On the osteology of Tapejara wellnhoferi KELLNER 1989 and the first occurrence of a multiple specimen assemblage from the Santana Formation, Araripe Basin, NE-Brazil

  • Kristina Eck
  • Ross A. Elgin
  • Eberhard Frey


The postcranial elements of two similar sized and juvenile individuals, along with a partial skull, are attributed to the Early Cretaceous pterosaur Tapejara wellnhoferi. The remains, recovered from a single concretion of the Romualdo Member, Santana Formation, NE-Brazil, represent the first account of multiple specimens having settled together and allow for a complete review of postcranial osteology in tapejarid pterosaurs. A comparison of long bone morphometrics indicates that all specimens attributed to the Tapejaridae for which these elements are known (i.e. Huaxiapterus, Sinopterus, Tapejara) display similar bivariate ratios, suggesting that Chinese and Brazilian taxa must have exhibited similar growth patterns. An unusual pneumatic configuration, whereby the humerus is pierced by both dorsally and ventrally located foramina, is observed within T. wellnhoferi, while the pneumatic system is inferred to have invaded the hindlimbs via the femur in all members of the Azhdarchoidea. The partial preservation of the endocranial cavity allows for a reconstruction of the tapejarid brain, where despite a small orbit with respect to skull size, the presence of large flocculi and ocular lobes indicate that Tapejara possessed both excellent balancing and visual systems as a consequence of its aerial lifestyle.


Brazil Lower Cretaceous Santana Formation Pterosauria Tapejaridae Osteology 



Bayerische Staatammlung für Paläontologie und historische Geologie, Munich, Germany


Dalian Natural History Museum, Dalian, China


Iwaki City Museum of Coal and Fossils, Iwaki, Japan


Institute for Vertebrate Palaeontology and Palaeoanthropology Beijing, P. R. China


Palaeontology section of the Department Nacional da Produção (Museu de Ciêcias da Terra), Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


Museu Nacional, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


National Science Museum, Tokyo, Japan


Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde Karlsruhe, Karlsruhe, Germany


Collection of Urs Oberli, St Gallen, Switzerland


Zhejiang Museum of Natural History, Hangzhou, China



We extend our thanks to R. Kastner (SMNK) for preparation of the specimen, V. Griener (SMNK) for assistance with the photographs, Dr Mark Witton and an anonymous referee for their many helpful comments and insights.

Supplementary material

13358_2011_24_MOESM1_ESM.xls (13 kb)
Supplementary Table 1 (XLS 13 kb)


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Copyright information

© Akademie der Naturwissenschaften Schweiz (SCNAT) 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geological SciencesUniversity of HeidelbergHeidelbergGermany
  2. 2.Department of GeologyState Museum of Natural History KarlsruheKarlsruheGermany

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