Evidence for the Cretaceous shark Cretoxyrhina mantelli feeding on the pterosaur Pteranodon from the Niobrara Formation

David W. E. Hone, Mark P. Witton, Michael B. Habib

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A cervical vertebra of the large, pelagic pterodactyloid pterosaur Pteranodon sp. from the Late Cretaceous Niobrara Formation of Kansas, USA is significant for its association with a tooth from the large lamniform shark, Cretoxyrhina mantelli. Though the tooth does not pierce the vertebral periosteum, the intimate association of the fossils—in which the tooth is wedged below the left prezygapophysis—suggests their preservation together was not mere chance, and the specimen is evidence of Cretoxyrhina biting Pteranodon. It is not possible to infer whether the bite reflects predatory or scavenging behaviour from the preserved material. There are several records of Pteranodon having been consumed by other fish, including other sharks (specifically, the anacoracid Squalicorax kaupi), and multiple records of Cretoxyrhina biting other vertebrates of the Western Interior Seaway, but until now interactions between Cretoxyrhina and Pteranodon have remained elusive. The specimen increases the known interactions between large, pelagic, vertebrate carnivores of the Western Interior Seaway of North America during the Late Cretaceous, in addition to bolstering the relatively small fossil record representing pterosaurian interactions with other species.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere6031
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 14 Dec 2018


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