All posts in chronological order

I generated a raw printout of all the posts that were published in this blog so far in PDF. It’s a big 383MB file with 584 pages, but the posts are in chronological order, which makes them easier to read. I also generated bookmarks. You can simply click the image below which is a link to the file.

Screen Shot 2015-09-19 at 21.08.20 (2)

The pages were simply printed in PDF using Firefox and has a minor bug (a “follow” link which sometimes overlaps images and text). I also tried in Chrome, Safari and Opera, but their bugs produced empty pages or weird image scaling. Links and videos obviously don’t work, but it should be easier to browse, search and read sequences of posts.

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A Tapejara in Portugal

I’ve made replicas of seven different species of pterosaurs so far:

  1. Guidraco venator (1 skeleton)
  2. Anhanguera piscator (1 skull)
  3. Tupandactylus imperator (1 skull)
  4. Banguela oberlii / Dsungaripterus weii (1 skull)
  5. Tupuxuara leonardii (1 skeleton)
  6. Caupedactylus ybaka (1 skull)
  7. Tapejara wellnhoferi (1 skeleton, 2 skulls – one in progress)

They are all here, hanging somewhere in my place except the Tapejaras. A full Tapejara skeleton is currently flying in the main exhibition hall of the Paleontology Museum of Peirópolis, in Uberaba, Brazil. That’s Tapejara no. 2. Tapejara no. 1 was actually a prototype I made before finishing the Peirópolis, which I later improved and added detail. It’s smaller than Tapejara no. 1 (actually the same size as the AMNH specimen). I’m currently making Tapejara no. 3, which is the most detailed replica so far. I will write about it in another post.

Tapejara no. 1 is currently on display at Geological Museum in Lisbon, Portugal. Here are some photos:




Here is a photo of Professor Miguel Ramalho, me and the Tapejara wellnhoferi skull replica.


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Imaginary Pterosaurs at the 24th Brazilian Paleontological Congress


Since no new new pterosaurs were made since 2013, there haven’t been many new posts (only one or two per year). But now I have news since I just returned from the 24th Brazilian Congress of Palaeontology, which happened in Crato, Brazil.


Crato is situated in the Araripe basin, one of the most important paleontological sites in the world and where most of the Brazilian pterosaurs were discovered. It’s also one of the most important pterosaur sites and where the most well-preserved specimens were found. Most of the pterosaurs skeletons and skulls I made were based on species that were found in the Araripe basin: Tapejara, Tupuxuara, Tupandactylus, Caupedactylus and Anhanguera were all discovered here.

It was the second time a national paleontological congress happened in Crato (there is one every two years). During a week, palaeontologists from several parts of Brazil and from other countries participate in technical sessions, poster sessions, round tables, tutorials and other presentations, as well as field trips and social events. One of the nights there was a concert by a band called Pterorock, which played rock classics as well as versions of popular songs with original lyrics inspired by palaeontology.


During the congress I displayed my Tupuxuara leonardii skeleton and several pterosaur skulls. They all traveled safely in this big box made for the Tupuxuara. No bones or teeth were broken during the flights.


Tupuxuara was assembled inside a soccer goal and became a main attraction in the event. Everybody wanted to take a picture with it.




During the event I conducted a 3-day, 12-hour paleoart workshop for 15 participants, where I shared all I learned about making bone replicas from XPS foam. Here are some pictures from the workshop:















The results were impressive. The participants worked hard and despite the very short time we had (not enough for the glue and the paint to dry) some very nice replicas were created. Here are some of the replicas created by the participants after three days:








We also had a lot of attention from the local media and appeared twice in TV (in Portuguese):



I gave a short presentation about the techniques I use during the technical sessions, describing the materials and techniques I use. The slides are in Portuguese and can be downloaded via SlideShare. I will translate this presentation later and publish it here as soon as I have some time.

The event finished on Thursday and on Friday I traveled with a group on a field trip to the most important sites of the Santana Formation. We started with a limestone mine in Nova Olinda (Crato formation), where it’s practically impossible to not find any fossils.


These are just a few of the Dastilbe fish fossils I found:


There are so many fossils that you find them even in the walls and floors of houses, shops, hotels and restaurants, in many of towns of the Araripe region:


We then went to the Parque dos Pterossauros (Pterosaur Park – part of the Araripe Geopark). It’s an excavation in Santana do Cariri (Romualdo Formation). Here the fossils are safely protected inside limestone nodules.


