Pêgas et al., 2019
Targaryendraco wiedenrothi (Wild, 1990)
Discovery and naming
In 1990, Rupert Wild described the find as a new species of Ornithocheirus: Ornithocheirus wiedenrothi. The specific name honours Wiedenroth as discoverer. Wild considered the skeleton to lie evolutionary between Ornithocheirus compressirostris (now the holotype of Lonchodectes) and Ornithocheirus giganteus (now the holotype of Lonchodraco). O. compressirostris was at the time seen as the type species of Ornithocheirus, but it was meanwhile shown that the correct type species is O. simus.
The holotype, SMNS 56628, was found in rocks of the Stadthagen Formation dating from the earliest Hauterivian, about 132 million years old. It consists of a partial skeleton with lower jaws. It contains the front and the rear of the symphysis of the lower jaws, a right articular, a rib piece, the distal ends of a left radius and ulna, the proximal and distal end of a left third metacarpal and a piece of a phalanx, probably the first of the left third finger. The fossil is part of the collection of the Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde Stuttgart. It is the most complete pterosaur specimen from the Cretaceous of Germany.
In their study of 2010, Fletcher & Salisbury argued for O. wiedenrothi to be an ornithocheirid closely related to then unnamed Aussiedraco and another pterosaur specimen from the Cretaceous of Australia. In 2013, Ford reported it to be a species of Lonchodectes. In a study of the same year, Rodrigues & Kellner concluded that it was no Ornithocheirus and also not part of their newly erected genus Lonchodraco. In 2019, Abel et al. argued it to be potential new genus of lonchodectids.
Later in 2019, Pêgas et al. assigned O. wiedenrothi as type species to the new genus Targaryendraco. The generic name combines a reference to the House Targaryen with a Latin draco, "dragon". Targaryen is the name of the family from the fantasy novel series A Song of Ice and Fire, who famously use dragons as their mounts. The authors chose the name because the now black-coloured bones of the fossil resemble the dragons in the novels.
In 2019, the describing authors abstained from giving a size estimate, in view of the fragmentary nature of the fossil. They estimated the wingspan of the most closely related species at 2,9 to four metres.
They indicated a single distinguishing trait. It is an autapomorphy, a unique derived character. The symphysis of the lower jaws has at the midline of its front an odontoid, or tooth-like, process, formed by a confluence of the side ridges of the occlusal groove, in the top surface of the joint dentaries.
In 2019, Targaryendraco was placed within the Lanceodontia in an entirely new clade Targaryendraconia, and was more precisely a member of the newly named family Targaryendraconidae. In the latter clade it formed a polytomy with Aussiedraco and Barbosania.
- Wild, R. 1990. "Pterosaur remains (Reptilia, Pterosauria) from the Lower Cretaceous (Hauterivian) of Hannover (Lower Saxony)". Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie, Abhandlungen, 181: 241–254
- Rodrigues, T. & Kellner, A.W.A., 2013, "Taxonomic review of the Ornithocheirus complex (Pterosauria) from the Cretaceous of England", ZooKeys 308: 1—112
- Abel, P., Hornung, J.J., Kear, B.P. & Sachs, S. 2019, "Reassessment of the enigmatic pterosaur ‘Ornithocheirus’ wiedenrothi from the Lower Cretaceous of Northern Germany", Journal of Morphology 280: 73-74. doi:10.1002/jmor.21003
- Fletcher, T.L. & Salisbury, S.W., 2010. "New pterosaur fossils from the Early Cretaceous (Albian) of Queensland, Australia", Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, 30(6): 1747-1759. DOI:10.1080/02724634.2010.521929
- Ford, T.L., 2013. "Will the real Lonchodectes fly in?", Short Communications/International Symposium on Pterosaurs - Rio Ptero 2013, 65-67.
- Pêgas, R.V., Holgado, B., Leal, M.E.C., 2019. "Targaryendraco wiedenrothi gen. nov. (Pterodactyloidea, Pteranodontoidea, Lanceodontia) and recognition of a new cosmopolitan lineage of Cretaceous toothed pterodactyloids", Historical Biology, 1–15. doi:10.1080/08912963.2019.1690482