(ORDO NEWS) — Argentinean and Brazilian paleontologists have studied the fossil remains of a large pterosaur found in the deposits of Argentina aged 87-86 million years. Scientists have named this flying lizard Thanatosdrakon amaru – its generic name translates as “dragon of death.”
The wingspan of this giant reached 9.2 meters, which makes it the largest pterosaur in South America and one of the largest flying animals in history. The preliminary version of the article was published in the journal Cretaceous Research.
The family of azhdarchids (Azhdarchidae) includes the largest pterosaurs – and at the same time the largest flying animals in the entire history of life on Earth.
Among them are Northrop’s Quetzalcoatlus (Quetzalcoatlus nortropi) from the USA, Aramburgiania (Arambourgiania philadelphiae) from Jordan, Hatzegopteryx (Hatzegopteryx tambema) from Romania, and Cryodrakon boreas (Cryodrakon boreas) from Canada.
Their wingspan was in the range of 9–11 meters. Despite the diversity and wide distribution of azhdarchids, many species are represented by fragmentary material – this is due to the fragility of their bones.
Reconstruction of the holotype (A) and paratype (B) of Thanatosdrakon amaru. The length of the scale bar and the height of a person is 180 centimeters
Leonardo D. Ortiz David of the National University of Cuyo and his colleagues from Argentina and Brazil examined fossils of a giant azhdarchid from the Upper Cretaceous Plottier Formation in Argentina.
The age of the deposits of this formation is approximately 87–86 million years. The fossils were represented by two specimens: an isolated humerus and a postcranial skeleton. Scientists have estimated their wingspan at 9.2 and 7 meters, respectively.
Based on the studied fossils, paleontologists have described a new genus and species – Thanatosdrakon amaru. The generic name means “dragon of death”, and the specific name is given in honor of the snake Amaru from Inca mythology.
Phylogenetic analysis showed that thanatosdragon belongs to the group Quetzalcoatlinae, which includes giant azhdarchids, and it turned out to be most closely related to quetzalcoatls and cryodrakon.
Comparison of wingspan in flying vertebrates. A – Andean condor, B – wandering albatross, C – Pteranodon FMNH-PR, D – tropeognathus cf. T. mesembrinus, E is holotype of thanatodragon, F is paratype of thanatodragon, G is Northrup’s quetzalcoatl. The length of the scale bar and the height of a person is 180 centimeters
Scientists note that the fossil remains of the thanatosdragon are well preserved. For example, this is the first giant azhdarchid, in which a complete notarium was found – fused trunk vertebrae. With a wingspan of 9.2 meters, the thanatosdragon is the largest South American pterosaur known to date.
Fossils of this giant were found in the sediments of drying rivers – this confirms the assumption that azhdarchids lived far from the coasts of large reservoirs and hunted on the ground.
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