Coming face to face with the ‘Dragon of Death’ sounds anything but encouraging. A team of researchers has found in Argentina the fossil remains of a huge flying reptile that lived with the dinosaurs 86 million years ago, during the Cretaceous period, which lasted from about 145 to 66 million years ago.
This pterosaur, with an approximate length of 9 meters long , is undoubtedly the largest specimen discovered in South America and one of the largest flying vertebrates that have ever existed on the face of the earth.
Flying over prehistoric skies
Paleontologists have unearthed the fossils of this new species of pterosaur , offering new insights into the huge predator. The ancient flying reptile preceded birds and was one of the first animals on Earth to use flight to hunt prey.
Experts found the remains in the Andes mountains in the western Argentine province of Mendoza; in sedimentary rocks from the Cretaceous period, at the end of the Mesozoic era -86 million years ago- in the province of Mendoza, about 1,000 kilometers from Buenos Aires in the Andes Mountains.
The analysis revealed that the ‘Dragon of Death’ was alive more than 20 million years before the huge asteroid hit Earth – the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico – and ended three quarters of life on the planet ago 66 million years (and with most of the dinosaurs).
The creature has been dubbed Thanatosdrakon amaru (Dragon of Death) because its appearance, when alive, must have been that of a terrible predator . Project leader Leonardo Ortiz said the fossil’s previously unseen features required a new genus and species name, the latter combining the ancient Greek words for death ( thanatos) and dragon ( drakon ). That they came like a glove, according to Ortiz.
a new species
In total, they managed to unearth about 40 bones and fragments that made it possible to obtain the information that it was not a previously known specimen, but a new species of which we do not have any close relatives in the current record of pterosaurs.
Its discovery would allow scientists to ” add to knowledge about the anatomy of this diverse group of pterosaurs,” which were the cousins of the dinosaurs that ruled the earth and one of evolution’s greatest success stories.
Scientists estimate that it first appeared during the Triassic period, about 215 million years before the extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous period. They had no rivals, so they ruled and colonized absolutely all the continents of the globe, which is why they ended up having a very diverse range of shapes and sizes.
Referencia: Leonardo D. Ortiz David, Bernardo J. González Riga, Alexander W.A. Kellner, Thanatosdrakon amaru, gen. et sp. nov., a giant azhdarchid pterosaur from the Upper Cretaceous of Argentina,Cretaceous Research, Volume 137, 2022, 105228, ISSN 0195-6671, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cretres.2022.105228.