Scientists identify largest flying animal in history

Rodiano Bonacci
Settembre 11, 2019

The carnivorous animal lived in modern-day Alberta throughout the Cretaceous interval about 77 million years in the past, based on a brand new research within the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

30 years ago its remains were discovered in Alberta, Canada.

A new study has now revealed the remains are actually that of the Cryodrakon boreas, a new species and the first pterosaur to be discovered in Canada. Having lived during the Cretaceous period approximately 77m years ago, this creature may have been among the largest ever flying animals with a wingspan of 10 metres. That animal, like the newly described Cryodrakon boreas, belong to a group known as the azhdarchid pterosaurs, which were notable for being mostly head and neck, and known primarily from limited and fragmentary remains, which also makes them hard to classify or understand their behavior and biology. As one professional mentioned, think about a "giant flying murder head".

Upon its discovery in Canada decades ago, the remains were wrongly assumed to belong to an already known species of pterosaur called Quetzalcoatlus.

There are more than 100 known species of pterosaurs.

The uncovered skeleton - which consisted of the wings, legs, neck and a rib - is believed to be that of a juvenile cryodrakon.

Illustration of a birdseye view of the Cryodrakon boreas in flight coloured red and white
Illustration of the Cryodrakon boreas in flight coloured red and white. Image David Maas

The main skeleton is from a young animal with a wingspan of about 5 metres but one giant neck bone from another specimen suggests an adult animal would have a wingspan of around 10 metres.

A newly discovered dinosaur fossil has been given a name that sounds like something Daenerys Targaryen would give to her dragons. It had no chewing equipment, so it might seemingly eat no matter was sufficiently small to go down the gullet, together with lizards, mammals and child dinosaurs. Even though they had the wing capacity to fly across oceans, the fossil record shows they stuck close to inland environments.

The study authors are Habib of USC; David W.E. Hone of the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, Queen Mary University of London; and Francois Therrien of the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology, Drumheller, Alberta. This is because, while they were distributed across the Americas, Asia, Africa and Europe, few azhdarchids remain except in fragments.

"It is great that we can identify Cryodrakon as being distinct to Quetzalcoatlus as it means we have a better picture of the diversity and evolution of predatory pterosaurs in North America".

"The azhdarchids had long legs and large feet that marked them as being a group that spent much more time on the ground than most other pterosaurs and we have some good tracks for them from Korea that shows they were adept walkers", Hone said.

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