WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A winged animal dubbed the "iron dragon" flew over Australia during the dinosaur era, hunting fish in rivers and lakes, according to scientists who have discovered the continent's most complete fossil that represents flying reptiles called pterosaurs. .
An artistic representation of the Australian Cretaceous Ferrodraco lentoni pterosaur is seen in this image released October 3, 2019. Travis R. Tischler / Press Release via REUTERS
Paleontologists said on Thursday that pterosaur fossils, called Ferrodraco lentoni, were discovered in the Australian state of Queensland. The creature, which lived about 96 million years ago during the Cretaceous Period, sported a 13-foot (4 meters) wingspan, a bony crest at the tip of its upper and lower jaw, and spike-shaped teeth perfect for a diet. Fish
Ferrodraco means "iron dragon", a proper name, according to the researchers.
"The" iron dragon "seemed appropriate, as this animal would have been one of the main predators of the heavens during the Cretaceous. Moreover, without preserving the bones in the iron stone, it is unlikely that we would have recovered this fossil material first, "said paleontologist Adele Pentland of the Australian Dinosaur Age Museum of Natural History, a PhD candidate at Swinburne University of Technology.
Pterosaurs, the largest of which were 10 feet in size, lived around the world alongside dinosaurs during the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. Both were extinguished after an asteroid hit Earth 66 million years ago.
"Pterosaurs are quite rare in the fossil record and usually incomplete because their bones are hollow and the cortical bone is quite thin," said Pentland, lead author of the research published in Scientific Reports.
Until now, most of Australia's pterosaur remains were isolated and fragmentary fossils. For Ferrodraco, the researchers found a partial skull, five cervical vertebrae, elements of both wings and 40 isolated teeth and tooth fragments. Although it represented approximately 10% of its skeleton, it was enough to reveal much about the animal.
"This pterosaur gives us a better understanding of the pterosaurs that lived in Australia during the middle of the Cretaceous period," said Pentland.
Apparently Ferrodraco lived in a forest environment around the lake and river systems next to the meat-eating Australovenator dinosaur, and Savannasaurus and Diamantinasaurus, long-necked four-legged plant eaters, and relatives of crocodiles and other animals. .
Pentland said that, based on an analysis of the fossil, it was more related to pterosaurs in England than in South America, although dinosaurs and other terrestrial vertebrates of the time in Australia generally showed close ties to South American lineages.
Will Dunham report; Editing by Sandra Maler
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