'Cool discovery' reveals flying reptile that dwarfed most things in the sky

Cryodrakon boreas. Image credit David Maas

Cryodrakon boreas. Image credit David Maas

"This is a cool discovery, we knew this animal was here but now we can show it is different to other azhdarchids and so it gets a name", said lead author Dr. David Hone, from the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences at Queen Mary University of London.

Over the years, paleontologists have collected additional Quetzalcoatlus bones.

The researchers from the Queen Mary University of London, the University of Southern California and the Royal Tyrell Museum of Paleontology took part in the study on the fossilized ancient flying reptile skeleton. "Our new species is represented by a partial skeleton".

Although the reptile was named in honor of the Albertan winter, "which can be stark and attractive but is very much cold and windy", Hone said, the environment during the Cretaceous period was much different. That's longer than the 11-metre wingspan of a Cessna Skyhawk four-seater plane.

Now that they have, however, the possibilities for future research are expansive, Therrien said.

Its remains were, in fact, discovered 30 years ago from the Dinosaur Park Formation located in Alberta. Cryodrakon probably preyed on lizards, small mammals and perhaps even baby dinosaurs.

Azhdarchid pterosaurs have been known since 1972 from upper Campanian deposits of Alberta, Canada.

Cryodrakon boreas. Image credit David Maas
Cryodrakon boreas. Image credit David Maas

Habib, one of the few scientists in the world who has worked extensively with Quetzalcoatlus fossils, said that when he first saw the Canadian pterosaur four years ago, he had a hunch that it was not what he had seen before. The problem, Hone said, was that for a long time it was never properly described, making it impossible for others to confirm whether other fossils were the same or different.

There are more than 100 known species of pterosaurs. A dragon indeed; this creature boasted a wingspan measuring over 10 metres in length, and it weighed around 250 kilograms.

That said, the bones of the 1992 specimen exhibited bite marks, and even an embedded tooth belonging to a small carnivorous dinosaur, likely a scavenger that feasted on its carcass.

"Unfortunately, although some of the Cryodrakon bones described in this paper are beautifully preserved, we don't have both halves of any of the animal's major limb joints - frustratingly common for pterosaur remains - which makes biomechanical analyses hard", said Manafzadeh. Whereas its neck bones had been lengthy like a typical Quetzalcoatlus, its proportions didn't match.

Cryodrakon may not have been the only species of pterosaur in Canada.

Researchers mentioned that whereas the pterosaur's new identify was extra impressed by Alberta's frigid panorama than it was by "Game of Thrones", they had been conscious that it'd elicit some comparisons. The other, an arm bone found in 2008, was confirmed as a pterosaur in 2016, but the cat-sized creature hasn't been formally identified as a species.

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