On 13 August, scientists announced an exciting discovery: they found a new species of giant pterosaur. What was very special about this species is that their backbone was specially built for flying.
Their study was published in Nature Ecology & Evolution.
Pterosaurs were not dinosaurs, nor birds. They were something in between – known as pterodactyls. They started developing over 200 million years ago, in the late Triassic period. They would scour the skies until space rocks slammed into Earth and wiped all dinosaurs and many forms of life 65 million years ago.
“Delicately Framed Animals That Are Built for Flying”
In northeastern Utah, remains from the newly discovered species were found. Among them, there was a five-feet wingspan, 112 teeth – out of which some looked like fangs that would stick out from the snout.
The lower jaw had a shape that probably featured a pelican-like pouch, and according to the leader of the study, Brooks Britt (paleontologist, Brigham Young University – Utah):
“They are delicately framed animals that are built for flying. Most pterosaurs bones look like road-kill.”
Britt explained that there are only 30 specimens around the world from the Triassic period that are about 51 million years.
They named the species Caelestiventus hanseni, meaning “heavenly wind,” and was agreed that these skeletal remains of pterosaurs are probably the most complete. It has many intact bones and teeth and even an entire brain casing!
The wings of C. hanseni were made from skin membranes held up by the digit finger of their limbs. Looking at the huge eye sockets, Britt concludes that the specimen had “fantastic eyesight.”
The Saints & Sinners Site
The fossil was discovered in a site called Saints & Sinners by fossil hunters. It was found in a part of sandstone where it once covered by an oasis, revealing part of the tragic end of many other species, explains Britt:
“During droughts, large numbers of animals — including pterosaurs, predatory dinosaurs and crocodylomorphs — were drawn to the pond in the middle of the oasis, where they died as water dried up.”
This allowed scientists to discover over 18,000 bones from dozens of ancient creatures.
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.