The paleontological museum in Santana do Cariri has a very interesting collection of fossils from the area: lots of plants, invertebrates, fish and pterosaurs. It’s definitely worth a visit. There were pterosaur fossils there that I’ve never seen anywhere before.








This was just one of the many trips that happened during the congress. Other groups visited many more sites of the Araripe Geopark. It’s a beautiful region definitely worth a longer visit.


Now the pterosaurs are back home until the next event. Tupuxuara is once again hanging in my living room, but in a different position. This is how Tupuxuara was displayed before we flew to Crato:


And now I assembled it in a landing position:


And that’s all for now. Hopefully I’ll have a new pterosaur to recreate soon, and should post more often.

PS.: I had also planned to show up this year with my pterosaurs at the Flugsaurier 2015 in Portsmouth, UK, but my strategy to pay for the trip (selling a pterosaur skeleton) didn’t work, and my savings (plan B) were significantly reduced after the devaluation of our local currency, so unfortunately it’s not this time that Tupuxuara will travel to the UK.

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Making of Tapejara wellnhoferi

This presentation describes in 60 pages the process of making Imaginary Pterosaur #7 Tapejara wellnhoferi. It contains more images than text and is a concise graphical version of the blog posts that describe the process. Click on the image below to download it.


This is a 93MB PDF so it might take some time to download.

See also: Making of Tupuxuara leonardii (April 2013) and O Pterossauro Imaginário: pesquisa, construção e montagem (in Portuguese, July 2012)

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A Tapejara in the museum

After a long time without any posts, I’m back with news. The Tapejara wellnhoferi replica I made a year ago was finally placed in a public exhibition hall at the Peiropolis Dinosaur Museum, in Uberaba, MG, Brazil. It spent the last year locked up in a lab. I returned last week to make some improvements and to help install it.

The museum is actually a complex consisting of several buildings, a park, research labs. It’s situated in a small village. The old train station also became a museum which contains dinosaur bones, and dinosaurs walk around freely in the park, as you can see in this photo.


The pterosaur was left suspended in a temporary structure. I didn’t have to take it apart. One of the fixes I had planned was to remove the sternal ribs from the gastralia, since there was no scientific evidence to support it (I had initially used it to help shape the abdomen, but in the end I didn’t remove it.)


So here I cut the sternal ribs that were connecting the dorsal ribs to 4 gastralia bones.


It didn’t look nice, so I decided to remove those gastralia bones as well, leaving only one which is attached to the pre-pubis. This is the final result:



I then proceeded to remove the excess rubber that accumulated in the joints because of the silicone rubber I used to attach them. I had to use scissors and a knife, and it took several hours.


Finally, I coated the whole skeleton with matte varnish. The protective epoxy coating, epoxy connections and silicone rubber made it was too shiny as you can see here (before applying matte varnish):


The coating reduced the glow a significant amount. I also darkened the bones near the joints to increase the bone contrast.


The skeleton had to be placed in the main exhibition hall, which has a lot of external light, inadequate lighting, an aluminum ceiling 6 metres above and three giant replicas. The Tapejara practically disappeared among them.


The skeleton was suspended from an aluminum structure made from antenna cylinders. That structure hung from the ceiling. I used thin wire and safety pins to connect the skeleton to the nylon fishing lines that were used to suspend the skeleton. Paleontologist Agustin Martinelli bravely climbed the six metre tall ceiling, crawled over the thin aluminum surface and attached the structure in place. 

attachment 2 attachment 1 attachment 3  installed_1

Try to find the Tapejara among the other monsters.

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Here are some photos of the final result.

tap2 tap3  tap5

Here you can see the antenna structure that suspends the 300gram skeleton.


I made a presentation describing the entire process of researching, designing, building and installing the Tapejara. I will publish it here soon in the next post.

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Imaginary Pterosaur #7: Tapejara wellnhoferi finished

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This is the final post about Imaginary Pterosaur #7 Tapejara wellnhoferi (which is now on display at Museu dos Dinossauros de Peirópolis, in Uberaba, Brazil.) It contains images of each individual part in several angles (236 photos in scale photographed over a 5mm grid) and other information about the project.

