Scientists find 125million-year-old fossilised remains of superpterosaur with 20ft wingspan that could have been one of the biggest species ever to take to the skies
- The Hatzegopteryx fossil has shed new light on this magnificent winged species
- It was discovered embedded in the cliffs of the Isle of Wight by Robert Coram
- Giant pterosaurs ruled skies for roughly 150million years 125million years ago
With a 20-foot wingspan and weighing a colossal 650lbs, the giant pterosaur cast an imposing figure swooping through the skies of the Jurassic Age.
And 125million years later, the beast’s massive size continues to marvel scientists who have discovered the remains of one of the beasts wedged deep into the cliffs of the Isle of Wight.
The Hatzegopteryx fossil has shed new light on this magnificent species which some believe was the biggest flying creature of the period.
These winged monsters are believed to have ruled the skies for roughly 150million years, during which time they evolved from rodent-sized to a figure akin to a modern day fighter jet.
Equipped with an extended jaw, the giant pterosaur – which hunted dinosaurs – would snap up and kill their prey
With a 20-foot wingspan and weighing 300kg, the giant pterosaur cast an imposing figure swooping through the skies of the Jurassic Age
The find was made by British Fossils chief Robert Coram who said: ‘It might have been the largest flying creature that had ever lived up to that time,’ according to the Sunday Times.
The Isle of Wight is rich with fossils and is flocked to by dinosaur enthusiasts who comb the south side for remains.
Mr Coram added: ‘We think this is one of the first superpterosaurs. The Isle of Wight is incredibly heavily prospected by people almost on a daily basis, so it’s a matter of being able to spot the little things that they can’t.’
Equipped with an extended jaw, the giant pterosaur – which hunted dinosaurs – would snap up and kill its prey.
In a paper co-authored with Professor David Martill of Portsmouth University, he wrote: ‘A morphometric analysis suggests an original wing span of approximately 5.6m.
The Hatzegopteryx fossil found on the south west coast of the Isle of Wight (pictured) has shed new light on this magnificent species which some believe was the biggest flying creature of the period.
These flying monsters are believed to have ruled the skies for roughly 150million years, during which time they evolved from rodent-sized to a figure akin to a modern day fighter jet
‘With an early Barremian age, this pterosaur would have been a giant for its time.’
Pterosaurs – sometimes known as pterodactyls – co-existed among at the same time as, but were not classed as, dinosaurs.
Because of their mammoth size, paleobiologists have long wondered how the creatures managed to take off, as their mass would suggest generating enough momentum would be impossible.
But 3D modelling has now revealed that bulging leg muscles and flexible wing structure allowed the giant pterosaur to vault itself into the air.
Michael Habib, from the University of Southern California wrote: ‘Unlike birds, which walk and jump into the air using only their hind limbs, pterosaurs walked on all fours.
‘Mathematical modelling indicates that launching from a quadrupedal stance — pushing off first with the hind limbs and then with the forelimbs — would have provided the leaping power giant pterosaurs required for takeoff.’
WHAT WERE PTEROSAURS?
Neither birds nor bats, pterosaurs were reptiles who ruled the skies in the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.
Scientists have long debated where pterosaurs fit on the evolutionary tree.
The leading theory today is that pterosaurs, dinosaurs, and crocodiles are closely related and belong to a group known as archosaurs, but this is still unconfirmed.
Neither birds nor bats, pterosaurs were reptiles who ruled the skies in the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods (artist’s impression pictured)
Pterosaurs evolved into dozens of species. Some were as large as an F-16 fighter jet, and others as small as a sparrow.
They were the first animals after insects to evolve powered flight – not just leaping or gliding, but flapping their wings to generate lift and travel through the air.
Pterosaurs had hollow bones, large brains with well-developed optic lobes, and several crests on their bones to which flight muscles attached.