On which day were the Ptero-bats made?

15 08 2007

Here’s a treat for all fans of “fossil ideas” (as well as just fossils); a picture of a bat-like and a bird-like pterosaur from Gosse’s Omphalos.

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7 responses

15 08 2007
Zach Miller

Yup, when pterosaurs were first discovered in Europe, one idea was that they were marsupial bats. I think that’s supposed to be (gulp) Pterodacyl on top.

15 08 2007
laelaps

Right, I remember coming across a review article that mentioned that, but I couldn’t dig it up off my hard drive (lots of papers, no organization). I’ll try to track it down and tack it on if I can find it.

21 08 2007
Lars Dietz

The person who came up with the “marsupial bat” idea was Edward Newman, editor of “The Zoologist”. The reference is:
Newman, E., 1843. Note on the Pterodactyl Tribe considered as Marsupial Bats, Zoologist, 1, pp. 129-131.
Newman also regarded ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs as marsupials (according to a quotation in “The Great Sea-Serpent” by Oudemans. May have had to do with his idea that every taxon has exactly seven subtaxa, with a central one connected to the six others by transitional forms (at least, that’s how I remmber this). Such ideas were quite common back then (e. g., look at the “Quinarian System”).

21 08 2007
Lars Dietz

Oh, forgot to add that the two pterosaurs are probably the first ones discovered: Pterodactylus antiquus on top and P. brevirostris (now regarded as a young P. antiquus) at the bottom. I haven’t seen the original paper, though.

21 08 2007
Lars Dietz

Just looked at Omphalos on Google books, turns out that I was right on the bottom one, but the top one is P. crassirostris, now known as Scaphognathus. Seems like the long tail was unknown back then. Gosses illustration is based on Newman’s, but he removed the external ears that Newman gave them.
By the way, sorry for posting three comments in a row!

21 08 2007
laelaps

Thank you for all the hard work Lars! I had been meaning to get back to this one and dig up some more information, so thank you for taking the time to comment here. Maybe I should write something up on what you’ve mentioned here. Also, I’m not sure off the top of my head, but the 7-subtaxa issue reminds me of part of what was popular in theological circles in Europe for some time, 7 being a blessed number (being that it was the day God rested, and there was no shortage of natural theologians at that time). Again, thanks for all your work and input Lars!

22 08 2007
Lars Dietz

I’m not sure whether Newman’s theory of classification has anything to do which the 7 days of creation. 5 was a much more popular number among systematists at that time, at least in England (Macleay, Vigors, Swainson). In Germany, some prefered the number 3 or 4 or more complicated numerological schemes. Howerver, this certainly has to do with “natural theology” as it obviously implies a plan in creation.
For a typical example, see Swainson’s “On the natural history and classification of birds”, which is online (with a lot of other old books) at gallica.bnf.fr , the site of the French National Library.
Anyway, thanks for the praise!

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