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Flying reptile fossils ‘ghosts of the sea’ found in Australia

Flying reptile fossils ‘ghosts of the sea’ found in Australia

Long ago, in the skies above the shallow Eromanga Sea, which once covered what is now the arid interior of Australia, soared a formidable pterosaur, a flying reptile, with a bony crest at the tips of its jaws. upper and lower and a mouth full of thorn-shaped teeth, ideal for catching fish and other marine prey.

Scientists have announced the discovery, in the Australian state of Queensland, of fossils of this creature, which lived with dinosaurs and various marine reptiles during the Cretaceous period. Called Haliskia peterseni, its remains are the most complete of any pterosaur ever discovered in Australia.

With a wingspan of 4.6 meters, it lived about 100 million years ago, making Haliskia slightly larger and older – by about 5 million years – than the pterosaur Ferrodraco, whose discovery was announced in 2019.

Haliskia means “ghost of the sea”, and this creature may have been a frightening sight, flying above the waves.

“The Eromanga Sea was a large inland sea that covered much of Australia when this pterosaur was alive, but both have disappeared. The ghost of both is evident from the fossils we have found in the area,” said Adele Pentland, PhD student in paleontology at Curtin University, Australia, and lead author of the study published this week in the journal Scientific Reports.

The fragile skeletons of pterosaurs do not resist fossilization well. In the case of Haliskia, 22% of the skeleton was found, with complete lower jaws, tip of the upper jaw, throat bones, 43 teeth, vertebrae, ribs, bones of both wings and part of a leg.

Pentland said she was “amazed” that the Haliskia specimen had preserved throat bones.

“They’re as thin as a piece of spaghetti and one of them is complete from end to end,” he said.

The remains of Haliskia are more complete than those of Ferrodraco. Both are part of a group of pterosaurs called Anhanguera, known for discoveries in China, the United States, Brazil, Spain and Morocco.

After death, Haliskia’s body ended up buried under sediment at the bottom of the Eromanga Sea, allowing her to fossilize.

Pterosaurs were the first of three groups of vertebrates to achieve the ability to fly, having appeared around 230 million years ago. Birds appeared about 150 million years ago and bats about 50 million years ago.

Pterosaurs were wiped out in the same mass extinction event that doomed the dinosaurs 66 million years ago: an asteroid impact.

Source: Terra

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