A previously undiscovered species of flying reptile (pterosaur) has been discovered in China. Pterosaurs, which were the first vertebrates to fly, are carnivorous reptiles that lived 210 million to 65 million years ago. Guidraco venator is the newest addition to this group. A large fossil skull of this new species, 380 mm or more than one foot in length, was discovered in western Lianing, China, and was recently described by Xiaolin Wang of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Alexander Kellner of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and colleagues. This particular species lived 120 million years ago (Early Cretaceous Period) and had a number of long pointy teeth that protruded past its closed jaw. Guidraco used these seemingly erratically-placed teeth for catching fish—pterosaurs’ preferred food as evidenced by fish bones found in pterosaur coprolites. Guidraco also sported a flat, curved bone that stood erect on its head, which might have been used for balance and stability during flight. The authors suggest that the closest relative of G. venator was probably the rare pterosaur Ludodactylus from Brazil, indicating that pterosaurs were more widely spread than previously thought. Scientists hope that future pterosaur discoveries will unveil more about the evolution of these ancient flying creatures.

Read more at Sci-News.com.

Compare Guidraco with Ludodactylus at Reptile Evolution.com.

Find the original article in the April issue of the journal Naturwissenschaften.

Published On: April 26, 2012

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