A new species of Azhdarchid pterosaur discovered in Argentina

Thanatosdrakon amaru had a wingspan of nearly 9 m (29.5 ft) and lived in what is now Argentina during the Cretaceous period.

Reconstruction of the life of Thanatosdrakon amaru. Image credit: Universidad Nacional de Cuyo.

Pterosaurs were high-performance reptiles (not dinosaurs, as they are often mislabeled) that lived alongside non-avian dinosaurs between 210 and 65 million years ago.

Some pterosaurs, such as the giant azhdarchids, were the tallest flying animals of all time, with wingspans of up to 12 m (39 ft) and standing heights comparable to modern giraffes.

“Pterosaurs were a very unique group of animals that lived from the Triassic to the Cretaceous and represent the first vertebrates to acquire the ability to actively fly,” said the paleontologist from the Universidad Nacional de Cuyo. Leonard Ortiz David and his colleagues from Argentina and Brazil.

The newly identified pterosaur species belonged to the clade Quetzalcoatlinae in the family Azhdarchids.

It lived about 86 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous, making it the oldest Quetzalcoatlinae species to date.

Scientific name Thanatosdrakon amaruthe flying reptile had a wingspan of up to 9 m.

Thanatosdrakon amaru is the largest pterosaur found in South America and one of the largest flying vertebrates in the world,” the paleontologists said.

Ortiz David et al.  identified two specimens of Thanatosdrakon amaru, the holotype and the paratype, with an estimated wingspan of 7 m and 9 m, respectively.  Image credit: Ortiz David et al., doi: 10.1016/j.cretres.2022.105228.

David Ortiz et al. identified two specimens of Thanatosdrakon amaru, the holotype and the paratype, with an estimated wingspan of 7 m and 9 m, respectively. Image credit: Ortiz David et al., doi: 10.1016/j.cretres.2022.105228.

The fossilized remains of two Thanatosdrakon amaru individuals were recovered from the highest levels of the Plottier Formation in the Neuquén Basin, Mendoza, Argentina.

Thanatosdrakon amaru is represented by several well-preserved three-dimensional axial and appendicular bones,” the researchers explained.

“Some of these elements have never been described in giant azhdarchids (eg, complete norarium, dorsosacral vertebrae, and caudal vertebra).”

“This expands knowledge about the anatomy of this diverse group of pterosaurs.”

“Finally, from a paleoecological point of view, Thanatosdrakon amaru has been found in floodplain deposits of ephemeral meandering systems indicating that this large flying species inhabited continental environments,” they added.

The discovery is described in a paper in the review Cretaceous research.

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Leonardo D. Ortiz David et al. 2022. Thanatosdrakon amaru, gen. and sp. nov., a giant azhdarchid pterosaur from the Late Cretaceous of Argentina. Cretaceous research 137:105228; doi: 10.1016/j.cretres.2022.105228

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