New Species of Large-Sized Pterosaur Unearthed in Scotland

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Pterosaurs were the first vertebrates to evolve flight and include the largest flying animals in Earth history.

While some of the last-surviving species were the size of airplanes, pterosaurs were long thought to be restricted to small body sizes — wingspans 1.6-1.8 m (5.2-5.9 feet) — from their Triassic origins through the Jurassic period.

The newly-identified species is the largest Jurassic pterosaur yet known, consistent with the fact that its bones and skull are the longest of any Jurassic specimens.

Named Dearc sgiathanach, the flying reptile likely achieved wingspans over 2.5 m (8.2 feet), and perhaps larger (over 3 m, or 9.8 feet).

It lived around 170 million years ago and belonged to a group of early pterosaurs called Rhamphorhynchidae.

Dearc sgiathanach is the biggest pterosaur we know from the Jurassic period and that tells us that pterosaurs got larger much earlier than we thought, long before the Cretaceous period when they were competing with birds, and that’s hugely significant,” said Professor Steve Brusatte, a paleontologist in the School of GeoSciences at the University of Edinburgh and the National Museums Scotland.

The spectacularly preserved skeleton of Dearc sgiathanach was discovered by team member Amelia Penny, a Ph.D. student at the University of Edinburgh, in 2017 at Rubha nam Brathairean (Brothers’ Point) on the Isle of Skye, Scotland.

The specimen is the best-preserved skeleton of a pterosaur ever found in Scotland.

Dearc sgiathanach is a fantastic example of why paleontology will never cease to be astounding,” said Dr. Natalia Jagielska, a paleontologist in the School of GeoSciences at the University of Edinburgh.

“Pterosaurs preserved in such quality are exceedingly rare and are usually reserved to select rock formations in Brazil and China.”

“And yet, an enormous superbly preserved pterosaur emerged from a tidal platform in Scotland.”

CT scans of Dearc sgiathanach’s skull revealed large optic lobes, which indicate that the flying reptile would have had good eyesight….”

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