This incredible fossil, depicting a pterosaur in the process of being devoured by a ganoid fish, was recently showcased in a new study published in PLoS ONE. Pterosaurs aren’t dinosaurs, but flying reptiles of the Mesozoic era. Most of the fossilized specimens come from the Middle Jurassic to the Early Cretaceous periods.
Many of the soft tissue features of pterosaurs can be reconstructed today, but the food and feeding habits of these vertebrate flying animals remain speculative because fossilized intestinal contents are exceedingly rare. For the first time, the study reports the unusual association of the predatory fish Aspidorhynchus and the long-tailed pterosaur Rhamphorhychus from the Late Jurassic which was preserved in Solnhofen Limestone, in Bavaria, Southern Germany.
The fossil proves that Rhamphorhynchus was the prey of Aspidorhynchus, and because of lethal accidental interaction, both perished. Four additional Rhamphorhynchus specimens have been found entangled with large Aspidorhynchus. None of them proved that Rhamphorhynchus was alive at the time of capture, which is what this fossil proves.
This behavior of the Aspidorhynchus is supposed to be typical of that era and it is somewhat reminiscent of great white sharks jumping out of the depths to catch sea-birds in South African waters.
Reference: “The Late Jurassic Pterosaur Rhamphorhynchus, a Frequent Victim of the Ganoid Fish Aspidorhynchus?” by Eberhard Frey and Helmut Tischlinger, 7 March 2012, PLoS ONE.