Thanatosdrakon amaru had a wingspan of nearly 9 m (29.5 feet) and lived in what is now Argentina during the Cretaceous period.
Pterosaurs were highly successful reptiles (not dinosaurs, as they’re commonly mislabeled) that lived at the same time as non-avian dinosaurs, between 210 million and 65 million years ago.
Some pterosaurs, such as the giant azhdarchids, were the largest flying animals of all time, with wingspans up to 12 m (39 feet) and standing heights comparable to modern giraffes.
“Pterosaurs were a very unique group of animals that lived from the Triassic to the Cretaceous period and represent the first vertebrates to acquire the ability to actively fly,” said Universidad Nacional de Cuyo paleontologist Leonardo Ortiz David and his colleagues from Argentina and Brazil.
The newly-identified pterosaur species belonged to the clade Quetzalcoatlinae in the family Azhdarchidae.
It lived approximately 86 million years ago during the Upper Cretaceous epoch, making it the oldest species of Quetzalcoatlinae so far.
Scientifically named Thanatosdrakon amaru, the flying reptile had a wingspan of up to 9 m.
“Thanatosdrakon amaru is the largest pterosaur discovered in South America and one of the largest flying vertebrates in the world,” the paleontologists said.
The fossilized remains of two Thanatosdrakon amaru individuals were recovered from the upper-most levels of the Plottier Formation in Neuquén Basin, Mendoza, Argentina.
“Thanatosdrakon amaru is represented by several well-preserved axial and appendicular bones in three dimensions,” the researchers explained.
“Some of these elements have never been described in giant azhdarchids (e.g. complete norarium, dorsosacral vertebrae and caudal vertebra).”
“This allows to expand the knowledge about the anatomy of this diverse group of pterosaurs.”
“Finally, from a paleoecological point of view, Thanatosdrakon amaru was found in floodplain deposits of ephemeral meandering systems indicating that this large flying species inhabited continental environments,” they added.
The discovery is described in a paper in the journal Cretaceous Research.
Leonardo D. Ortiz David et al. 2022. Thanatosdrakon amaru, gen. et sp. nov., a giant azhdarchid pterosaur from the Upper Cretaceous of Argentina. Cretaceous Research 137: 105228; doi: 10.1016/j.cretres.2022.105228
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