Afrotapejara zouhrii: New Species of Pterosaur Discovered in Morocco

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

An artist’s impression of Afrotapejara zouhrii. Image credit: Megan Jacobs, Baylor University.

Paleontologists have announced the discovery of a new genus and species of tapejarid pterosaur from Errachidia Province of Morocco.

Dubbed Afrotapejara zouhrii, the newly-discovered flying reptile lived approximately 100 million years ago (Cretaceous period).

The species belongs to Tapejaridae, a group of small to medium-sized pterosaurs with wingspans perhaps as wide as 4 m.

Most tapejarid pterosaurs had large, broad crests sweeping up from the front of the skull.

They are well known in Brazil, China and Europe, but this is the first unambiguous occurrence of Tapejaridae in Africa.

The fossilized remains of Afrotapejara zouhrii were acquired by a commercial fossil trader based in the town of Erfoud who sources fossils from several localities in the Tafilalt region of southern Morocco.

The specimen — a single portion of jaw — was collected from a series of small excavations in the Cretaceous-period Kem Kem beds near a small plateau called Ikhf N’ Taqmout (Takmout).

“I feel very privileged to be part of such an exciting discovery,” said co-author Roy Smith, a Ph.D. student in the School of the Environment, Geography and Geological Sciences at the University of Portsmouth.

“Working in the Sahara was a life-changing experience, and discovering a new species of pterosaur is the icing on the cake.”

A partial rostrum of Afrotapejara zouhri from the Kem Kem beds of Ikhf N’ Taqmout, Errachidia Province, southern Morocco: (A) right lateral view; (B) left lateral view; (C) occlusal view; (D) dorsal view. Scale bar – 5 cm. Image credit: Martill et al, doi: 10.1016/j.cretres.2020.104424.

“The study of Moroccan material shows that we are still far from having found all the paleontological treasures of North Africa,” said Professor David Martill, a paleontologist in the School of the Environment, Geography and Geological Sciences at the University of Portsmouth.

“Even fragmentary fossils, like the jaw piece of the new pterosaur, can give us important information about the biodiversity of the past.”

The discovery is reported in a paper in the journal Cretaceous Research.


David M. Martill et al. 2020. A new tapejarid (Pterosauria, Azhdarchoidea) from the mid-Cretaceous Kem Kem beds of Takmout, southern Morocco. Cretaceous Research 112: 104424; doi: 10.1016/j.cretres.2020.104424