An article published in the journal “Acta Palaeontologica Polonica” reports the discovery of a new species of pterosaur. Named Klobiodon rochei by paleontologists Michael O’Sullivan and David Martill of the British University of Portsmouth, it was one of the largest known pterosaurs in the Middle Jurassic with a wingspan estimated at around two meters. Despite this, the specimen studied was mistaken for another species and put aside in the 19th century until its examination led to the new classification.
The Taynton Limestone formation, also known informally as Stonesfield Slate, is a British fossil deposit from the Middle Jurassic where more than 200 fossils of pterosaurs, a group of flying reptiles, were discovered. Many fossils were fragmentary, one of the major problems in the field of paleontology, with the consequence that they have often been studied summarily and sometimes closed in some warehouse.
Dr Michael O’Sullivan explained that the flying reptiles that lived during the Jurassic in present-day Britain are celebrated far less than other organisms of that era of which fossils are available in much better conditions such as marine reptiles and ammonites. The pterosaurs discovered at Stonesfield Slate are rarely in a spectacular state but witness an era of the evolution of these reptiles that is poorly represented globally. Basically, it’s not just about British history but about the whole history of pterosaurs.
In the 19th century, studies based on the fossils available at that time identified three species classified in the genus Rhamphocephalus. A new examination of the fossils attributed to the species Rhamphorhynchus depressirostris convinced Michael O’Sullivan and David Martill that it was an erroneous attribution, due to the fact that bones of different species were mixed. The mandibile showed such characteristics that it was attributed to a new genus named Klobiodon and to a species that was named Klobiodon rochei.
This pterosaur lived in a period when today’s Britain was a number of large tropical islands, in an era when the whole world was warmer than today’s so sea levels were higher. Klobiodon rochei had large teeth up to 2.6 centimeters (1″) long, fangs in an age when few pterosaurs had teeth.
It happened several times that old fossils offer surprises after being reexamined but this is a rather extreme case since the new classification comes 140 years after the first time they were mentioned. Dr. Michael O’Sullivan was studying them for his Phd studies when he realized that they were different species put together. This is further evidence that in the field of paleontology the knowledge accumulated over time can lead to a better understanding of old fossils.