Argentine scientists have found a new species of giant flying reptile known as “The Dragon of Death” that lived alongside dinosaurs 86 million years ago, providing new insight into a predator with a body the length of a school bus.
The new pterosaur specimen was roughly 30 feet (9 meters) long, and researchers believe it predated birds as one of the earliest creatures on Earth to use wings to hunt prehistoric prey from the air.
The bones of the newly named Thanatosdrakon amaru were unearthed in the Andes mountains of Argentina’s western Mendoza region by a team of paleontologists. The reptile’s remains were discovered in rocks dating back 86 million years to the Cretaceous period.
These dangerous flying reptiles survived at least 20 million years before an asteroid hit on what is now Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula wiped out almost three-quarters of life on the planet about 66 million years ago, according to the estimated date.
In an interview over the weekend, project leader Leonardo Ortiz said that the fossil’s never-before-seen features required a new genus and species name. The new species name is a combination of the ancient Greek words for death (thanatos) and dragon (drakon).
“It seemed appropriate to name it that way,” says Ortiz. “It’s the dragon of death.”
The reptile would have been a terrifying sight to see. The fossil’s massive bones designate the new species as the largest pterosaur ever discovered in South America, according to researchers who published their results in the scientific journal Cretaceous Research last April.
“We don’t have a current record of any close relative that even has a body modification similar to these beasts,” adds Ortiz.
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