Mysterious remains of ancient flying reptile found hidden among shark fossils

flying

A type of North African pterosaur, believed to be similar to the one uncovered by the University of Portsmouth researchers.


Davide Bonadonna

Combing through a drawer of shark fossils early this year, British doctoral student Roy Smith made a surprising and thrilling discovery: remains of a flying reptile that lived more than 60 million years ago. 

Smith, a Ph.D. candidate at the UK’s University of Portsmouth, was examining fossils of shark fin spines from two British museum collections when he noticed some fragments contained neural foramina, or tiny but perceptible holes where nerves come to the surface to sense prey. Sharks fin spines don’t have these, so Smith instantly knew some of the fragments weren’t like the others. 

In fact, they didn’t even come from creatures of the sea, but from creatures of the air: toothless pterosaurs, an enigmatic flying reptile and the earliest vertebrates known to have evolved powered

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New Prehistoric Marine Reptile Resembled a Miniature Mix of Loch Ness Monster, Alligator and Toothy T. Rex | Smart News

About 240 million years ago, massive oceanic reptiles called nothosaurs dominated the seas. They looked like the mutant offspring of a trihybrid cross between the Loch Ness monster, an alligator and a T. rex. The beasts had long tails to slither underwater, jaws packed with razor-sharp teeth and flipper-like limbs to propel themselves through the water.

When a team of paleontologists from the Chinese Academy of Scientists and Canadian Museum of Nature discovered two small, similar fossils in quarries in southwest China, the scientists originally thought they belonged to juvenile nothosaurs. Further analysis revealed that they actually discovered a new species—the nothosaur’s smaller, stockier cousin. The team’s findings were published last week in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, reports Science News’ Aayushi Pratap.

The team named the newly unearthed reptile Brevicaudosaurus jiyangshanensis, which roughly means “short-tailed lizard of Jiyangshan,” the quarry it was found in, according to

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