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Cascocauda

Cascocauda
Temporal range: MiddleLate Jurassic
(Callovian-Oxfordian) 165–160 Ma
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Order: Pterosauria
Family: Anurognathidae
Subfamily: Batrachognathinae
Genus: Cascocauda
Yang et al., 2022
Species:
C. rong
Binomial name
Cascocauda rong
Yang et al., 2022

Cascocauda (meaning "ancient tail") is an extinct genus of anurognathid pterosaur from the Late–⁠Middle Jurassic Tiaojishan Formation of Hebei Province, China. The genus contains a single species, C. rong, known from a complete skeleton belonging to a juvenile individual preserved with extensive soft-tissues, including wing membranes and a dense covering of pycnofibres. Some of these pycnofibres appear to be branched, resembling the feathers of maniraptoran theropod dinosaurs, and suggesting that pterosaur pycnofibres may be closely related to feathers in dinosaurs.

Discovery and naming

The type and only specimen, NJU-57003, was discovered in the Tiaojishan Formation of China. The specimen hails from the Mutoudeng locality of the Daohugou bed, located in Qinglong County in Hebei Province, which has been dated to around the Callovian to Oxfordian stages during the Middle to Late Jurassic period. NJU-57003 consists of nearly complete and articulated skeleton with extensive soft-tissues preserved on both a main and counter slab, and is housed in Nanjing University in Nanjing, China.

The specimen was first reported as an unnamed anurognathid in December 2018 by Zixiao Yang and colleagues, along with another anurognathid specimen (CAGS-Z070), in a description and analysis of both specimens' integumentary structures. NJU-57003 would not be fully described until 2022 by Yang and colleagues, wherein it was diagnosed as a new genus and species, Cascocauda rong. The generic name is derived from the Latin cascus, meaning 'ancient' or 'primitive', and cauda, meaning 'tail.' The specific name is from the Chinese character 'róng' (绒), derived from the phrase "máo róng róng" which means "a fluffy appearance." Thus, the full binomial name translates as "fluffy ancient tail."

Classification

NJU-57003 was initially reported as an anurognathid of undetermined species in 2018, although Yang and colleagues recognised that the specimen showed similarities to Jeholopterus and Dendrorhynchoides from the same local biota, and considered it likely to be a juvenile of one of these genera. However, a later analysis of how anurognathid proportions change through growth (allometry) by Yang et al. (2022) demonstrated that the proportions of Cascocauda were distinct from all other anurognathids, irrespective of it being juvenile, and that it therefore belonged to a new taxon.

A phylogenetic analysis performed in the same study found Cascocauda to be a member of the subfamily Batrachognathinae in a clade of relatively long-tailed anurognathids, potentially a primitive trait compared to the short-tailed derived anurognathines. A simplified version of their results is shown in the cladogram below:

Anurognathidae
Batrachognathinae

Cascocauda rong

Sinomacrops bondei

Batrachognathus volans

Anurognathinae

Luopterus mutoudengensis

Dendrorhynchoides curvidentatus

Anurognathus ammoni

Vesperopterylus lamadongensis

CAGS-Z070

Jeholopterus ninchengensis

Palaeobiology

The only known specimen of Cascocauda is believed to be a juvenile, based on features of the skeleton that indicate immaturity. Namely, articular bones such as the carpals in the wing and the scapula and coracoid of the shoulder are unfused, and the articular surfaces of the limb joints are rough and pitted, both indicative of incomplete bone growth.


This page was last updated at 2022-03-05 17:05 UTC. Update now. View original page.

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