This is a list of the posts that describe the making of this replica:

  1. Jul 2: Imaginary Pterosaur #7: Tapejara wellnhoferi
  2. Jul 4: Tapejara skull, part 2: mandible and crest
  3. Jul 5: Tapejara skull, part 3: neurocranium, quadrate, lacrimal
  4. Jul 6: Unfinished Tapejara skull
  5. Jul 15: Tapejara cervical vertebrae
  6. Jul 18: Tapejara’s dorsal vertebrae
  7. Jul 27: Tapejara arm bones: humeri, radii & ulnae
  8. Jul 27: Tapejara wings
  9. Jul 27: Tapejara pelvis and legs
  10. Aug 1: Tapejara’s hands and feet
  11. Aug 1: Tapejara carpals and pteroid
  12. Aug 14: Tapejara: shoulders and chest
  13. Aug 19: Tapejara: pectoral girdle
  14. Aug 19: Tapejara: pelvic girdle
  15. Aug 22: Tapejara: abdominal bones
  16. Aug 22: Tapejara: caudal vertebrae
  17. Aug 24: Tapejara’s Neurocranium revisited
  18. Aug 24: Tapejara: improvements and fixes
  19. Aug 28: Assembling Tapejara wellnhoferi
  20. Aug 28: Imaginary Pterosaur #7 Tapejara wellnhoferi finished (this post)

This replica is 25% larger than the specimen used as a size reference, IMCF 1061 (Iwaki Museum, Japan), which is a juvenile specimen. The dimensions and weights shown below are approximate, and sometimes only lengths, or length and width are specified (in long bones, for example). The photos of the individual parts, which are also available, might provide a better reference.

Dimensions of assembled pterosaur in flight position

  • Width (assembled wingspan): 180 cm
  • Length (beak to toetip): 100 cm
  • Height (skull height): 25 cm

Other dimensions

  • Wingspan (wing bones and carpals stacked in line): 200 cm
  • Length of body (beak to tail): 70 cm
  • Length of spine (atlas to tail): 50 cm

Total weight

  • Bones: 300 g
  • Assembled (with silicone rubber): 350 g (estimated)


  • Total number of individual parts created: 198
  • Attached permanently (with epoxy): 6 (quadratojugal, lacrimal, postorbital)
  • Not used: 2 (sternal ribs)
  • Total number of parts used in final skeleton: 190 (attached with silicone rubber)

Dimensions of individual parts

Number of parts are in parenthesis. Dimensions and weights are approximate or averages. For a more detailed reference on dimensions use the images which were photographed over a 5mm grid.

1. Skull (5 parts): 90 g


Skull (rostrum, palate, etc.) (1)  32.5 x 18.5 x 6.5 cm  42 g
Neurocranium (1)  15.5 x 7 x 6 cm  35 g
Mandible (1)  19 x 6 x 4.5 cm  10 g
Quadrates (2)  7 x 2.5 cm  < 3 g (both)

View 44 images of the skull bones

2. Spine (31 parts): 85 g


Atlas/axis cervical (1)  2.3 x 2.5 x 2.9 cm  3 g
Cervicals 3 to 7 (5)  4.7 x 2.9 x 2.7 cm (avg)  5 g (each), 25 g (all)
Cervicals 8 and 9 (2)  2.3 x 3.6 x 2.9 cm (avg)  3 g (each), 6 g (both)
Dorsal vertebrae (12)  1.5 x 4.2 x 3.5 cm (avg)  3 g (each), 35 g (all)
Sacrum (1)  9 x 4.6 x 3.5 cm  12 g
Caudal vertebrae (10)  9 cm (full tail)  < 3 g (all)

View 89 images of the vertebrae, sacrum and tail

3. Pectoral girdle (45 parts): 35 g


Sternum (1)  8.3 x 6.2 x 2 cm  5 g
Scapula (2)  8 cm  3 g (both)
Coracoid (2)  6.7 cm  3 g (both)
Ribs (22)  3.5 to 6.5 cm (curved)  20 g (all)
Sternal ribs (18)  1.7 to 4.5 cm  5 g (all)

View 21 images of the pectoral bones

4. Pelvic girdle (15 parts): 15 g


Ilium & preacetabular process (2)  8 cm  2 g (both)
Ischium (2)  2.8 x 2.5 cm  3 g (both)
Pubis (2)  3 x 2.5 cm  2 g (both)
Postacetabular process (2)  3.5 x 2.3 cm  3 g (both)
Pre-pubis (2)  4.5 x 2.2 cm  2 g (both)
Gastralia (5)  4.2 x 2.5 cm  5 g (all)

