A newly discovered species of flying reptile that lived during the Jurassic Period about 160 million years ago has been discovered in China. What’s even more incredible about this new species was that it had an opposed thumb. This is the earliest-known example of an opposed thumb and the first time ever that it’s been discovered on a flying reptile.
The tree-dwelling reptile has been nicknamed “Monkeydactyl” while its proper name is “Kunpengopterus antipollicatus” which means “opposite thumbed” in ancient Greek. It was discovered in the Tiaojishan rock formations in Liaoning, China.
The small pterosaur had a wingspan that measured just 2.8 feet (33.6 inches). Its fingers were the most interesting part of the discovery as they were exceptionally small and “partly embedded in the slab” as explained by Waisum Ma who is a palaeontologist from the University of Birmingham and an author of the study. It was its thumb, though, that was the creature’s most astonishing feature.
While opposed thumbs – also known as a “pollex” – have been found in mammals and some tree frogs, they are very rare in reptiles except for chameleons. The researchers analyzed the fingers by using micro-CT scans that allowed them to look through the rocks and take digital models of the bones. That’s how they were able to confirm that “Darwinopteran” pterosaurs, such as the Monkeydactyl, somehow evolved opposed thumbs.
As for what the Monkeydactyl would have used its opposed thumb for, it could have been used to either hold onto tree branches or food. (Pictures of the remains as well as what the Monkeydactyl would have looked like can be seen here.)
The study was published in the journal Current Biology where it can be read in full.
In other Pterosaur news, a newly discovered species has been compared to the cuddly Porg aliens from Star Wars. This new species, which has been named Sinomacrops bondei, has been classified as an anurognathid. It was unearthed by paleontologists at the Yanliao Biota excavation area in Mutoudeng, located in China’s Hebei province.
It was small in size as it had a wingspan of just 36 inches (3 feet) while it glided through forests. It would have had a short skull, round eyes with large sockets, a short rounded jaw, peg-like teeth, and hair-like filaments on its body. It lived approximately 160 million years ago during the Jurassic Period.
Its remains are currently at China’s Jinzhou Museum of Paleontology. Pictures of the remains and what the Sinomacrops bondei would have looked like can be seen here.