The rather small non-pterodactyloid Pterorhynchus lived in the Middle Jurassic, around the Callovian Stage of 164 million years ago, and despite its strangely draconian appearance it goes by rather forgotten in popular culture.
The pterosaur, Pterorhynchus wellnhoferi, was described by Stephen Czerkas and colleagues in 2002 while the species name honors revolutionary pterosaur researcher Peter Wellnhofer.
The fossils were part of the Tiaojishan fauna, a Formation that is properly coming to light these days, with exceptional feathered dinosaurs, early mammals and beautifully preserved pterosaur finds. All the Tiaojishan fauna were small animals that lived in a forest of ginkgo and bennettite plants, and many of them were arboreal.
The largest herbivorous dinosaur from this fauna was the fanged ornithopod Tianyulong, the size of a large cat. There was also Aurornis, the most primitive avaialan.
Color studies of two dinosaurs have been done here. First it was the small, arboreal basal avialan Anchiornis.
Next, and most recently the famous theropod – and Internet meme – Yi qi with a gliding membrane of skin..
Gliding mammals and even early aquatic mammals are known from this formation, thus showing us that these animals were not just keen on remaining in the ratty niches once ascribed to them.
Pterorhynchus itself is typical for animals here in that it preserves a great deal of soft tissue integument. Most non-pterodactyloids have a vane of skin, a vexillium at the tip of the tail. This one though, had a lobed vane stretching down the entirety of the tail’s length. It also preserves its furry pelt, and also a skin crest.
Its wings spanned just 85 centimeters, rather typical for the other pterosaurs in its environment. It probably preyed on the diverse insects that lived around the forest.