An international team led by Borja Holgado, a researcher associated with the Institut Català de Paleontologia Miquel Crusafont (ICP) with the participation of the Aragosaurus-IUCA group from the University of Zaragoza found a fossil that belonged to the nose of a pterosaur.
The find occurred in a site of the town of Obón (about 100 km north of the city of Teruel).
The scientists now describe the new species, named Iberodactylus andreui, in the magazine Scientific Reports. According to the researchers, one of the distinctive anatomical characters of this pterosaur is its bony crest, a bulge at the top of the skull.
"The function of this crest is not clear, but it is probably a sexually dimorphic character as observed in other pterosaur species related to Iberodactylus", explains Borja Holgado, a researcher associated with the ICP who is leading the research.
Pterosaur remains are very rare in the fossil record. Their bones are brittle and hollow to facilitate the flight of such large animals, and this reduces the likelihood that they will fossilize.
The holotype, that is, the fossil remainder that has served to describe the new species, is deposited in the collections of the Museum of Natural Sciences of the University of Zaragoza. The specific name refers to Javier Andreu, discoverer of the fossil.
Iberodactylus andreui was a large-span pterosaur with wings that could measure extended about four meters from end to end; more than any current bird. It is the largest of the three species that have been described in the Peninsula.
Pterosaurs were the first group of vertebrates to develop active flight. The structure of their wings was similar to that of modern bats, with a large membrane attached by the forelimb that allowed them to propel themselves, but with the difference that it was supported by a hypertrophied finger and not by the entire hand as in bats.
The rest have some teeth that have made it possible to deduce their diet. "The premaxilla has some rows of conical teeth that indicate that it fed on fish," says Jose Ignacio Canudo, head of the Aragosaurus group at the University of Zaragoza.
Recent studies of the small abrasions left by food on pterosaurs teeth have revealed that within this group there were species that fed on fish, while others hunted land vertebrates or insects.
[Tweet "Although they are erroneously called‘ # flying dinosaurs ’, pterosaurs are not dinosaurs, although they are related to them"]
Reptiles that lived with dinosaurs
Although they are erroneously called 'flying dinosaurs', pterosaurs are not dinosaurs, although they are related to them.
This group of reptiles emerged about 228 million years ago, at the end of the Triassic period, and dominated the skies of the Mesozoic era for more than 160 million years, going extinct along with the non-avian dinosaurs to late Cretaceous, 66 million years ago.
Nowadays a hundred species are known around the world which include the largest flying animals of all time. Quetzalcoatlus, for example, is estimated to have had a wingspan of 11 meters, the size of a small airplane.
Iberodactylus would be related to Hamipterus tianshanensis, a species from northwestern China. Both species have been included in the same new family, the Hamipteridae.
Research is also focused on the evolution and diversification of the Anhangueria lineage, which includes not only the hamiptérids, but also other large pterosaurs crested piscivores such as Anhanguera piscator or Tropeognathus mesembrinus.
The work concludes that the origin of this lineage would be located in the land masses that today constitute Eurasia.
Holgado, B., Pêgas, R.V., Canudo, J. I., Fortuny, J., Rodrigues, T., Company, J., Kellner, A. W. A. (2019). "On a new crested pterodactyloid from the Early Cretaceous of the Iberian Peninsula and the radiation of the clade Anhangueria". Scientific Reports. DOI: 10.1038 / s41598-019-41280-4.