February 5, 2013
Pterosaur Bones Are Those Of A New Dinosaur From The Azhdarchidae Family
April Flowers for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
An international group of scientists, led by the University of Southampton, has identified a new pterosaur — or flying dinosaur. The team, which included scientists from the Transylvanian Museum Society in Romania, and the Museau Nacional in Rio de Janiero, examined the approximately 68 million year old fossilized bones found in the Late Cretaceous Sebes-Glod rocks of the Transylvanian Basin in Romania.
Home to many dinosaurs and fossilized mammals, turtles, lizards and ancient crocodilian relatives, the Transylvanian Basin is world-famous for its Late Cretaceous fossils.
The new species, named Eurazhdarcho langendorfensis, is described in a paper recently published in PLOS ONE.
Dr Darren Naish, from the University of Southampton's Vertebrate Palaeontology Research Group, says, "Eurazhdarcho belong to a group of pterosaurs called the azhdarchids. These were long-necked, long-beaked pterosaurs whose wings were strongly adapted for a soaring lifestyle. Several features of their wing and hind limb bones show they could fold their wings up and walk on all fours when needed.
"With a three-meter wingspan, Eurazhdarcho would have been large, but not gigantic. This is true of many of the animals so far discovered in Romania; they were often unusually small compared to their relatives elsewhere."
E. langendorfensis is the most complete azhdarchid specimen found in Europe to date. Its discovery supports a long-debated theory about the behavior of these types of animals.
Dr Gareth Dyke, Senior Lecturer in Vertebrate Palaeontology, based at the National Oceanography Centre Southampton says, "Experts have argued for years over the lifestyle and behavior of azhdarchids. It has been suggested that they grabbed prey from the water while in flight, that they patrolled wetlands and hunted in a heron or stork-like fashion, or that they were like gigantic sandpipers, hunting by pushing their long bills into mud.
"One of the newest ideas is that azhdarchids walked through forests, plains and other places in search of small animal prey. Eurazhdarcho supports this view of azhdarchids, since these fossils come from an inland, continental environment where there were forests and plains as well as large, meandering rivers and swampy regions."
There were several places where both giant azhdarchids and small azhdarchids lived side by side, according to the fossil record of the region. The discovery of E. langendorfensis indicates there were many different animals hunting a variety of prey in the region at the same time. This demonstrates a much more complicated picture of the Late Cretaceous world than first thought.
Image 2 (below): A silhouette of the known bones of Eurazhdarcho in position. Credit: Mark Witton