October 18, 2005

New species of flying reptile named for fang teeth

LONDON (Reuters) - A new species of flying reptile that
died out with the dinosaurs 65 million years ago has been named
for its fang-like teeth, British scientists said on Tuesday.

Palaeobiologists at the University of Portsmouth in
southern England dubbed the remains of the pterosaur found on a
beach on the Isle of Wight three years ago Caulkicephalus

Caulkhead is the informal name for natives of the Isle of
Wight, off the southern coast of England, and trimicrodon means
three small teeth.

"It has massive fang-like front teeth, behind which are
three small teeth. Behind those are bigger teeth and then rows
of smaller teeth," said Dr David Martill, who described the
specimen in the journal Cretaceous Research.

"It was a fish-eater, with a crest on the tip of its snout
and a wing span of 5 meters (yards) which would have made it
one of the largest flying animals of its time," he added in a

Pterosaurs, or winged lizards, evolved the ability to fly.
They lived from about 228 million to 65 million years ago.

Their size ranged from those of a small bird to a creature
with a wing-span of up to 18 meters or 60 feet. They had hollow
bones, thin bodies, large brains, crests and long beaks.

Flight in pterosaurs evolved separately from birds.
Scientists had thought that the creatures used to glide on the
wind, but research has shown that large species could fly. Some
species had a hair-like covering on their body.

Martill said the flying reptile evolved many different
forms and that at least two groups became toothless.