A ‘flying dragon’ like dinosaur which had a wingspan wider than a fully grown man and soared over a Jurassic desert 160 million years ago has been unearthed.
The exact species of the ‘flying dragon’ has not been confirmed, but researchers believe it is a Pterosaur, a member of Rhamphorhynchinae, a subfamily of rhamphorhynchoids and this is the first time it has ever been documented in the Southern Hemisphere.
It earned the name ‘dragon’ thanks to its mighty wingspan of over two metres, a long pointy tail and sharp buck teeth.
The fossil was discovered inside a rock in 2009 by Osvaldo Rojas, director of the Atacama Desert Museum of Natural History, in Cerritos Bayos, located 30 kilometres (18 mi) southwest of Calama, in the Atacama Desert and the results of its analysis were published this month (September 2021).
The fossil was then analysed by a team of researchers led by Jhonatan Alarcon from the University of Chile.
The archaeologists said: “Pterosaurs had wingspans, tip to tip, of up to 1.8-2 metres (5.9-6.5 feet). Our specimen is quite large, comparable to Rhamphorhynchus, which is the largest member of this family.”
Alarcon said that these ‘winged dragons’ are “characterised by their very long tails with a peculiar rhombus-shaped ending. They also had low heads, long snouts, and teeth that pointed out”.
He went on: “Based on the size of the humerus we believe that this Pterosaur was a well-developed specimen probably a fully grown adult.”
Some 160 million years ago the giant dragon-like creature would have lived on the ancient mega continent Gondwana that was made up of South America, Antarctica, Africa, Madagascar, India and Australia and Laurasia.
Alarcon said: “All the discoveries of the Rhamphorhynchinae subfamily come essentially from the Northern Hemisphere, mainly from Europe. With this, we show that the distribution of the animals in this group was broader than what was known up to now.”
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He added: “We can’t say that Pterosaur is a migratory species but the findings suggest that at least one member of Rhamphorhynchinae made its way from the Northern to the Southern Hemisphere.”
The researchers speculated that as some members of Rhamphorhynchinae have been found near what is today Cuba and the ‘dragon’ could have followed the coastline south towards from there to Chile.
The researchers intend to continue their analysis of the fossil with the hope of discovering its exact species.
The study was published under the title ‘First record of a Late Jurassic rhamphorhynchine pterosaur from Gondwana’ in the journal Acta Palaeontologica Polonica on 10th September.
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Story By: Peter Barker, Sub-Editor: William McGee, Agency: Newsflash
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