Paleontologists have discovered a new species of pterosaur in South America.
A group of researchers discovered the new fossil belonging to the flying reptile from the Jurassic period, between 199.6 million years ago and 175.6 million years ago, in north central Chubut province in Patagonia, Argentina. The new pterosaur fossil, which was found with an intact braincase, gave them a new look into the reptile’s neuroanatomy. The discovery was featured in a new Peer J report published on Wednesday.
Named Allkaruen koi — meaning "all ancient" in Patagonia’s indigenous language, Tehuelche — the new pterosaur species gives researchers a better understanding of the “evolution of all of pterosaurs.”
“Allkaruen, from the middle lower Jurassic limit, shows an intermediate state in the brain evolution of pterosaurs and their adaptations in the aerial environment,” Deigo Pol, study researcher and Museo Paleontológico Egidio Feruglio in Argentina, said in a statement released by CBS News.
According to the report, archaeologist uncovered a vertebra, jaws and a braincase that was only a few dozen millimeters long, indicating that Allkaruen may have been a small form of pterosaur. Using computed-tomography scans, researchers were able to build a digital model of the dinosaur’s inner ear and the interior of its skull, which allowed them to give the new species a place in the pterosaur family tree. Because the reptile’s skull had features similar to the pterodactyl, researchers were able to better gauge the pterosaur’s evolution time frame, even though the pterodactyl hadn’t actually evolved yet.
According to Live Science, pterosaurs first appeared in the fossil record about 220 million years ago and is considered one of the first and largest flying animals to have ever existed on Earth. The reptiles ranged in size with some equipped with a wingspan stretching about 33 feet. Some of the other 150 known species were around the same size as modern day birds like sparrows or seagulls.