View 14 images of the pelvic bones

5. Wings and fingers (48 parts): 60 g

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Humerus (2)  11 cm  10 g (both)
Radius(2)  15 cm  7 g (both)
Ulna (2)  15 cm  6 g (both)
Proximal syncarpal (2)  2.3 x 1.8 x 1 cm  < 2 g (both)
Distal syncarpal (2)  2.3 x 1.8 x 1 cm  < 2 g (both)
Medial carpal (2)  1.3 x 1 x 0.8 cm  < 2 g (both)
Pteroid (2)  7 cm  < 2 g (both)
Wing metacarpal (2)  14 cm  8 g (both)
Finger metacarpals (6)  13.5 cm  < 3 g (all)
Wing phalanx 1 (2)  21 cm  6 g (both)
Wing phalanx 2 (2)  17 cm  4 g (both)
Wing phalanx 3 (2)  14 cm  3 g (both)
Wing phalanx 4 (2)  9 cm  2 g (both)
Finger phalanges (12)  2.5, 2/1.8, 2.1/0.8/1.6 cm  5 g (all)
Fingernails (6)  1.8 x 1.1 x 0.3 cm (avg)  < 3 g (all)

View 50 images of the wings and fingers

6. Legs and feet (46 parts): 15 g


Femur (2)  12.5 cm  5 g (both)
Tibiotarsus (2)  17.5 cm  5 g (both)
Distal tarsals (4)  1 x 0.5 x 0.5 cm  1 g (all)
Metatarsals (8)  4.2, 4.4, 3.8, 3.5 (cm)  < 2 g (all)
Fifth toe (2)  1.2 cm  < 1 g (both)
Toe phalanges (20)  2, 1.3/1.8, 1.7/0.6/1.6, 2/0.5/0.5/1.3 (cm)  < 3 g (all)
Toenails (8)  1.7 x 0,7 x 0.2 cm  < 2 g (all)

View 18 images of the legs and feet

Sources: specimens used

This replica used the following specimens as sources. The accuracy is limited by the quality of the photos (some were obtained in black and white from the printed or PDF article), the accuracy of the scale, sufficient views, lighting, resolution, etc. When using multiple sources sometimes I had to choose between one or the other, and sometimes I used data from both. Many of these photos are copyrighted and I only had permission to use them for the project (but not publish them here). I am grateful to all who gave me access to the images from these specimens.

  1. SMNK PAL 1137 Tapejara wellnhoferi. Used as a source for the metatarsals, tibiotarsi, femora, radii, ulnae, humeri, carpals, finger nails, sternum, pelvic girdle, neurocranium, and as a first prototype of the cervical and dorsal vertebrae (later improved with data from IMCF 1061).
  2. AMNH 24440 Tapejara wellnhoferi. Used for the first skull prototype, the lacrimal bone, post-orbital, rostrum and crest, and for scaling the cervical vertebrae.
  3. IMCF 1061 Tapejara wellnhoferi. Used as the main source for the rostrum, mandible, quadrate, wing phalanges 1 to 3, humeri, pteroids, occipital bone, neurocranium, cervical vertebrae (second prototype), dorsal vertebrae (second prototype).
  4. MN 6595-V Tapejara wellnhoferi (holótipo). Used for reviewing the skull proportions.
  5. SMNK PAL 3986 Tapejara wellnhoferi. Used for scaling wing bones against the mandible.
  6. MCT-1500-R Tapejara wellnhoferi. Used for a first attempt at making the internal cranium and occipital bone (I later replaced it with data from IMCF 1061).
  7. SMNK 3985 Tapejara wellnhoferi. Used for scaling the size of the sternum agains the humerus.
  8. MN 6588-V Tapejaridae. Used as a source for the pre-pubis.
  9. IMCF 1502 Tupuxuara leonardii. Used as a source for the fourth wing phalanx and as a guide for the scapulocoracoid (later replaced with better data from IMCF 1061); this specimen was also used as an initial guide to the palate.
  10. NSM-PV 19892 Anhanguera piscator. Used a source for the caudal vertebrae.
  11. YPM 2546 Pteranodon longiceps. Used as a source for the shape of the sternal ribs, and as a guide to the general aspect of the sacrum, fingers and toes.
  12. Undescribed thalassodromid. Images sent by Mark Witton which were used to make the pelvic girdle in Tupuxuara were used as a source to for the general aspect of the sacrum.

