A jaw discovered in 2011 put researchers on the right track: It is the largest flying reptile ever, with a wingspan of seven meters and a head length of one meter, and it once flew over Australia.
BRISBANE (AP) – It once floated over the vast territory of Australia like a large dragon: Researchers from 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 was presented in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, it is the largest flying reptile that has ever lived in Australia today.
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 called ‘Thapunngaka Shawy’ must have been a fearsome beast with a spear-mouthed mouth and a wingspan of about seven metres. At the time, parts of Queensland were covered by a primitive inland sea (the Iromanga Sea), which pterosaurs and fish slithered upon. Mainly fishing.
“They basically consisted of a skull with a long neck and long wings on it,” Richards says. 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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