Giant pterosaurs were inhabited in Australia

It once flew over the vast territory of Australia like a great dragon: researchers at the University of Queensland discovered a pterosaur that inhabited the fifth continent millions of years ago and had a wingspan of up to seven meters.

According to a study by doctoral student Tim Richards and his team, which is presented in the “Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology,” it is the largest flying reptile living in Australia to date.

Scientists had examined a fossil jaw found in the Wanamara region in northwest Queensland. Richards said the animal looked like a dragon. “The new pterosaur we named ‘Thapunngaka Shawi’ must have been a fearsome beast with a spear-like mouth and a wingspan of about seven metres.” At that time, parts of Queensland were covered by a primitive inland sea (the Iromanga Sea), over which pterosaurs and mainly fishing fish slid.

“It was basically just a skull with a long neck and a few long wings on it,” Richards said. The skull alone was more than a meter long and the teeth had 40 teeth. “They must have cast their shadows over the quivering little dinosaurs they hadn’t heard of until it was too late.”

According to scientists, the newly discovered kite belongs to the group Anxoididae, which inhabited all continents during the last half of the era of dinosaurs. Pterosaurs had very thin and relatively hollow bones and were good gliders. Fossil remains of these animals were found only in very rare cases. “It’s almost inconceivable that there are fossils,” Richards said.

Fossil hunter Lin Shuo discovered the pine tree northwest of Richmond in 2011. The new species’ name “Thapunngaka shawi” derives from its surname and the language of the Wanamara aborigines, now extinct, where Thapun and ngaka mean something like “spear mouth.”

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