New pterosaur with over 400 teeth discovered in Germany

A new dinosaur species with over 400 teeth has been discovered in Germany that ate like ducks and flamingos.

The almost complete fossil of Balaenognathus maeuseri, part of the pterosaur family, was accidentally discovered in a quarry in Bavaria while scientists were excavating a large block of limestone containing crocodile bones.

Since the first pterosaur was discovered in Bavarian limestone in the 18th century, the remains of hundreds of flying reptiles have been unearthed, making the Franken Jurassic quarries one of the richest pterosaur sites in the world.

The research was led by Professor David Martill of the University of Portsmouth, Hampshire, and included paleontologists from England, Germany and Mexico.

Prof Martill said: “The almost complete skeleton was found in a very thin layered limestone that beautifully preserved the fossils.

“The jaws of this pterosaur are really long and covered with small, slender, hooked teeth with tiny gaps between them, like a lice comb.

Balaenognathus maeuseri bones found in a limestone slab

The bones of Balaenognathus maeuseri were found in a limestone slab during research in Germany (PalZ/PA)

“The long jaw is curved upward like an apocalypse and eventually broadens like a spoonbill. He has no teeth at the tip of his mouth, but has teeth along both jaws to the back of his smile.

“What’s even more remarkable is that some of the teeth have hooks on the tips that we’ve never seen before in a pterosaur.

“These little hooks were probably used to catch the small shrimp the pterosaur was feeding on — to make sure they got down its throat and didn’t get caught between its teeth.”

The animal likely wobbled as it passed through shallow lagoons, sucking on small aquatic shrimp and copepods and then filtering them through its teeth in the same way as ducks and flamingos.

The roughly translated name “Balaenognathus” means whale mouth due to its filtering diet, while the proper name “maeuseri” is in honor of co-author Matthias Mauser, who died at the time of writing the article.

Prof Martill said: “Matthias was a friendly and warm-hearted colleague of a rare kind. We named the pterosaur in his honor to preserve his memory.”

A novel pterodactyloid pterosaur with a unique filter-feeding apparatus from Germany’s Late Jurassic has been published in Palaontologische Zeitschrift.

The specimen is currently on display at the Bamberg Museum of Natural History in Germany.

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