Sources: publications

These are some of the publications I have used to inspire decisions about how to create bones that were not available in photos, how to assemble the skeleton, and other information about Tapejara and pterosaurs in general. I also used the diagrams, drawings and reconstructions in these publications as sources for the bones and assembly, usually when the fossil images were bad or when the fossils themselves were damaged. Many of these publications have conflicting data and I had to choose between them or decide on using something in between.

  1. Kellner, A. W. A. (1989). A new edentate pterosaur of the Lower Cretaceous from the Araripe Basin, Northeast Brazil. Anais de Academia Brasileira de Ciencias, 61, 439–446.
  2. Eck, K., Elgin, R.A. and Frey, E. (2011). On the osteology of Tapejara wellnhoferi KELLNER 1989 and the first occurrence of a multiple specimen assemblage from the Santana Formation, Araripe Basin, NE-BrazilSwiss Journal of Palaeontology
  3. Wellnhofer P, Kellner A. W. A (1991) The skull of Tapejara wellnhoferi Kellner (Reptilia, Pterosauria) from the Lower Cretaceous Santana Formation of the Araripe Basin, northeastern Brazil. Mitt. Bayer. Staatsslg Paläont hist Geol 31: 89–106.
  4. Elgin R. and Campos H. B. N.  (2011). A new specimen of the azhdarchoid pterosaur Tapejara wellnhoferi. Hist Biol DOI: 10.1080/08912963.2011.613467.
  5. Kellner, A.W.A. (1996) . Description of the braincase of two Early Cretaceous pterosaurs (Pterodactyloidea) from Brazil. American Museum Novitates vol. 3168 , p. 1 – 34
  6. Kellner, A.W. A. (2004). The ankle structure of two pterodactyloid pterosaurs from the Santana Formation (Lower Cretaceous), Brazil. Bulletin AMNH 285: 25-35.
  7. Sayão J. M., Kellner A. W. A. (2006) Novo esqueleto parcial de pterossauro (Pterodactyloidea, Tapejaridae) do Membro Crato (Aptiano), Formação Santana, Bacia do Araripe, nordeste do Brasil. Estudos Geológicos 16, 16–40.
  8. Kellner A. W. A. (2004) New information on the Tapejaridae (Pterosauria, Pterodactyloidea) and discussion of the relationships of this clade. Ameghiniana 41: 521–534.
  9. Kellner A. W. A.  and Tomida Y. (2000). Description of a new species of Anhangueridae (Pterodactyloidea) with comments on the pterosaur fauna from the Santana Formation (Aptian-Albian), northeastern Brazil. National Science Museum Monograph 17:1-135
  10. O. Kuhn and  P. Wellnhofer. (1978). Handbuch der Palaoherpetologie. Teil 19: Pterosauria
  11. Witton. M. (2013). Pterosaurs. Princeton University Press.
  12. Wellnhofer, P. (1991) Illustrated Encyclopedia of Pterosaurs. Crescent Press.
  13. Claessens LPAM, O’Connor PM, Unwin DM (2009) Respiratory Evolution Facilitated the Origin of Pterosaur Flight and Aerial Gigantism. PLoS ONE 4(2): e4497. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0004497

I also had help from the paleontologists Hebert Campos, Felipe Pinheiro and specially Brian Andres, who sent me images, information, articles and helped me make decisions when I had to deal with incomplete or conflicting data.

I may have forgotten something and will update this post when I remember. I also used several images and texts from websites, usually via Google, and I still didn’t list them up there.

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Assembling Tapejara wellnhoferi

This weekend I traveled to Uberaba, MG, Brazil, where I installed this replica of a Tapejara wellnhoferi. I traveled with more than 190 individual unassembled bones. Arriving there I had three days and a half to put them together and assemble a Tapejara wellnhoferi pterosaur in a flying position. All the 196 bones are in this 16×23 cm box.

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The skeleton was installed in a museum which is part of a cultural and scientific complex in the town of Peirópolis. It will be displayed in one of the museums in the complex.

