New Flying Reptile Found in “Unprecedented” Pterosaur Boneyard
Nearly 50 skeletons of a new species of ancient flying reptile have been unearthed in southern Brazil, an “absolutely unprecedented” discovery, one expert says.
Varying ages of the newfound species, dubbed Caiuajara dobruskii, fill the rare boneyard, which was once part of a desert lake in the late Cretaceous period, about 100 million to 66 million years ago. With a wingspan of up to 7.7 feet (2.35 meters) C. dobruskii had a head that was shaped differently from those of other pterosaurs, including a bony protrusion in front of its eyes. (See “New Golden Age for Pterosaurs, Flying Reptiles of the Dinosaur Era.”)
The discovery offers the “best evidence ever uncovered” that the extinct dinosaur-era animals, called pterosaurs, may have lived in colonies, said study author Alexander Kellner, a paleontologist at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
It also offers a new window into how the animals—the first vertebrates to fly—developed into adults.
Finding such an intact fossil site is unusual—though pterosaurs were found on every continent, their fragile wing bones do not preserve well. What’s more, most pterosaur remains have been found near what was once oceans or lagoons, not desert.
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| Illustration by Maurilio Oliveira