About 170 million years ago, on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, there was a huge flying reptile with a wingspan of about 2.5 meters. The remains of this Jurassic pterosaur – known informally as a pterodactyl – were found by fossil hunters. According to them, it is the largest species ever identified.
The fossil is completely complete, which distinguishes it from other finds. Derek called it Sjjatanach (“pterodactyl reptile” or “sky reptile”) in Scottish Gaelic.
“It’s probably 70% complete, which is really cool for pterosaurs because it’s very difficult to petrify,” said Professor Steve Brusatte, co-author of the research from the University of Edinburgh.
The bone walls of these animals are thin, and according to an analysis by the team, the animal is still developing, and its wingspan can reach more than 3 meters.
Fishermen say that the animal’s mouth is full of sharp teeth that it uses to pierce and catch fish.
Previous discoveries led to the belief that pterosaurs did not reach this size until about 25 million years after the date now known. That is, during the Jurassic period it did not grow more than 1.6-1.8 meters, considering that the evolution to larger species occurred later, during the Cretaceous period.
“When it lived, about 170 million years ago, it was the largest animal that ever flew, as far as we know,” said Steve Brusatte, citing Steve Brusatte. Watchman. “We’re really going back in time to the evolution of large pterosaurs,” he added.
With the new findings, the possibility arises that competition between birds drove the growth in size of pterosaurs, due to evolutionary pressures.
An analysis of the pterosaur’s skull was also performed and a digital brain model was subsequently produced showing that this animal had very large optic lobes, which may indicate that it had very good eyesight.
In 1828 another pterosaur was discovered in the UK, given the name “Flying Dragon”, by paleontologist Mary Anning.
Less enthusiastic was David Unwin of the University of Leicester, who was not part of the research. The expert says that saying this is the largest fossil of its kind is debatable, given that the fragmentary bones of other fossils have already suggested similar dimensions. However, he said the discovery was of great importance, given the paucity of complete pterosaur remains, calling it “a key piece in the puzzle of pterosaur evolutionary history.”
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