Researchers have found fossils belonging to three new species of flying reptiles that allegedly lived in the Sahara desert about 100 million years ago. With the help of the ancient fossils they discovered, scientists have managed to identify and date a new type of pterosaur, or pterodactyl.
The findings have been published in the scientific journal PloS ONE, and detail the newly discovered pterosaur to be the earliest species of its kind. Unearthed in three individual pieces, but the jaw bone that made possible its identification has a total length of 334mm (13.5 inches). Each piece is incredibly well preserved, intact, and dissimilar to most pterodactyl fossils, has its three-dimensional shape.
“This pterosaur is distinguished from all others by its lance-shaped lower jaw which had no teeth and looked rather like the beak of a heron,” said Nizar Ibrahim, a Ph.D. research scholar from University College Dublin, who led the expedition and is the lead author on the scientific paper.
Three Species of Pterosaur
On the same expedition and in the same area, the team found two other previously identified species of pterosaur. Professor David Martill, a paleontologist at the University of Portsmouth, was the one who found the fossils, together with experts from Morocco and the United States.
Those findings were published in a paper in the Cretaceous Research Journal and has revealed a population of pterodactyls that lived in prehistoric Morocco.
A university spokeswoman said: “The new finds show that African pterosaurs were quite similar to those found on other continents. These flying predators soared above a world dominated by predators, including crocodile-like hunters and carnivorous dinosaurs. Interestingly, herbivores such as sauropods and ornithischian dinosaurs are rare. Many of the predators, including the toothed pterosaurs, preyed on a superabundance of fish.”
Martill also added: “We are in a golden age for discovering pterodactyls. This year alone, we have discovered three new species, and we are only into March.”
The new pterosaurs had wingspans of approximately three to four meters (about 10 to 13 feet).