(Photo : Reuters)
Researchers have discovered a new species of pterosaur, a flying dinosaur-age reptile, in Romania, LiveScience.com reported. The beast lived 68 million years ago and had a wingspan of almost 10 feet.
The mid-sized pterosaur fossils were found in Sebeş-Glod in Romania's Transylvanian Basin, a region famously rich in a variety of Late Cretaceous fossils, including "crocodylomorphs (ancient relatives of crocodiles), mammals, turtles and dinosaurs like the dwarf sauropod Magyarosaurus dacus and the dromaeosaur Balaur," according to LiveScience.
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Catchily named the "Eurazhdarcho langendorfensis," the new species of reptile belonged to a group of pterosaurs called the azdarchids.
Dinosaurs and pterosaurs lived among one another and became extinct around the same time, but pterosaurs were not dinosaurs, even though they are sometimes wrongly referred to as pterodactyls, a name which actually describes the first genus of pterosaur discovered by scientists in the 18th century. Small pterosaurs came about in the Triassic Period, roughly 230 to 200 million years ago. The newly discovered species, along with other more advanced forms of flying reptiles, began evolving during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.
"These were long-necked, long-beaked pterosaurs whose wings were strongly adapted for a soaring lifestyle," researcher Darren Naish, a paleontologist from the U.K.'s University of Southampton, said in a statement. "Several features of their wing and hind limb bones show that they could fold their wings up and walk on all fours when needed."
The Eurazhdarcho's wingspan indicates the flying reptiles would have been
"large, but not gigantic" when compared to some of its cousins, Naish said. To put things in perspective, researchers noted an example of the giant axhdarchid, Hatzegopteryx thambema, which researchers in the Romanian town of Haţeg; its wingspan stretched out to 36 feet during flight, scientists said.
The newly discovered fossils brings new evidence to the ongoing debate of how azhdarchids lived, scientists said.
"It has been suggested that they grabbed prey from the water while in flight, that they patrolled wetlands and hunted in a heron or stork-like fashion, or that they were like gigantic sandpipers, hunting by pushing their long bills into mud," Gareth Dyke, a paleontologist from the National Oceanography Centre Southampton, said in a statement.
Researchers discovered the new fossil alongside dinosaurs and other terrestrial animals, suggesting that azhdarchids hunted small animal prey in woodlands, plains, and scrublands, rather than coastal habitats.
"Eurazhdarcho supports this view of azhdarchids, since these fossils come from an inland, continental environment where there were forests and plains as well as large, meandering rivers and swampy regions," Dyke said.