Afrotapejara zouhrii – Illustrated

Back at the end of March (2020), Everything Dinosaur team members published news of the discovery of four new taxa of flying reptile from the remarkable Kem Kem beds of south-eastern Morocco.  Three of the pterosaurs (all members of the Ornithocheiridae), were dealt with in one scientific paper, which was published in the academic journal “Cretaceous Research”, whilst the fourth, a tapejarid named Afrotapejara zouhrii, was described in a subsequent paper also published in Cretaceous Research.

Aware of the publication of these scientific papers, Everything Dinosaur was able to put up a blog post, prior to illustrations of the newest member of the Tapejaridae being released.  However, thanks to a media release from the University of Portsmouth, we can show a life illustration of Afrotapejara zouhrii in all its glory.

An Illustration of the Recently Described North African Pterosaur Afrotapejara zouhrii 

Afrotapejara zouhrii life reconstruction.

A life reconstruction of the newly described Moroccan pterosaur Afrotapejara zouhrii.

Picture Credit: University of Portsmouth

The colours chosen by the artist are speculative, but tapejarids, characterised by their oversized and elaborate head crests, are regarded as some of the “flashiest” and flamboyant of all the Pterosauria, their crests probably played a role in visual communication, so why not make their crests bright and colourful.

The First Tapejarid Known from Africa

Tapejarids were geographically widespread in the Lower Cretaceous.  Fossils are known from China, Brazil and Europe.  It had long been suspected that these types of pterosaurs would be found in the famous Kem Kem beds, but the fragmentary remains associated with these strata delayed positive identification.

Professor David Martill (School of the Environment, Geography and Geosciences, University of Portsmouth), a co-author on the ornithocheirid paper and lead order on the Afrotapejara study, commented:

“The study of Moroccan material shows that we are still far from having found all the paleontological treasures of North Africa.  Even fragmentary fossils, like the jaw piece of the new pterosaur, can give us important information about the biodiversity of the past.”

Honouring Professor Samir Zouhri

In our earlier blog post, we stated that the specific or trivial name chosen for this flying reptile honoured Moroccan palaeontologist Professor Samir Zouhri.  We can now confirm that this is correct, the professor is being honoured for his contribution to field work over many years and for helping to develop the science of palaeontology in Morocco.  Pleasingly, the fragmentary remains of the newest member of the Tapejaridae family are staying in Morocco, they are now part of the collection of the Faculty of Sciences Aïn Chock, Casablanca Hassan II University.

Everything Dinosaur acknowledges the assistance of a media release from the University of Portsmouth in the compilation of this article.

To read Everything Dinosaur’s earlier post about the four pterosaurs: Pterosaurs, Pterosaurs, and even more Pterosaurs.

The scientific paper: “A new tapejarid (Pterosauria, Azhdarchoidea) from the mid-Cretaceous Kem Kem beds of Takmout, southern Morocco” by David M. Martill, Roy Smith, David M. Unwin, Alexander Kao, James McPhee and Nizar Ibrahim published in Cretaceous Research.

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