The fossil of newly-discovered pterosuar species can provide more insight into the evolution of extinct flying reptiles
Paleontologists have unearthed fossil remains of an entirely new species of pterosaur in the region of Patagonia in South America. The fossil is remarkably well persevered and can offer new insight into the evolutionary history of pterosaurs.
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Pterosaurs are extinct flying reptiles that lived almost throughout the Mesozoic Era, about 228 to 66 million years ago. They were closely related to dinosaurs and were also the earliest vertebrates known to have evolved powered flight - not just leaping or hopping.
Pterosaurs were extremely successful group of reptiles that survived more than 150 years and died out around 66 million years ago, at the same time when T. rexes and other large dinosaurs became extinct.
It has been believed that pterosaurs evolved into a broad variety of species but until now very limited number of pterosaur fossils have been discovered to determine the diversity and abundance of these ancient flying reptiles. The latest discovery will potentially help fill this evolutionary gap.
The fossil of new pterosaur species was discovered in northern central Chubut Province, Patagonia Argentina and includes a fully intact braincase with vertebra and jaws. The braincase or the upper and back part of the skull is just few dozen millimeters long, indicating that it belonged to a small species of pterosaur. Otherwise pterosaurs can grow up to the size of giraffes.
Researchers have named this new species ‘Allkauren koi,’ which combines two native Tehuelche words ‘all for ‘brain’ and 'karuen' for 'ancient'. Using computed-tomography scans, researchers have also built 3D models of the reptile’s inner ear and the interior of its skull.
"Allkaruen, from the middle lower jurassic limit, shows an intermediate state in the brain evolution of pterosaurs and their adaptations to the aerial environment, “said Dr Diego Pol, who is part of the research team. “As a result, this research makes an important contribution to the understanding of the evolution of all of pterosaurs.”
The scanning technology will not only allow scientists to analyze the brain structure of new pterosaur species but will also help them place it in the pterosaur family tree