Giant dragon-like flying reptile fossil found in Australia | Smart News

In addition to its school bus wingspan, the creature had a three-foot-long skull with a pointy muzzle and around 40 pointy teeth.
University of Queensland

Around 105 million years ago, a giant winged reptile soared above today’s Australia. The creature is the newest member of the extinct clade of flying reptile calls pterosaurs and it is the largest flying reptile on the continent, according to a new study published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

“It’s the closest thing we have to an actual dragon,” said Tim Richards, a PhD student at the University of Queensland. candidate and co-author of the study, said in a declaration.

In addition to its school bus wingspan, the creature had a three-foot-long skull with a pointed snout and around it. 40 sharp teeth. This pterosaur probably lived and hunted for fish near the Eromanga Inland Sea, a large inland sea that once occupied much of eastern Australia during the early Cretaceous.

“It wasn’t built to eat broccoli,” Richards told Royce Kurmelovs of the Guardian. “It would have been a scary sight.”

Although the fossil was found in northwest Queensland over a decade ago, researchers have been unable to prove it to be a new species so far. There are over 200 species of pterosaurs, ranging from the 16-foot-tall Quetzalcoatlus to the sparrow-sized Anurognathus. Unlike the feathered birds with which they shared the sky, pterosaurs hovered aloft on membrane wings stretched between their fingers.

The University of Queensland team that made the discovery deduced the size of the reptile and the unique characteristics of the species from its jawbone. They named the new pterosaur Thapunngaka shawi, incorporating words from the now extinct language of the Wanamara Nation, one of Australia’s indigenous groups.

“The name of the genus, Thapunngaka, incorporates the thapun [ta-boon] and ngaka [nga-ga], the Wanamara words for ‘spear’ and ‘mouth’, respectively, “said study author Steve Salisbury, a paleontologist at the University of Queensland. Scientific alertMichelle Starr.

Because they have fragile and light bones, it is difficult to find pterosaur fossils in Australia or elsewhere in the world. As a result, much of their life is a mystery to paleontologists.

“Pterosaurs don’t store well,” Richards told the Guardian. “Most of these things probably fell into the sea when they died and were swallowed up by predatory beasts in the sea. Many of them would never have reached the bottom of the sea to begin this process of fossilization. “

Last month, a research team from the United Kingdom. learned that baby pterosaurs can fly within hours or minutes of hatching from their seagull-sized eggs. One of the most interesting aspects of the Thapunngaka shawi fossil discovery, Salisbury tells Jon Parton of Courthouse news, is the proof of the correspondence of the bony ridges on the lower and upper jaw of the reptile.

“These ridges likely played a role in the flight dynamics of these creatures, and I hope future research will provide more definitive answers,” Salisbury said. Courthouse news.

Pterosaurs are particularly intriguing because they were the first vertebrates to master flight, soaring above their dinosaur cousins ​​on the ground. Some pterosaurs existed only 66 million years ago, but others date back to 250 million years ago. This discovery marks the third species of Anhanguerian pterosaur known to science, all native to western Queensland.

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