Pterosaurs appeared about 225 million years ago. / Pixabay illustration photo

Pterosaurs appeared about 225 million years ago. / Pixabay illustration photo

"Neither bird nor dinosaur": a new species of pterosaur, the first "built" vertebrate to fly, more than 200 million years old, was discovered in the United States, an illustration of the incredible diversity of these creatures terrifying.

"There are few pterosaur fossils, they are delicate animals built to fly, and after their death, their bones do not stand the test of time," says Brooks Britt of Brigham Young University, lead author of study published this Monday in Ecology & Evolution.

Appeared about 225 million years ago, pterosaurs dominated the skies for more than 160 million years until the end of the Cretaceous, when they disappeared completely like their dinosaurs.

"He had about 112 teeth including some pointed fangs"

Unlike most pterosaur fossils, Caelestiventus hanseni, is in "exceptional condition" of conservation. In particular, his long narrow skull, 18 cm high, with a huge toothed jaw, probably with a goitre. "He had about 112 teeth, some of which were pointed fangs on the front of the jaw," says Brooks Britt.

With a wingspan of 1.5 meters, the youngest is rather tall compared to other known early pterosaurs, especially since "he died before reaching his normal size", notes the researcher.

The wings of the pterosaurs consisted of a skin membrane attached to the fourth finger of their hands. "When they did not fly, they walked on all fours, their wings folded vertically," says Brooks Britt.

Pterosaurs were present in many areas

Commonly called "pterodactyl", this flying reptile, 210-201 million years old, was discovered in Utah in the western United States. At that time, there was an oasis lost in a huge desert of 2.2 million square kilometers covered with giant sand dunes. An extreme environment, where researchers did not expect to discover this animal at such a primitive stage. The other pterosaurs of the Triassic were found near the sea where Europe and Greenland are today.

This discovery shows that, even at the very beginning of their evolution, pterosaurs were present in many regions and could adapt to very different environments.

An asset that may have helped them "to survive the extinction of the end of the Triassic (200 million years), which killed half of the species living at that time," the study notes.

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