New reptile species was one of largest ever flying animals

Rodiano Bonacci
Settembre 12, 2019

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.

Scientists on Tuesday unveiled a new species pterosaur, the plane-sized reptiles that lorded over primeval skies above T-rex, Triceratops and other dinosaurs of the late Cretaceous.

No, it's not actually a dragon and there's no evidence to support that it ever breathed blue fire like Viserion in "Game of Thrones". The discovery of the new species, published this week in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, offered scientists additional proof of the group's impressive diversity.

Like other azhdarchids, the new species was carnivorous and primarily hunted small animals such as lizards, early mammals, and possibly juvenile dinosaurs.

Habib said, "This particular group of pterosaurs includes the largest flying animals of all time". Alternatively: "a pair of wings that carry around a big head for guzzling things".

Amid this uncertainty, the researchers behind the new study identified a new species, which they say could account for some of the previous discrepancies in pterosaur remains coming from the Canadian badlands and around the world.

"Yes, we had a good, personal chuckle about that", mentioned Michael Habib, a paleontologist on the College of Southern California and a fan of the present.

New reptile species was one of largest ever flying animals
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Cryodrakon boreas. Image credit: David Maas.

30 years ago its remains were discovered in Alberta, Canada. Till just lately nonetheless, the stays had been thought to belong to an already recognized species of pterosaur, known as the Quetzalcoatlus, that was first present in Texas.

The pterosaur's bones have been known to scientists for almost three decades, but it has only now been confirmed as its own genus. Whereas its neck bones had been lengthy like a typical Quetzalcoatlus, its proportions didn't match.

He enlisted the help of David Hone, a specialist in pterosaur taxonomy, who realized that the remains in Alberta were exceptionally well preserved.

But the most scientifically valuable were the neck, leg, shoulder and wing bones of a single young pterosaur found by legendary dinosaur hunter Wendy Sloboda in 1992.

An updated analysis, in which new, previously unstudied fossils belonging to the same species were included, along with recent insights into azhdarchid anatomy, has shown that the specimen is not a Quetzalcoatlus, but an entirely new genus and species of azhdarchid. "This tells us a great deal about the anatomy of these large flyers, how they flew, and how they lived", Habib said.

Now that they have, however, the possibilities for future research are expansive, Therrien said.

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