Although dinosaurs have been extinct for tens of millions of years, scientists are still uncovering remains from this species today. One such discovery is the fossil of a 170 million-year-old pterosaur, which was found in the Isle of Skye in Scotland in 2017. After recently extracting the rest of the fossil, it was described by paleontologists to be one of the best-preserved skeletons ever found of the species.
Not only that, but the fossil is also the largest of its kind to ever be discovered from the Jurassic period, according to the National Museum of Scotland. The wingspan of the reptile's skeleton was estimated to be around 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) long, offering new insights into the evolution of this particular species. It wasn't initially thought to have reached this size until 25 million years later, but the recent findings reveal that this might not be true. The completeness of the fossil indicates that pterosaurs in the Jurassic period were actually much larger than scientists had originally thought.
According to scientists, the recent discovery challenges the previous conception that pterosaurs may have grown to this size due to competition with other large birds at the time the species thrived. The nearly complete fossil "tells us that pterosaurs got larger much earlier than we thought, long before the Cretaceous period when they were competing with birds, and that's hugely significant," said Professor Steve Brusatte, who co-authored the research from the University of Edinburgh. "When this thing was living about 170 million years ago, it was the largest animal that had ever flown, at least that we know of," he continued, adding that "we've really dragged back in time the evolution of large pterosaurs."
A close examination of the bones suggested that the creature who these bones once belonged to was still a "teenager" and would grow to be even larger in size - potentially having a wingspan of up to three meters as an adult! This rare discovery from the Jurassic period is expected to unlock new insights into research on the evolution of species in this era. "This new find will allow us to go back to those older collections and understand much better what we've got in there," noted Dr. David Unwin, a pterosaur expert at the University of Leicester who was not involved in the study. "It's a big piece of the puzzle in our evolutionary history of pterosaurs." Stay tuned for more breaking news.