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New Pterosaur Species With Complete Skull Found In Patagonia

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A new dinosaur species — a pterosaur — has been uncovered in Patagonia, with its skull intact.

Pterosaurs were flying reptiles that lived in the late Triassic to the Cretaceous Period, around 200 million years ago. Pterosaur means “winged lizard,” and are the earliest vertebrates known to have evolved enough to fly.

This new species, which scientists named Allkaruen koi meaning “ancient brain” in the native Patagonia language of Tehuelche, was found in north central Chubut in Argentina. The reptile’s skull was in good form and shape, delighting scientists who can now study the pterosaur’s brain anatomy, Live Science reports.

Diego Pol, one of the researchers and a paleontologist at Argentina’s Museo Paleontológico Egidio Feruglio, said,

Allkaruen, from the middle lower Jurassic limit, shows an intermediate state in the brain evolution of pterosaurs and their adaptations to the aerial environment.

He added that this discovery is highly important in learning more about pterosaurs as a whole.

Patagonia is known for its vast fossil beds. This new species was identified in a bone bed that had other pterosaur remains in it. Archeologists unearthed jaws, vertebra, and the skull, which was small in length, researchers said.

The intact braincase is extremely rare, so little has been known about the reptile’s brain development, according to scientists. With this skull, scientists were able to use computed-tomography scan to recreate digital models of the pterosaur’s inner ear and the inside of its skull.

The models let scientists determine Allkaruen’s place in the pterosaur family tree, along with other information. For one thing, some of the skull’s features resembled Pterodactylus, a kind of pterosaur, and showed that the animal had evolved by the early to mid-Jurassic period, even if pterodactyls had not yet fully developed.

Pterosaurs had strong adaptations that made them strong fliers. They had extremely light bones, and air sacs extending from their lungs to allow them to breathe better and keep their body density down.

The size of pterosaurs varied greatly — some were tiny, but others grew as large as giraffes. In 2015, archeologists found a 200-million-year-old pterosaur in Utah that measured 4.5 feet (1.4 meters) from wingtip to wingtip.

The complete research was published in the journal Peer.

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