Ancient pterosaur was the size of a small plane

Paleontologists have uncovered the remains of what could be the largest pterosaur ever found.
By Joseph Scalise | Nov 07, 2017
Scientists in Japan have uncovered the remains of a gigantic pterosaur -- a member of the order that includes pterodactyl -- that flew in the skies above Mongolia some 70 million years ago, according to recent researchpublishedin the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

The monstrous creature had a wingspan the size of a small plane, could launch off the ground in seconds, and may have even preyed on baby dinosaurs. Researchers uncovered the unique specimen by studying five neck bones pieces that were uncovered in the Nemegt formation of the Gobi Desert.

"I immediately recognized that it might be a pterosaur and was astonished at its gigantic size," Takanobu Tsuihiji, a palaeontologist from the University of Tokyo toldNational Geographic. "Straight away, we went back to the site and discovered the rest of the specimen."

Though it is not easy to estimate size based off of only vertebrae, the bones were similar to the vertebrae of other huge pterosaurs. As a result, the team assumed the animal was in the family Azhdarchidae and had a wingspan of 33 to 36 feet,Newsweekreports.

Researchers estimate the flying beast was similar to the extremely large Quetzalcoatlus, which would have made it one of the largest species to ever fly. However, there is also a chance that its neck was simply disproportionate to the rest of its body. That is because, if its body was that much bigger than Quetzalcoatlus it would not have been able to fly.

Not only is the existence of such a large winged animal interesting, but the creature is also the first pterosaur discovered in Asia. That likely means the group ranged across the entire northern hemisphere.That could then change past assumptions about the group and give researchers a better idea of how and where they existed throughout time.

"It's a really big vertebra, and the only thing comparable is some material from Romania," said Mark Witton, a researcher from the University of Portsmouth who was not involved with the discovery, according to Science Alert. "This is definitely up there with the largest pterosaurs, and there's nothing like it from Asia so far."

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