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Ancient Australian skies graced by giant flying reptiles 107m years ago

Ancient Australian skies graced by giant flying reptiles 107m years ago

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Ancient flying reptiles discovered in Australia

Palaeontologists have found evidence of the oldest flying reptiles in Australia, dating back to 107 million years ago. The fossils, analysed previously undiscovered in Victoria, were belonging to two separate species of pterosaurs and suggest they were amongst the earliest vertebrates to evolve true flight. Pterosaurs have been found on every continent, including Antarctica, but the latest findings show the prehistoric creatures existed in ancient Australia when it was part of the southern continent, Gondwana.

Two different pterosaurs species found in Victoria, Australia

One of the specimens belonged to a juvenile pterosaur which makes it the first juvenile pterosaur ever recorded in Australia. The other bone belonged to a pterosaur with a wingspan of over two metres. The bones were discovered in the 1980s at Dinosaur Cove in Victoria, but have gone unrecorded in scientific research until recently. The team of palaeontologists that analyzed the specimens were led by Dr Tom Rich and Prof Pat Vickers-Rich from the Museums Victoria Research Institute, Melbourne.

Discovery at Dinosaur Cove

The bones were discovered some 30 years ago in Victoria’s Dinosaur Cove by a team of palaeontologists but they had not been reported in peer-reviewed scientific research until now.

Pterosaurs not the same as flying dinosaurs

Although prehistoric and reptilian, pterosaurs are unlike flying dinosaurs, which is a common misconception. Pterosaurs were the first vertebrates to evolve true flight and have distinct physical features that set them apart from other creatures.

Addition to the Australian pterosaur species list

Adele Pentland, lead author of the study, named a new species of pterosaur, Ferrodraco lentoni, in 2019, which was the most complete Australian pterosaur to be found at the time. Pentland was unable to categorize the other two specimens, however, it was discovered that the bones were found on a high paleolatitude site.

The history of pterosaurs in Australia

Only four pterosaur species have been identified in Australia to date, with fossils unearthed in central western Queensland. This indicates that there is much to learn regarding the presence and movements of pterosaurs during Gondwana’s existence, especially since the sediments in Victoria suggest long periods of darkness throughout the year.

Conclusion

The discovery and analysis of these pterosaur fossils from Victoria provide an excellent opportunity for researchers to learn more about the presence and movements of pterosaurs in ancient Australia.

FAQ

What are pterosaurs?

Pterosaurs were winged reptiles that existed in the Mesozoic era, during the time of the dinosaurs. They are the first vertebrates known to have evolved true flight and were unique to other creatures of their time.

How many pterosaurs species have been identified in Australia?

To date, only four pterosaur species have been identified in Australia.

Were pterosaurs the same as flying dinosaurs?

No, pterosaurs were not the same as flying dinosaurs. Pterosaurs were the first vertebrates known to have evolved true flight and could be distinguished from other creatures by their physical characteristics.

Where were the fossils found?

The fossils were found in Victoria’s Dinosaur Cove, by a team of palaeontologists led by Dr Tom Rich and Prof Pat Vickers-Rich from the Museums Victoria Research Institute, Melbourne.

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