As highlighted here previously and, as promised, here is the pterosaur Rhamphorhynchus muensteri in all its glory and what a spectacular specimen it is. This particular specimen, of course, is from the Upper Jurassic lithographic limestone of Solnhofen in Germany, around 155 million years old, and is arguably one of the finest examples of its kind ever recovered.
As I mentioned in my previous SVP report, the levels of preservation in the Solnhofen quarries are often spectacular. The limestones were laid down in lagoons that became cut off from the sea as coral reefs rose from the sea floor. It seems likely that salinity increased as a result and these isolated lagoons became toxic and depleted of oxygen which, although not very good for life at the time, proved to be excellent news for palaeontologists.
Any organism that ended up dead in the lagoons would have sunk softly into the muds and, because the isolated toxic environment prevented the carcasses being disturbed or dismembered, the preservation of many fossils is exquisite hence my previous comments regarding the somewhat problematic suggestion that R. muensteri may have displayed a sagittal cranial crest.
However, back to this fantastic specimen and some detail. The overall wingspan of this pterosaur is 725mm and the skull is 100mm long. Bone preservation is incredible and the vertebral processes remain intact – in fact all of the bone in this specimen is exactly as prepared and there are no composite pieces whatsoever. The preparator has done an excellent job.
However, there is a sting in the tail regarding this specimen and that is the fact that it is held in a private collection and I am not sure if it will ever be made available for study or public display. This is unfortunate and, as you are all aware, somewhat commonplace these days which is why I have kept these images for future reference. That still doesn’t take away the fact that this is a quite wondrous and superb specimen.
Coming next – a Spinops exclusive!