New species of pterosaurs found in Africa

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(ORDO NEWS) — A new genus of extinct flying archosaurs with a wingspan of almost 5 meters has been discovered on the Atlantic coast of Angola. The flying reptile was named after the locals.

An international team of scientists led by paleontologists from Southern Methodist University (SMU) has found a new genus and species of pterosaurs – Epapatelo otyikokolo.

Dinosaur-era flying reptile fossils have been discovered off the Atlantic coast of Angola, but dating from the late Cretaceous, they are extremely rare in sub-Saharan Africa.

“This discovery gives us a much better understanding of the ecological role of the creatures that flew on the west coast of Africa about 71.5 million years ago,” the experts say.

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Artistic representation of a new species of pterosaurs (pictured below)

Pterosaurs and dinosaurs

The study involved renowned paleontologist Louis L. Jacobs, professor emeritus of geosciences at SMU and president of ISEM, the university’s interdisciplinary institute.

The team of scientists published their findings in the journal Diversity. For example, Epapatelo otyikokolo is thought to have been a piscivorous pterosaur that behaved similarly to large modern seabirds.

“They probably spent their time flying over the water and diving for food, as gannets and brown pelicans do today,” says Jacobs.

“Epapatelo otyikokolo was not a small animal and had a wingspan of approximately 4.8 m, or nearly 16 feet.”

Pterosaurs were impressive creatures, with some of the largest species having a wingspan of almost 35 feet, that is, about 10-11 meters.

The genus name “Epapatelo” is a translation of the Angolan dialect word Nhaneca meaning “wing”, and the species name “otyikokolo” is a translation of the word “lizard”.

The Nhaneka (or Nyaneka) people are an indigenous group from the Angolan province of Namibe, the region where the remains of the extinct archosaur were found.

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Cretaceous pterosaur 3D model

Archaeological find

Jacobs and colleague Michael J. Paulsin formed the Projecto PaleoAngola partnership with collaborators in Angola, Portugal and the Netherlands to study and excavate Angola’s rich fossil history, laying the foundation for the return of the West African nation’s fossils.

Jacobs, Paulsin, and other scientists later worked with a small army of SMU students for 13 years to prepare the fossils excavated during Projecto PaleoAngola.

So, an international team discovered and collected fourteen bones of Epapatelo otyikokolo, starting in 2005 in Bentiabe, which is located on the coast of Angola.

According to Jacobs, this is a whole “museum underground” because there are a lot of fossils in the depths.

Many of these are currently on display at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in the “Sea Monster Digging” exhibit.


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