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Filter feeding in Late Jurassic pterosaurs supported by coprolite contents
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Biology, Department of Organismal Biology, Evolution and Developmental Biology.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-7998-2243
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Biology, Department of Organismal Biology.
Polish Acad Sci, Inst Paleobiol, Warsaw, Poland.
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Biology, Department of Organismal Biology, Evolution and Developmental Biology.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-9054-2900
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2019 (English)In: PeerJ, ISSN 2167-8359, E-ISSN 2167-8359, Vol. 7, article id e7375Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Diets of pterosaurs have mainly been inferred from indirect evidence such as comparative anatomy, associations of co-occurring fossils, and functional morphology. Gut contents are rare, and until now there is only a single coprolite (fossil dropping), with unidentified inclusions, known. Here we describe three coprolites collected from a palaeosurface with numerous pterosaur tracks found in early Kimmeridgian (Hypselocyclum Zone) intertidal deposits of the Wierzbica Quarry, Poland. The specimens' morphology and association to the tracks suggest a pterosaur producer. Synchrotron scans reveal numerous small inclusions, with foraminifera making up the majority of the identifiable ones. Other small remains include shells/carapaces (of bivalves, ostracods, and other crustaceans/arthropods) and bristles (some possibly of polychaete worms). The high density of the small shelly inclusions suggest that they were not accidently ingested, but constituted an important food source for the pterosaur(s), perhaps together with unpreserved soft-bodied animals. The combined evidence from the tracks and coprolites suggest a filter-feeding ctenochasmatid as the most likely tracemaker. If true, this significantly expands the bromalite record for this pterosaur group, which was previously only known from gastroliths. Moreover, this study also provides the first direct evidence of filter feeding in Jurassic pterosaurs and shows that they had a similar diet to the recent Chilean flamingo (Phoenicopterus chilensis).

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
PEERJ INC , 2019. Vol. 7, article id e7375
Keywords [en]
Filter feeding, Coprolites, Pterosaur, Palaeoecology, Ctenochasmatidae, Late Jurassic
National Category
Evolutionary Biology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-398849DOI: 10.7717/peerj.7375ISI: 000482716000001PubMedID: 31523493OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-398849DiVA, id: diva2:1380629
Funder
Swedish Research Council, 2017-05248Available from: 2019-12-19 Created: 2019-12-19 Last updated: 2020-02-16Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Who ate whom? Paleoecology revealed through synchrotron microtomography of coprolites (fossil feces)
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Who ate whom? Paleoecology revealed through synchrotron microtomography of coprolites (fossil feces)
2020 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Fossil droppings, known as coprolites, are being increasingly recognized as a valuable source of paleoecological information with special regard to diets, parasitism, and physiology of extinct taxa. Here, it is suggested that the excellent preservation and amount of inclusions in the coprolites (e.g. food residues and parasites) qualifies them as Lagerstätten – deposits with exceptional paleontological information. However, two interlinked problems commonly arise when they are studied. Firstly, it is often difficult to tie coprolites to producers and, secondly, it is challenging to recognize the fragmented and randomly distributed inclusions in their matrix. Here I use propagation phase-contrast synchrotron microtomography (PPC-SRμCT) in combination with other techniques to solve these problems. As a result, the oldest known example of archosaurian osteophagy is uncovered based on inter alia the occurrence of serrated teeth and many crushed bones in coprolites assigned to the Late Triassic theropod-like archosaur Smok wawelski. Osteophagy has previously been thought to be rare among extinct archosaurs with the exception of Late Cretaceous tyrannosaurids. This suggests some degree of ecological convergence between the tyrannosaurids and S. wawelski. Furthermore, exceptionally-preserved beetle remains are discovered in coprolites tentatively assigned to the Triassic dinosauriform Silesaurus opolensis, which had a specialized dentition and possessed beak-shaped jaws that were likely used to peck insects off the ground. Moreover, pterosaur coprolites are shown to contain similar food residues as found in droppings of recent flamingos, implying that some Late Jurassic pterosaurs were filter feeders. I argue that such paleoecological studies have a large impact on our understanding of ancient animals, and that studies of coprolites can unravel parts of ancient food webs in unprecedented ways. Information on past food webs may, in turn, be used to analyze trophic changes through time, which could cast new light on big evolutionary events. This is demonstrated by reconstructing trophic structures in early Mesozoic assemblages that represent snapshots of three stages of early dinosaur evolution.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2020. p. 49
Series
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Science and Technology, ISSN 1651-6214 ; 1904
Keywords
coprolites, paleoecology, synchrotron microtomography, taphonomy, Triassic
National Category
Other Biological Topics
Research subject
Biology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-404162 (URN)978-91-513-0875-3 (ISBN)
Public defence
2020-04-03, Lindahlsalen, Evolutionsbiologiskt centrum, Norbyvägen 14, Uppsala, 09:15 (English)
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Supervisors
Available from: 2020-03-13 Created: 2020-02-16 Last updated: 2020-03-13

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Qvarnström, MartinAhlberg, PerNiedzwiedzki, Grzegorz

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