Researchers discover Australia’s largest flying reptile
Sydney, Australia, Aug 10 (EFE).- A group of Australian researchers have discovered a giant flying reptile, described as a “fearsome dragon”, which roamed in Australia during the Cretaceous period.
With a wingspan of around seven meter (23 feet) and a spear-like mouth, the new pterosaur, named Thapunngaka shawi by the researchers, “would have been a fearsome beast,” University of Queensland PhD candidate Tim Richards, said in a statement on Tuesday.
“It’s the closest thing we have to a real-life dragon,” added Richards, who led the research team that analyzed a fossil of the reptile’s jaw discovered in June 2011 by local fossicker Len Shaw in Wanamara Country, near Richmond in North West Queensland.
The scientists believe that the creature’s skull would have been over a meter long and contained about 40 teeth, suited to catch large predatory fishes known to inhabit the Eromanga Sea, which existed during the Cretaceous period that lasted from about 145 to 66 million years ago.
Pterosaurs, believed to be the first back-boned animals to fly and perfectly adapted to powered flight, had relatively hollow and thin-walled bones, according to the researchers.
Steve Salisbury, co-author on the paper and Richard’s PhD supervisor, highlighted the enormous size of the bony crest of the lower jaw of the flying reptile – the largest discovered in Australia until now -, which it presumably also had on the upper jaw.
“These crests probably played a role in the flight dynamics of these creatures,” Salisbury said.
The genus name of this flying reptile comes from ngaka (nga-ga) and thapun (ta-boon), which in the local Wanamara language mean “mouth” and “spear”, respectively, while the species name, shawy, derives from the surname of the fossil’s discoverer. EFE