Flying Reptiles: Milos Radakovich

Paleontologists have recently uncovered
the remains of two new
flying reptile species that shared
the skies with early birds 120 million
years ago in what is now China.

The two species belong to a family of flying reptiles known as
pterosaurs. Both were discovered in Liaoning, a NE province of
China famous for yielding fossils of bird-like dinosaurs.

Both had wingspans of about 8-feet and belonged to groups previously
found only in Europe. Pterosaurs were distant relatives of
dinosaurs and ruled the skies for millions of years before birds.
The members of their order ranged from sparrow-sized Pterodactyls
to Quetzalcoatlus, the largest flying creature of all time
with a wingspan of nearly 40-feet (12 m).

Some pterosaurs flew by flapping their wings like modern birds.
Others used their thin wings of stretched skin to ride the wind
like modern hang gliders. Many pterosaurs were covered in hair
similar to that of mammals.

Overall, 15 species of pterosaurs have been discovered in Liaoning.
The discovery of many more bird-like species in the region
suggests that early birds were more diverse and outnumbered
the pterosaurs. The distribution of the fossils also implies that
the birds and pterosaurs inhabited different environments.

Evidence also suggests that in coastal areas pterosaurs predominate
and birds were exceedingly rare, while in the interior, despite
the presence of pterosaurs, birds were more successful.

The hills of Liaoning are famous for their bounty of feathered
dinosaur fossils – evidence that birds evolved from theropod dinosaurs
– relatives of T. rex, Velopciraptor, Deininychus.

Pterosaur (Google Images)

 

Milos Radakovich

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