Fossil Friday: Rhamphinion

Size estimated from a single wing bone.

Species: Rhamphinion jenkinsi (Ram-fih-nee-on jen-kins)

What it means: Beak nape.

Other Species: None

Where I live: Arizona in the U.S.A.- The Kayenta formation

When to find me: The Early Jurassic period, about 196 million years ago.

My favorite food: Insects, small animals, just about anything I can snap at really!

My neighborhood: The Kayenta formation used to be a tropical floodplain, a bit like African savannah today- but no grass or flowers. Ferns cover the open plains, dotted with islands of spiky cycad groves. Rivers crisscross the land with lush tree ferns, ginkgo trees, and conifers. Every year during the wet season the plains turn into a flooded marsh, but the hottest months bring no rain, and the rivers shrink until the plains are almost as dry as the great desert that lies to the north.

A few of my neighbors: I patrol the skies for insects like beetles, dragonflies, an ancient cousin of the moth, and something called a snakefly. With a bird’s eye view, I get to see dinosaurs like meat-eating Dilophosaurus, Kayentavenator and Coelophysis, and plant-eaters like Sarahsaurus (early sauropod) and little Scutellosaurus (armored dinosaurs). Frogs, turtles, and a few crocodile cousins stay close to the rivers.

Fun Facts:

  • I’m not a dinosaur! I’m a flying reptile called a pterosaur, and the family of pterosaurs I’m a part of are known as Rhamphorhynchoids. You can tell which family I’m in because of my long tail, and because we all live earlier in time than the short-tailed Pterodactyloids.
  • The name Rhamphinion is a combination of Rhamphos (Greek for “beak”, which is common for pterosaurs in this family) + inion (Greek for “nape of the neck”). My species name honors the man who found my bones, Dr. Farish A. Jenkins Jr.
  • How can anyone know what I look like when the only thing you have are a few little bones in the back of the head, a couple teeth, and maybe a wing bone you’re not even 100% sure is mine? Well the teeth suggest I might be related to some other, much more well known pterosaurs, (like Dimorphodon) so scientists do a best-guess based on what they know about my relatives.

Fossil Finds: Only two. One individual has three pieces from the skull, mostly the very back of the head (or occipital region) and two teeth. The other find was a wing bone, though it’s difficult to say if it’s actually from Rhamphinion.

Resources:

Padian, Kevin. (1984). Pterosaur Remains for the Kayenta Formation (?Early Jurassic) of Arizona. The Paleontological Association. https://www.palass.org/publications/palaeontology-journal/archive/27/2/article_pp407-413

7 thoughts on “Fossil Friday: Rhamphinion

  1. In your opinion, do you think that the myths and fables about dragons from ancient China and Europe originated from ignorant people finding pterosaur fossils?

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    1. Hi, thank you for stopping by!

      Pterosaur fossils were certainly part of the origin of dragons, but most pterosaurs are relatively small to inspire the legendary size of most dragon legends. Giant bones of larger dinosaurs probably inspired most legends, with perhaps a few wing bones to provide inspiration for wings. In all honesty though, if you’re trying to make something big and scary even more awesome, adding wings is a pretty common thing to do. 😀

      Throughout much of ancient history dinosaur bones were only known as single, isolated specimens. A giant leg or tooth a traveler carries around as a dragon bone, sauropod tracks are giant’s footprints, or a broken mammoth skull as “proof” that cyclops exist.

      Dragon stories are also hugely varied depending on their origin. Many dragons don’t have wings, especially in Asian legends, so the only safe thing to say is that the bones of any large prehistoric beast is likely to inspire questions that lead to legends to explain them.

      It’s very interesting to research what sort of prehistoric creatures inspire mythology! 🙂

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  2. Ooh, Ramphinion’s colors are so pretty! And I really like the new illustrations, that’s so cool. 😀 What would you say is your favorite part of the art process? Sketching, outlining, coloring…?

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    1. Thank you Brownie! I’m glad you like it! I looked at Kookaburras for inspiration on the colors. 😀 And I must say coloring is my favorite part. I like the messy sketchy phase too, because there’s lots of energy and no need for perfection, but I love it when everything really starts pulling together. 🙂

      I must say I quite like practicing these backgrounds 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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