‘Flying Dragon’ crossed the skies of Chile in the Jurassic

“Flying Dragon” in artistic reconstruction: until recently, an exclusive feature of the northern hemisphere, thought paleontologists. Credit: University of Chile

Chilean scientists found fossils of the “flying dragon”, one of the first pterosaurs, in Cerritos Bayos, in the desert of atacama (Northern Chile). It is the first set of fossils of this type to be discovered in the southern hemisphere. The animal, which lived about 160 million years ago in the Jurassic period, had a long, pointed tail, wings and prominent pointed teeth. The span of the wings could reach two meters.

The study about the novelty was published in the magazine Polish Palaeontologic Act.

The bones were discovered by Osvaldo Rojas, director of the Atacama Desert Museum of Natural History and Culture. Analyzes revealed that it was a pterosaur close to adulthood, of the subfamily ramphorhynchinae. The left humerus, a possible dorsal vertebra and two fragments of a wing phalanx were found, all well preserved.

species migration

Fossils of the same species had been found only in the northern hemisphere, especially in Europe. The Chilean discovery suggests a migration of species between North and South America, possibly related to existence at the time of the supercontinent Gondwana. “This shows that the distribution of animals in this group was wider than was known until now,” Jhonatan Alarcón, a scientist at the Paleontological Network at the University of Chile who led the investigation, told Reuters news agency.

“There are also pterosaurs from this group in Cuba, which seem to have been coastal animals. So, they probably migrated to the north-south or maybe they came once and stayed, we don’t know,” said Alarcón.

The region of Cerritos Bayos (30 kilometers from the city of Calama) has become an important point for fossil discoveries. The University of Chile noted that the same team from the institution responsible for the study now released discovered there in 2020 plesiosaurs of the genus Muraenosaurus and Vinialesaurus and the first fossils of pliosaurs (relatives to plesiosaurs with large skulls and short necks).

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