Peirópolis is a small town located 20 km away from the city of Uberaba (pop. 300 000) in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. The whole area is situated over a geological formation from the late Cretaceous and contains several paleontological sites where hundreds of fossils, mostly reptiles, were found.  The Peiropolis Dinosaur Museum (Museu de Dinosauros) is part of a scientific and cultural complex (Complexo Cultural e Científico de Peirópolis – CCCP) which also includes a research center (Centro de Pesquisas Paleontológicas Llewellyn Ivor Price) and another smaller museum installed in an old train station. The complex is administered by the Federal University of Triângulo Mineiro (UFTM).

The smaller museum contains only species which were found locally; another contains replicas and fossils from other parts of the country. This Tapejara is the first pterosaur that will be on display in the complex.

Besides installing the Tapejara, I also gave a small workshop showing how I researched, planned and created the individual bones from sheets of foam, demonstrating the techniques and materials used. In the end, I recycled a small tray by cutting two pieces to make a Tapejara humerus.

Assembly took me 3 and 1/2 days. It took long because I used silicone rubber to attach the bones together and its only completely dry in 24 hours (before that it gets gradually stronger, but it may tear easily.) I also used part of the first day to photograph each of the bones and weigh them. The whole collection weighs only 300 grams!

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But before turning those bones into a Tapejara, I decided to turn them into a fossil first. This is a representation of the limestone slab which contains one of the most complete specimens: SMNK PAL 1137 (see “Eck et al, 2011, On the osteology of Tapejara wellnhoferi …”). The actual slab contains bones from three individuals, but I only have one so there are some bones missing. Anyway, here is SMNK PAL 1137 assembled with replicas of bones from one Tapejara:


I started with the head (I used some of these pictures to illustrate the previous post). The neurocranium is attached dorsally to the upper crest (with silicone rubber “cartilage”, but shown below with pins) and at the anterior part of the orbits through the lacrimal bone (shown detached in the next two pictures, and attached with silicone rubber and two pins in the third).

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The spine has a long rubber tube acting as a medulla. Here is the Tapejara with an assembled skull and spine (cervicals, dorsals, sacrum and tail). The quadrate bones, that articulate with the jaw, are shown below beside the skull and were not attached yet.

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The next step is the assembly of the pelvis. Each bone was attached with silicone rubber, keeping it firmly in place while allowing some elasticity between the bones. Silicone rubber acts like cartilage. Below are some photos of the complete pelvis showing the sacrum, gastralia, pre-pubis, pubis, ischium and ilium (preacetabular and postsacetabular processes).

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I was hosted by friends in Uberaba, and hanged the skeleton every night in my bedroom window. This is my window after the first day.

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On Saturday I returned to the museum and assembled the feet, legs, part of the wings and part of the pectoral girdle. Here’s a pair of Tapejara feet. The bones are firmly attached but they retain some flexibility. You can pass your fingers between Tapejara’s toes.

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My table of bones.

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Here are some views of the skull after I attached the mandible. The pins are holding it closed because I only added silicone rubber to the joints. When the silicone dries, the weight of the lower jaw should keep the mouth slightly open.

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It’s easier to work on the ribs by hanging the skeleton. I attached practically all the ribs and the sternum (through four pairs of sternal ribs).

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And this is my window after day 2.

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On day 3 I occupied the kitchen at my friends’ place, and finally finished the pectoral girdle, connecting the vertebral ribs to the sternal ribs, and to the sternum and gastralia.

I didn’t use cartilagenous connections from the posterior vertebral ribs to the gastralia, nor did I leave them floating in the air. I used thin sternal ribs as placeholders since I had some spare ones. My intention was to remove them later, when the abdomen had dried and was strong enough, and replace them with pure cartilage to connect to the gastralia, but I forgot to do so. It’s not completely inaccurate the way it is (no fossil evidence against it – but perhaps the “floating ribs” should be smaller). Anyway, I can consider fixing that when I return to Uberaba and have an opportunity to review the replica.

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Here is a view from the front showing the scapulocoracoid.

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The limbs are almost done. This photo was taken just before connecting the carpals and fingers.

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Oh, and this is Samuel – a Felis catus. He is always with me in the kitchen observing the Tapejara wellnhoferi. It probably looks like a big tasty bird for him.

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Here is the finished Tapejara body. As you can see I used “sternal” ribs to connect gastralia (the last three ribs) to the vertebral ribs.

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There is not enough space on this table for a pterosaur.

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Almost done. Now some fingers.

