A group of Scottish researchers revealed the discovery of the remains of the largest Jurassic pterosaur in the world. The discovery was made in 2017 on the Isle of Sky in Scotland, but the research has only just been released.
According to the team in charge of the discovery, this specimen had a mouth full of sharp teeth that were capable of harpooning and catching fish and would have reached a wingspan of 2.5 meters or more.
“When this thing lived about 170 million years ago, it was the largest animal that had ever flown, at least that we know of,” says Steve Brusatte, a professor at the University of Edinburgh and one of the authors of the research.
The scientists note that previous findings suggested that pterosaurs did not grow much larger than 1.6 to 1.8 meters in wingspan during the Jurassic, only reaching larger sizes in the Cretaceous.
The Scottish researchers also say the discovery casts doubt on the idea that it was competition with birds that may have driven the pterosaurs’ increase in size.
“Birds evolved from dinosaurs around the time this pterosaur lived,” adds Brusatte.
The last fossil found was named after dearc sgiathanachmeaning “winged reptile” and “Skye reptile” in Scottish Gaelic.
Although a pterosaur had already been discovered in the United Kingdom (Mary Anning in 1828), the researchers highlight the good condition in which this fossil was found.
“It’s probably about 70 percent complete, which is really exceptional for a pterosaur, because these things are so hard to fossilize,” Brusatte says.
The team behind the find hopes this 170-million-year-old fossil will help paleontologists better understand how some of these winged creatures came to be the size of fighter jets.