This fairy tale reptile flew through Australia in the dinosaur age

Flying dinosaurs are probably far more spectacular than their walking counterparts. Certainly the pterosaurs seem to have crawled out of a fairy tale book. Animal fossils are rare, but bone remains that are over 100 million years old have been found in Australia. New research sheds even more light on the life habits of feathered reptiles.

The South Australian province of Victoria, where the metropolis of Melbourne is now located, was located in the polar region 107 million years ago, much further south than it is now. The winters were cold and dark, but that apparently didn’t stop the pterosaurs from settling there. This was already demonstrated in the 1980s when part of a pelvis and a fragment of a wing bone were found at the famous fossil site. Dinosaur Cove.

foggy and dark
The bone remains come from two different pterosaurs, according to new research by paleontologists Tom Rich and Adele Pentland. The pelvic fragment belonged to a pterosaur with a wingspan of over 2 meters and the wing bone belonged to a pterosaur that had died in infancy. The discovery of a fossil of an immature specimen is unique to Australia.

This is what pterosaurs in Australia would have looked like. Image: Peter Trussler

The part of the continent where the fossils were found was no fun at the time. “During the Cretaceous (145 to 66 million years ago) Australia was much further south than it is today. The state of Victoria was also within the Arctic Circle, so winters were long and harsh and there was complete darkness for weeks. These harsh conditions Regardless, pterosaurs managed to survive and thrive in this region,” says Pentland. “Pterosaurs were closely related to the dinosaurs. As large flying reptiles, they reigned supreme in the skies for hundreds of millions of years.”

some fossils
The discovery of animal fossils is rare. “Relatively few remains of feathered reptiles have been found around the world. At high latitudes, such as in the Australian Victoria of old, the finds can be counted on one hand. Therefore, these bones are of great importance to science. They give us a clearer picture of how pterosaurs lived and how big and impressive they really were. We have two bones dinosaur cove analyzed with the latest methods and thus for the first time were able to confirm the existence of a young pterosaur. It blew over the forests of Victoria about 107 million years ago,” says Pentland.

migratory reptiles
Based on two bone fragments, researchers can tell a surprising amount about the impressive animal’s doings, but Pentland points out that little is known about the place where these prehistoric animals laid their eggs and raised their young. . “It’s only a matter of time before we find out whether pterosaurs migrated north to avoid long, harsh winters to raise their young, or whether they were so well adapted to the local climate that they Lived the whole year. Lived in Victoria,” says. Pentland. This is one of the main questions that currently worries paleontologists.

heavy work
dinosaur cove Has been a fossil site for decades. So researcher Tom Rich is pleased that forty years later, the hard work of him, his wife and many other researchers is paying off. “These two fossils were dug out of the ground with the utmost care. It was a very painstaking task, accomplished by me and over a hundred volunteers. We’ve been working on this for over ten years,” says Rich. “We dug over 200 feet of tunnel before finding these two pterosaur bones deep in the coastal rocks Dinosaur Cove. So it was a massive operation to secure a prehistoric treasure for future generations.

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