Researchers are excited about the discovery of what they think is a new species of flying dinosaur that was about the size of a cat.
The partial remains of the small dinosaur were discovered in 2009 in British Columbia, Canada.
The creature was a kind of pterosaur. Pterosaurs were vertebrates, meaning they had backbones, and likely covered with fur or hair. The remains included evidence of wings, so this pterosaur could fly. Researchers believe it lived about 77 million years ago.
Elizabeth Martin-Silverstone is the lead writer of a research paper about the flying dinosaur. She attends the University of Southampton in Britain.
Martin-Silverstone said the discovery is an exciting moment in the study of dinosaurs. “The hollow bones of pterosaurs are … poorly preserved,” she said. “This suggests that a small pterosaur could very rarely be preserved, but not necessarily that they didn’t exist.”
The flying dinosaur described in the paper had a wingspan of over one meter. Pterosaurs of that time were much larger with wingspans from four to 11 meters, researchers said.
The largest known pterosaur was as big as a modern giraffe. It had a wingspan the size of a small airplane.
The remains of this dinosaur were found in small pieces. Researchers are not yet able to decide if they represent an unknown species. Yet the researchers were able to say the small pterosaur belonged to a group of short-winged, toothless pterosaurs called azhdarchoids.
“The specimen is far from the prettiest or most complete pterosaur fossil you’ll ever see, but it’s still an exciting and significant find,” said Mark Witton of the University of Portsmouth.
Witton is a pterosaur expert. He noted, “It’s rare to find pterosaur fossils at all because their skeletons were lightweight and easily damaged once they died. The small ones are the rarest of all. But luck was on our side and several bones of this animal survived the preservation process.”
He added that the creature discovered was full grown.
The paper was published in the Royal Society journal Open Science.
I’m Anne Ball.
Words in This Story
species – n. a group of animals or plants that are similar and can produce young animals or plants
dinosaur – n. one of many animals that lived on Earth millions of years ago
wingspan – n. the distance from the tip of one wing of a bird to the tip of the other wing
giraffe – n. a very tall African animal that has an extremely long neck and legs
specimen – n. something (such as an animal or plant) collected as an example of a particular kind of thing
fossil – n. something (such as a leaf, skeleton, or footprint) that is from a plant or animal which lived in ancient times and that you can see in some rocks