Read this post to learn how the excavation and discovery of the 160 million-year-old pterosaur’s fossilized remains changed the perspective of palaeontologists.
A first-time discovery of the pterosaur fossil in Chile has thrilled palaeontologists immensely. Scientists excavated the Jurassic-era “winged lizard” in 2009 from the Atacama Desert of South America. The fossilized remains were identified to be of the pterosaur which was one of the predominant species living in the prehistoric supercontinent Gondwana.
Scientists have confirmed after careful observation that the unearthed remains were of the rhamphorhynchine pterosaur. Hailed as the oldest known pterosaur ever discovered in Chile, the researchers believe that this flying reptile lived about 160 million years ago.
The details of this discovery were published in the scientific journal Acta Palaeontologica Polonica. Jhonatan Alarcon, a researcher at the University of Chile said that this discovery has proved that the distribution of prehistoric species was wider than known till now.
Pterosaurs were from the Mesozoic period, and they are not classified as dinosaurs typically. The term pterosaur is derived from the Greek words “pteron,” meaning wing and “suaros,” meaning lizard.
The characteristic features of the prehistoric flying reptile included a pointed snout, large wings with a wingspan of up to two meters, and a long tail. They had hollow bones like birds. Their wings were formed of membranous skin, muscle, and other tissues.
Known to be one of the earliest vertebrates, the two main types of the winged reptiles identified are basal pterosaurs and pterodactyloids. Basal pterosaurs, also called rhamphorhynchoids, were smaller in size with long tails. Pterodactyloids, on the other hand, were characterized by larger sizes and vivid shapes. They are known to have reduced tails, long necks, larger heads, and narrower wings.
The first pterosaur fossil description was laid out by German naturalist, Cosimo Alessandro Collini in 1784. In the early 19th century, French anatomist, Georges Cuvier called this creature Ptero-dactyl and recognized it to be a reptile with wings. After initial discoveries in Europe in the 18th century, palaeontological research of the pterosaur progressed further. They were later discovered in North America in the 19th century and now in South America.