By Horacio Fernando Soria
BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Argentine scientists have discovered a new species of giant flying reptile called the “death dragon” that lived 86 million years ago alongside dinosaurs, in a discovery that provides insight into a long-bodied predator. Yellow school bus.
The new specimen of the ancient flying reptile, or pterosaur, was about 30 feet (9 meters) long and researchers say it preceded birds as among the first creatures on Earth to use wings to hunt prey from the prehistoric sky.
A team of paleontologists have discovered the newly minted fossils of Thanatosdracon Amaru in the Andes Mountains in the western province of Mendoza, Argentina. They found that the rocks that preserve the remains of reptiles date back 86 million years to the Cretaceous period.
An estimated date means that these fearsome flying reptiles lived at least 20 million years before an asteroid impact in what is now Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula wiped out about three-quarters of life on the planet about 66 million years ago.
Project leader Leonardo Ortiz said in an interview over the weekend that the fossil’s unprecedented characteristics require a new name for the genus and species, the latter combining the ancient Greek words for death (Thanatos) and dragon (Dracun).
“It seemed appropriate to call it that way,” Ortiz said. “It is the Dragon of Death.”
The creeper can potentially be a frightening sight. The massive fossil bones rank the new species as the largest pterosaur discovered so far in South America and one of the largest found anywhere else, said the researchers, who published their study last April in the scientific journal Cretaceous Research.
“We have no current record of any close relative having a physical modification similar to these monsters,” Ortiz said.
(Reporting by Horacio Soria and Miguel Lo Bianco; Writing by Brendan Opwell; Editing by David Aller Garcia and Sandra Mahler)
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