. I almost sprang out in my chair in excitement when I saw this. This is a cast of von Meyer's holotype of Ardeadactylus longicollum, described in 1854, but not illustrated until 1860 in vol. 4 of 'Zur Fauna der Vorwelt' a series of books documenting almost all German fossils known at the time. I once had the chance to see a copy of the book (which is incredibly difficult to find and sadly still is not scanned into Google Books). This specimen was held in the Bayerische Staatssammlung für Paläontologie und Geologie in Munich but was lost in World War II, so it doesn't seem to have had an accession number. It's wonderful that we still have casts of the specimen, too many pterosaur specimens have been lost without any casts made, the most troubling is the holotype of Ctenochasma elegans, which was never illustrated.
    Here are the illustrations of the A. longicollum from von Meyer 1860:

  5. Yep, I recognise this one. We definitely have an old plaster cast. The 'Cat 1' refers to Lydekker's catalogue of the fossil vertebrates in the British Museum, in which it is listed but not figured. So it's Ardeadactylus now? I'll update the catalogue when I get back to work!

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  9. truly amazing. but too bad i don't know any of the cast

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