Fossils of largest flying animal discovered

11 Septembre, 2019, 10:35 | Auteur: Therese Cote
  • Illustration showing Cryodrakon boreas coloured red and grey at night against an aurora in the sky

A brand new species of Pterosaur, a flying reptile, has been recognized within the huge, dry terrain of Canada's badlands. They would have lived in the region about 76.6 million years ago during the Cretaceous period.

One of the largest creatures ever to fly on this planet had a wingspan about the length of a school bus and soared through the skies of Western Canada.

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

An artist's interpretation of the dinosaur that was discovered by a research team in Dinosaur Provincial Park in southern Alberta.

Paleontologists had assumed assumed that the fossils belonged to a pterosaur called Quetzalcoatlus northropi, study coauthor Dave Hone, a paleontologist at Queen Mary University of London, told National Geographic.

Writing in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, the researchers described the new find as Cryodrakon boreas, from the azhdarchid group of pterosaurs.

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

"It is great that we can identify Cryodrakon as being distinct from Quetzalcoatlus", the other giant pterosaur for which it was initially mistaken, he said in a statement.

Hone had a "Eureka moment" early on when he found a specific sample of holes within the fossils that appeared distinctive, however it took him and the opposite researchers a number of years extra to cross-check the specimen with pterosaur stays in Mongolia, France and elsewhere to substantiate that this was a brand new species, he mentioned. However, it's believed that while the main skeleton come from a young animal with a wingspan of about five metres, one giant neckbone from an older Cryodrakon boreas suggests its adult wingspan to be twice as long.

The Quetzalcoatlus pterosaur had a wingspan of 12 metres, by comparison, and weighed 250 kilograms. 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.

Although azhdarchids were incredibly large and lived in Asia, Africa, Europe and North and South America, their fossil record is sparse and fragmentary.

Although the reptile was named in honour of the Albertan winter, "which can be stark and lovely but is very much cold and windy", Hone said, the environment during the Cretaceous period was much different.

However, the lead author of the study from Queen Mary University of London Dr. David Hone said, "This is a cool discovery, we knew this animal was here but now we can show it is different to other azhdarchids and so it gets a name". "Most of their fossils are from inland environments too which fits this pattern".

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