, by Tiina Aumalla.
What you see is a picture recovered from The Speculative Dinosaur Project’s “glory days” (I preffer to call them “scientific dark ages”, but I have to admit it was the time when Spc was at it’s peak): the azhdarchid pterosaur Gigantala cranitus, Spec’s last pterosaur (now, thankfully, pterosaurs are not extinct in current Spec anymore).
Here’s the recovered excerpt (note: the links are mean [in-]jokes added by me):
“Recovered from late Paleocene rocks in western Canada, the fragmented cranium of Gigantala cranitus represents the youngest pterosaur evidence yet known. A medium-sized azdarachid, Gigantala is in most respects similar to such Cretaceous pterosaurs as Zhejiangopterus and Quetzalcoatlus, although (with an estimated wingspan of 4.5m) not so large. The few other Paleocene pterosaur remnants scattered throughout the northern hemisphere can probably all be attributed the this genus, and as there have yet to be any substantiated pterosaur fossils found from post-Paleocene strata, Gigantala was very likely the last of its kind.”
In Old!Spec, there’s no clear reason as to why pterosaurs went extinctother than Brian Choo being anal about it. The implication in the main Cretaceous article was that the so called “last pterosaurs” (ignoring all the Maastrichtian ornithocheirids, pteranodonts, tapejarids, lonchodectids, chaoyangopterids and nyctosaurs, of course; they were already described when Spec was first exhibited), the azhdarchids (or, as eloquently put, the “azdarachids”), were pelagornithid-like pelagic piscivores, and thus incapable of surviving the PETM, becoming extinct alongside the plesiosaurs.
Now, of course, we know that azhdarchids were terrestrial, opportunistic carnivores/omnivores, and a slight increase in ocean temperatures probably wouldn’t even phase them. Indeed, right now it’s very likely that the CTM probably didn’t even affect pterosaur diversity that much, and since ornithocheirids, nyctosaurs and pteranodonts were among the most common taxa after azhdarchids, it is almost certain that kind of temperature shifts wouldn’t affect albatross-like pterosaurs.
I wonder if we can incorporate Gigantala in New!Spec in a more significant way, without being just another dead genus. Maybe not as the last of a dynasty, but the sire of a new one; Aumalla’s depiction makes it quite toucan like, so maybe as the first of a lineage of hornbill like species?