The Pterosaur was the first vertebrate able to fly. Some pterosaurs were the biggest flying creatures ever seen on Earth. The wingspans of these flying reptiles that circled above the dinosaurs’ heads could have reached 11 meters.
They were known to rule the skies of the late Cretaceous period also known as the last age of the giant reptiles.
Initial pterosaurs are recognized to have been as tiny as a meter across, but only a few such fossils from this epoch have been discovered. It has pointed to the idea that small-bodied pterosaurs perished because they were out-competed by early birds who drove them to develop into much larger animals.
However, an impressive new pterosaur fossil has continued to add to the growing body of proof that little pterosaurs did continue to survive alongside their much larger cousins.
The fossil was discovered in British Columbia, Canada and it’s composed of some vertebrae, an incomplete skeleton with a humerus (arm bone), and some potential limb fragments. A volunteer collector found the fossil on Hornby Island and donated it to the Royal British Columbia Museum.
The wingspan was a mere 1.5 meters and researchers are not yet capable of deciding if it draws a previously undiscovered species, but they were able to learn that the small pterosaur was related to a kind of toothless, small-winged pterosaurs called azhdarchids.
A pterosaur specialist at the University of Portsmouth, Mark Witton, mentioned that although not the most complete or prettiest pterosaur fossil, it is a significant and exciting find. He also stated that they rarely find pterosaur fossils due to their lightweight skeletons that are easily damaged once they die.
However, the specialists considered that they have been lucky to find the animal’s bones which have lived through the preservation process.
Mark Witton added that notwithstanding the small size of the animal, it was not a juvenile but full grown. To ascertain the age of the creature, they analyzed the microstructure of the humerus’s bone tissue.
They then looked at a thin section of the bone under a polarized and non-polarized light. They then decided that it was likely still developing but had already started to slow down, implying it wasn’t a young animal.
Image source: Wikipedia