Dino days

Look: Rare fossil represents the largest Jurassic pterosaur ever found

Natalia Jagielska

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For all the attention pterosaurs receive, we’ve uncovered very little about their actual lives.

These magnificent beasts appeared in the Triassic period as Earth’s first flying vertebrates.

And a newly-discovered fossil is revealing just how big pterosaurs got.

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Gregory Funston

Last week, researchers writing in Current Biology described the largest fossil of a pterosaur unearthed from the Jurassic period.

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It’s a scarce find, given that the specimen is so well-preserved.

The fragility of pterosaurs’ lightweight bones makes unearthing complete skeletons challenging.

“Our skeleton ... remains in almost pristine condition, articulated and almost complete. Its sharp fish-snatching teeth still [retain] a shiny enamel cover as if he were alive mere weeks ago.”

Natalia Jagielska, study co-author, in a statement.

The creature lived 170 million years ago on Scotland’s Isle of Skye, where researchers first spotted its remains in 2017.

Dugland Ross

It bears the Gaelic name Dearc sgiathanach, meaning “winged reptile.” It’s also a nod to the Gaelic name for the Isle of Skye.

Natalia Jagielska

Natalia Jagielska

When it died, the creature’s wingspan likely stretched over 2.5 meters (8.2 feet), but that wouldn’t have been its largest size.

Analysis reveals that the specimen was an actively-growing juvenile when it perished.

Natalia Jagielska

Its skull was also well-preserved, giving researchers insight into how the pterosaur hunted and processed the world.

Natalia Jagielska

Gregory Funston

Similar to another Jurassic-era pterosaur, Rhamphorhynchus, the shape of the species’ skull shows it had large optical lobes that would’ve given it sharp eyesight.

Natalia Jagielska

Now, it will reside at the National Museums Scotland, where its remains will undergo further study.

“Even in the context of the amazing paleontological finds on Skye in recent years, this one really is remarkable. To find and describe a specimen which is both so well-preserved and so significant is really special.”

Nick Fraser, Keeper of Natural Sciences at National Museums Scotland, in a statement.

Gregory Funston