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A pterosaur hand. That long fourth dactylus is the pterus 🙂

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And this is the end of day 3. All the small parts assembled into larger ones. I arrived in town with 196 parts, now I have six parts hanging in my window. I couldn’t assemble it all because it woundn’t  fit in the car.

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Monday morning. Tapejara for breakfast.

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This is my host Regis. He is a musician and plays the guitar in a heavy metal band. This time, instead of a guitar, he holds a Tapejara. And the cat on the couch is one of the daughters of Samuel the cat.

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Samuel was watching the skeleton on the kitchen table a while ago.

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Finally assembling the Tapejara at the Peiropolis Dinosaur Museum. It will stay in this room (which contains several skeletons that are not yet on display) until it is installed. Here I hanged the body, head, a leg and a wing.

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And this is the final result.

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Hmmm… It might need some chiropractic therapy for that scoliosis.

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Looks good, but the posture is still not right.

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That’s not a good posture for the neck!

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It should be facing down slightly. Like this.

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Now it’s much better.

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And that’s it! Now there is a Tapejara in the Peiropolis Museum. It will still receive a coating of matte varnish, and then it will be displayed in the main hall of the museum, near the big dinosaurs. If you ever go to Uberaba, check it out!

As in any project like this, there are some adjustments that can still be made, improvements in posture and eventual fixes that might have to be done in the future. If I have the opportunity to do so, I will review the replica next time I am in Uberaba. Some improvements that may be done very easily include 1) straightening the gastralia axis (it’s making a curved line), 2) reducing slightly the curvature of the back (it should be curved, but perhaps it was too much – that might be causing the curvature in the gastralia axis), and 3) removing sternal ribs connected to gastralia (or maybe simply trimming them).

This was the Imaginary Pterosaur #7: Tapejara wellnhoferi, the first one I made for a museum. It was commissioned work and I started it two months ago, working on it about half of that time, traveling with it and working on it in different cities. Although I made all the bones by myself, I had help from many people. First of all I would like to thank the paleoartist Rodolfo Nogueira for introducing me to the director of the Peirópolis Cultural and Scientific Complex, Vicente Antunes, who had told him that he wished to have a pterosaur on display in the museum; the staff at the museum and UFTM, specially the researchers Thiago Marinho and Agustin Martinelli, who first contacted me and led the process that allowed me the opportunity to create this replica for the museum. Several other researchers helped me with photographic sources, articles and paleontological information: Hebert Bruno Campos, Felipe Pinheiro, and specially Brian Andres who gave me access to many photographs and measurements that were critical to the accuracy of this replica. Finally I must thank the family who hosted me in Uberaba: Alípio, Regis, Ludmila and Lucia (and their many cats) for their fantastic hospitality, for dedicating time and effort to make my stay as comfortable as possible, for driving me to Peiropolis and back (40km!) and even letting me occupy their kitchen table during three days, turning it into a pterosaur assembly lab! 

Now I will stop making pterosaurs for about a month and a half because I will travel to Europe (Spain, Portugal, England and Russia). When I return, I will probably start Imaginary Pterosaur #8.

I will publish one more post on Tapejara with statistics (weight, dimensions) and links to pictures of all the parts.

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Tapejara: improvements and fixes

All the bones are finished. Time to add a protective resin layer and to make some small fixes. Here are some of them drying after receiving a layer of epoxy.

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All the bones already have a resin layer except for the cervicals, anterior part of the skull and the scapula-coracoid pairs. I have to improve them using the images from IMCF 1061 which I received. They are simple fixes and not as complex as the neurocranium.

The easiest is the scapula-coracoid pair. I had to discover how to connect them before hardening (when they only have an acrylic polymer layer they can still be twisted, heated, and slightly reshaped.) So I did some research and finally discovered how the coracoid and scapula should articulate.

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The skull needed reinforcements on the inside, lacrimal and post-orbital bones. I didn’t find fossil evidence in Tapejaras for the large triangular cavity in the posterior part of the palate, so I closed it (it seems there might be a small one, but I’m not sure). I had based the palate on other thalassodromid specimens, since the IMCF 1061 palate seems to be missing.

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This is the skull before adding the missing bones.

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And after

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Here are some pictures of the nine parts of the skull attached. The neurocranium and quadrates were attached to the rest with silicone rubber (they can be easily detached). The mandible joint was also made from “cartilage” of silicone rubber. It firmly keeps the mandible attached to the quadrate, but allows some flexibility (so the Tapejara’s beak can hang open).

