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Xinhua:New research shows evolution of pterosaur's tongue
Update time: 01/15/2020
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BEIJING, Jan. 14 (Xinhua) -- Chinese scientists have found a fossilized pterosaur with part of the hyoid - the arched bone that supports the tongue - intact, indicating the evolution and function of the creature's tongue.

Scientists discovered the first basihyal, a part of the hyoid, in a pterosaur named Gladocephaloideus jingangshanensis, dating back about 121 million years. The specimen was found in northeast China's Liaoning Province.

Pterosaurs are believed to have had a hyoid similar to that of most living birds, said Jiang Shunxing, a member of the research team from the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Jilin University.

The specimen has an elongated, triangular basihyal. Based on the joints of the ceratobranchial with the basihyal, researchers inferred the basihyal should be common in pterosaurs, and that its cartilaginous tissue was rarely preserved in fossils.

Scientists found that the commonly preserved part of the pterosaur hyoid, the ceratobranchial, has a trend of being shortened relative to its skull length. It indicates the ability to swallow food may be less efficient. The ceratobranchial in the new specimen is one of the shortest in all known pterosaurs.

Another group of pterosaurs, istiodactylids, with a specialized Y-shaped hyoid, might have been scavengers, which is consistent with the interpretation from the morphology of teeth and the caudal, or back, of the mandibles, Jiang said.

The new research was published in the journal PeerJ.

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