A recently discovered pterosaur was a real pip-squeak compared to the much larger flying reptiles that flapped across the skies during the age of dinosaurs.
Found in what is now British Columbia, a handful of fossils were described in a new study as belonging to a pterosaur that lived about 77 million years ago, with a wingspan estimated to be 5 feet in length. The pterosaur is thought to have been approximately the size of a house cat, measuring 1 foot tall at the shoulder, according to the study authors. It is significantly smaller than any other pterosaur from that era, and is the first of its kind found on North America’s west coast, the researchers said.
While the new pterosaur has yet to acquire an official scientific name, its fossils provide an important example of the variety in pterosaur forms especially during the Late Cretaceous, when their diversity was waning, the scientists wrote in the study. [Photos of Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs]
Neither dinosaurs nor birds
Pterosaurs lived alongside both dinosaurs and birds, but were neither; they represent a unique reptile lineage that spanned the Late Triassic Period to the end of the Cretaceous Period (about 228 million to 66 million years ago).
The fossils described in the study date to the later part of the Cretaceous and represent only a fraction of the animal’s skeleton a few vertebrae, a wing bone and several other fragments and were poorly preserved, the researchers reported. Nevertheless, the fossils were still recognizable as belonging to a pterosaur, which has hollow bones distinctively modified for flight, according to the study’s lead author, Elizabeth Martin-Silverstone, a doctoral student in paleobiology at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom.