Tapejara

Tapejara was a genus of pterosaurs that inhabited the planet during the Cretaceous period (about 108 million years ago to be precise). It is classified within the group of pterosaurus pterodactylos.

This genus would have been quite fierce looking. The great characteristic that these creatures had was their ability to fly. These flying creatures were giant giants soaring through the skies.

The dimensions of the Tapejara would have been those of a medium-sized animal of its time. It would have been no less than 3.5 metres high and 5 metres long from head to tail. As for its weight, it would have been about 35 kilograms.

Are you interested in more information about Tapejara? Then… Read on and find out all about this fascinating animal!

What does the name Tapejara mean?

The meaning of the name Tapejara is “the ancient being”, this word comes from the Tupi-Guarani language, typical of South America. In the Santana Formation in Brazil.

History of the Tapajera

The first discovery of this pterosaur was in 1989, by the Brazilian paleontologist Alexander Kellner, in which a partial skull was found. Kellner described this finding and was the same who named it as Tapejara wellnhofer.

Later on, two more fossils were found, which were initially classified as Tapejara, however, later on it was verified that they were not of the same species and they were reclassified.

They were Tapejara imperator, which was much larger than the first described species and had a larger crest, made of keratin and shaped like a candle. From this fossil a skull with partial and parts of the neck vertebrae were found.

Later, in 2003, what was originally believed to be a third species of Tapejara was found, of which there were two very complete skulls. This species was called Tapejara navigans. This one had a crest a few inches higher than the other species, as in the shape of a comb.

In 2007, after some research, it was found that both T. imperator and T. navigans were totally different species from the Tapejara wellnhofer, so they were classified in a genus called Tupandactylus.

In summary, the first discovery corresponded to the species Tapejara wellnhofer, later on, two more discoveries would be made, of two pterosaurs totally similar to the first one, so they were classified as Tapejara species, however, later on it would be verified that they were totally different species and they were reclassified leaving then the Tapejara wellnhofer as the only representative of the Tapejara species.

How and when did it live?

This flying pterosaur is known to have lived at the beginning of the Cretaceous, approximately 109 and 112 million years ago.

They were found in the Santana Formation in Brazil, so it is believed that the majority of the population lived in this area. This region during the Cretaceous was a place with lakes, rivers, seas and forests.

What did he eat?

In the skulls found of this animal, it was possible to notice that it was not provided with teeth and in addition they were not the perfectly adapted thing for such task, for that reason the same paleontologist Kellner believes that it did not feed fish (already existed fish in the Cretaceous), but that mainly it fed itself on fruits of the region.

However, this hypothesis is still being debated because it is based on the paleontologist’s assumption and there is nothing to refute it, other than the similarity of this pterosaur to bats that consume fruit today.

On the other hand, some researchers also believe that it is possible that it fed on fish even though it was not provided with teeth for such a task, as is the case with some birds today that consume fish.

General characteristics

This flying pterosaur is believed to be about 3.5 meters high, an average length of 5 meters and could weigh about 35 kilograms. Its crest could be up to one metre long and it could have different colours.

As for their locomotion, there is a debate about whether they walked on two or four legs when they were on land. Paleontologist Kevin Padian claims that they could easily walk on two legs because of their relatively long hind legs, however, this theory would not be accepted by the scientific community and later it would be proven that the pterosaur family walked on four legs, since fossilized footprints (ichnites) were found where the quadripedal walk of these flying pterosaurs was evidenced.

On the other hand the flight of this pterosaur, is not completely clear, based on the findings it was seen that they had powerful muscles in their extremities that helped them to propel themselves to take flight without the need to wait for air currents, in addition, the atmosphere of that time was denser in oxygen which facilitated even more the flight of such flying giants. It is believed that once in flight, they could reach speeds of up to 122 kilometers per hour.

Starting with their skulls, this one is about 25 centimeters long. In addition, it had a bony ridge that protruded over its peak, which served as a base for the ridge made of keratin. The eye sockets were small. Before the eye sockets, it had a large nasal opening.

It had a beak-shaped mouth, very pointed and somewhat curved. The jaws had no teeth and the front was slightly tilted downwards. On its crest it is believed that this one was based on the bony protuberances that came out from the front of its skull and another one in the back of the same skull, these were oriented backwards, they were covered with a soft and fibrous tissue from which the characteristic crest was born and supported.

Its wings, like the other pterosaurs, were composed of a membrane, which detached from the fourth finger, which was usually longer than the others, so long as to support the whole of the wings.

Its shoulder blade was very light and narrow, which gave it a fairly small pectoral waist, making it easier to fly and more agile.

These fossils found in the Santana Formation, which has the particularity that the limestone helped to preserve very well its fossil remains, even left traces of his brain so it could be seen in an investigation conducted in 2011, which had a relatively large brain, with the region of the optical lobe very well developed, so he had excellent vision despite having very small eyes, on the other hand, the region to maintain balance was very well developed, allowing him to hunt with great skill and precision during flight.

How he behaved

It is believed that it was an animal with a somewhat calm life, moved few times during the day and was more of an animal of the night, helped by its excellent vision.

The ridges were probably used to communicate with others of its species or to differentiate. It is even believed that when the female was in heat she emitted a characteristic colour to warn the males of this state.

It is believed that she went down to the ground to eat fruits that were on the ground and that were rich in pulp or when she used to drink water in lakes or rivers. At that time he was vulnerable to attack by different predators.

From its natural predators we know that it was the preferred dinner of some theropods, such as the spinosaurs, in fact evidence was found that proves that the Spinosaurus devoured Tapejara, in one case a broken Spinosaurus tusk was found in the spine of a Tapejara and in another fossil a pterosaur was found in the stomach cavity of the already mentioned carnivore.

Some curiosities about the Tapajera

In 2008, a flying robot was developed at the University of Florida, which has the physical characteristics of a Tapejara wellnhofer, this robot was called Pterodrone and imitated perfectly the flight of this pterosaur. This was done in order to understand the biology of this animal.
There is a line of toys from Jurassic Park 3 in which this pterosaur appears, with certain touches.
On the other hand this flying pterosaur is present in the game “Jurassic World The Game” for IOS, where it presents some quite peculiar characteristics, since it is presented with wings like a bat and has teeth, being itself a toothless pterosaur .