‘Monkeydactyl’ often is the oldest identified creature with opposable thumbs

Future Jurassic Park movies might function one bizarre new beast within the menagerie: a pterosaur nicknamed Monkeydactyl for its opposable thumbs.

This flying reptile from the Jurassic Interval often is the earliest identified animal that might contact the insides of its thumbs to the insides of its different fingers, researchers report on-line April 12 in Present Biology. Such dexterity most likely allowed Monkeydactyl to climb timber about 160 million years in the past, maybe to feed on bugs and different prey that nonclimbing pterosaurs didn’t, the researchers say (SN: 12/21/18). The latter half of the creature’s official identify, Kunpengopterus antipollicatus, comes from the phrases “reverse” and “thumb” in historic Greek.

Monkeydactyl’s fossilized stays, unearthed in northeastern China in 2019, are embedded in rock. So the group used micro-CT scanning to create a 3-D rendering of the fossil. “With this element, we’re in a position to have a look at the fossil from any angle, and ensure that the bones are of their proper [original] place,” says research coauthor Rodrigo Pêgas, a paleontologist on the Federal College of ABC in São Bernardo, Brazil.

Monkeydactyl’s fossilized hand exhibits the opposable thumb (pictured, topmost finger) dealing with the other way of its different clawed fingers.X. Zhou et al/Present Biology 2021

Monkeydactyl’s fossilized hand exhibits the opposable thumb (pictured, topmost finger) dealing with the other way of its different clawed fingers.X. Zhou <em>et al</em>/<em>Present Biology</em> 2021

These scans helped affirm that the skeleton had a well-preserved opposable thumb on every hand. “Nearly the entire trendy animals which have opposable thumbs use them to climb timber,” Pêgas says, together with primates and a few tree frogs. That proof, together with the obvious flexibility of Monkeydactyl’s joints, suggests this species was effectively suited to clambering via tree branches.

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