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My cervicals had posterior condyles which were too short and they all had missing anterior cotyles. Here is a picture of the vertebrae when I had “finished” them. The black lines show what is missing:

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My first sources were very bad. I had to rely entirely on black and white photos from the SMNK PAL 1137 article, and I didn’t see the cotyles there. But then I received the pictures from IMCF 1061 and fixed the vertebrae, adding pieces of foam to form a small ridge under each vertebrae (or the cotyle), and three small tubes behind (for the longer postexapophyses and condyle). I forgot to photograph them while I was making the fixes. Here are some pictures showing the final result.

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There are obviously many other details which can be improved. Since my sources are only photographs, and usually bad ones, I do what I can. The IMCF 1061 photos were great because they allowed me to see more details and improve the replica.


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Tapejara’s Neurocranium revisited

I’ve finished practically all the bones. I still have to make a pair of lacrimals and post-orbitals. If I include them, the total bone count will be 198. But I will fuse the lacrimals and post-orbitals, as I did with the quadratojugals (gluing them to the skull with epoxi). So in the end, the total bone parts will be 194. These will be fit together with silicone rubber and other removable attachments.

I did not have access to reliable source for the occipital view, squamosal and pterygoid bones, since I hadn’t obtained authorization to see photos of the specimens which could help me with this. But ten days before my deadline, a paleontologist kindly sent me many more photos from the Tapejara specimen at the Iwaki museum (IMCF 1061). I’m not allowed to show them here, but I did my best to make this Tapejara replica as accurate as possible, so hopefully I captured their details in my sculpture, which you will be able to see here in many different angles.

I started with the neurocranium. First, I made the occipital crest shorter. It was way too long, and curved up. I cut it short.

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I had initially modeled the neurocranium from the SMNK PAL 1137 specimen, which you can see below. It has a partial occipital bone but it’s too short. It lacks most of the squamosal and the braincase is open. I can connect it to the rest of the skull with postorbital bones, lacrimal, and the parietal crest, but the bones which close the braincase and connect it to the palate (pterygoid, basioccipital, etc.) are missing.

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The SMNK PAL 1137 Tapejara specimen has an open braincase:

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But the IMCF 1061 specimen which has the missing bones will hide it. I started with two sheets of foam, glued and pinned around the edges of the braincase. I modeled it with a lighter to shape the bones (I don’t actually know the name of this bone – it might be pterygoid, epipterygoid, basioccipital… my anatomical reference guides do not include a pterosaur).

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Then I shaped a little more, practically closed the braincase leaving only a small hole at the back (foramen magnum) but still no occipital condyle.

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I also shaped the curvy squamosal bones.

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You can still see the braincase if you look through foramen magnum. Maybe I should have placed a little Tapejara brain there before closing.

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Finally I made an occipital condyle, added a layer of acrylic polymer emulsion (modeling paste) and stained with coffee. Here are some photos of the neurocranium attached with the rest of the skull:

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Here I also attached the mandible and the quadrate bones (the small squares are 5mm wide).

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I finished the neurocranium with a layer of epoxy resin, for protection and strength. Since it’s shiny it doesn’t look much like a bone anymore, but it looks a lot like a piece of granite. I will later add layer of matte varnish. If you have access to photos of the neurocranium of the IMCF 1061 specimen, you can compare them with these.

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Nobody is going to see the braincase when the Tapejara is assembled in the museum, but it’s nice to know that there is some space for a brain in there 🙂

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Tapejara: caudal vertebrae

None of the Tapejara specimens I used as sources had a tail, so I used as a source Anhanguera piscator, which seems to be the most closely related pterosaur with well preserved caudal vertebrae. The source is Kellner & Tomida 2000, but I used photos of the tail I had made for Tupuxuara and scaled it to Tapejara proportions.

I made ten individual caudal vertebrae. This number is speculative, as is the shape of the last caudal vertebra. Anhanguera’s tail has dorsally projecting processes on the first four or five vertebrae, which change to lower anterodorsally projecting ones which get smaller and smaller as you get closer to the end of the tail.

Here are some photos. Yes, I made all the vertebrae hollow except for the last one. I thinned the foam a bit with fire.

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These are the final vertebrae.

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