Saturday, March 2, 2013

Pterosaur Week: Anhanguera.

 One of the things I keep stressing in pterosaur entries is how darn weird they are. Seriously, there are a lot of relatively-untapped monsters in pterosaurs, even without making them into dragons. Plenty of them would make one release one's bowels in an untimely manner on sight.


This is one of those. Anhanguera is a Late Cretaceous pterosaur straight out of somebody's nightmare. Its name means "ancient devil," and rightfully so. It looks freaky. The species was found in Brazil, and thus got a Portuguese name. By pure coincidence, it also shares that name with a Brazilian highway and a few individuals.

Anhanguera, along with all other ornithocheirids, has one of the freakier faces seen in pterosaurs. The group is characterized by a slender bill with a wider tip. In Anhanguera's case, this tip had teeth splaying out in all directions. These were excellent for trapping flailing fish. The tip was also weighted with a crest on each piece. This makes it the rough equivalent of a spoonbill mixed with a fish-eating, flying death machine. Oh, and it wasn't the only one with a strange bill - just the only one called a devil.

Surprisingly, we have been able to glean quite a lot of information about how Anhanguera worked. Through presumably a lot of simulations, we have found that Anhanguera likely took off from the ground. It had a running start, then flapped to get into the air. The skeleton also has a keel for flight muscles, making powered flight like that even more likely.

Anhanguera is too weird to not make it into popular culture. Like most things this week, it has a Fossil Fighters counterpart in Guera. As a bizarre, more subtle reference, Birdramon's toothy beak also bears an uncanny resemblance to Anhanguera's jaws (or that of its relative, Ornithocheirus). Subtle? Perhaps, but tell me there isn't some pterosaur, here:

Tell me there ISN'T ornithocheirid in this thing.

"Bird dragon monster" indeed. Anhanguera or one of its relatives made for one nightmarish phoenix.

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