Scientists announced Tuesday that they have discovered the fossil of a 170-million-year-old pterosaur on the Isle of Skye, Scotland. It is the best-preserved prehistoric winged reptile skeleton.
According to the National Museum of Scotland, the fossil of the Pterosaur, also known as pterodactyls or pterodactyls is the largest of its kind from the Jurassic period. According to the museum, the reptile had a wingspan of over 2.5 meters (8.2 ft), which is similar to an albatross.
Amelia Penny, a PhD student, discovered the fossil during a 2017 field trip to the Isle of Skye, in remote northwestern Scotland. She noticed the jaw of the pterosaur protruding from the rocks. The museum will add it to its collection.
“Pterosaurs that are preserved in this quality are extremely rare, and they are often reserved for select rock formations in Brazil or China.” Yet, an immense, superbly preserved, pterosaur emerged out of a tidal plate in Scotland,” Natalia Jagielska (a doctoral student at Edinburgh) said. She is also the author of a scientific paper that describes the discovery.
Professor of Palaeontology at Edinburgh University Steve Brusatte said that the discovery was the most significant since Mary Anning, a famous fossil hunter, discovered many Jurassic fossils along the southern English coast.
As his team battled the tides, he said that the fossil was made of “feather-light” bones and took several days to remove it from rock.
It “tells me that pterosaurs grew much earlier than we thought, well before the Cretaceous period in which they were competing against birds and that’s hugely important,” Brusatte said.
The Gaelic name Dearc Sgiathanach has been given to the pterosaur, which roughly translates to “winged reptile”.
Pterosaurs, which lived 50 million years ago than birds, were the first vertebrates that could fly. They were alive as far back the Triassic period, which was approximately 230 million years ago. They were thought to be much smaller in the Jurassic period.