This terrifying winged dinosaur, which was the size of a small aircraft, terrorized both the sky and land during its tenure on Earth. Good thing it’s extinct.
An illustration of the Gobi pterosaur by 252MYA, Joschua Knüppe
The fossil of the enormous winged predator was found in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert, in an area where dinosaur remains have been found before. Researchers found that the fragmentary fossil, identified to be the pterosaur’s cervical vertebrae, was 70 million years old. The size of the fossils was also indicative of the size of the dinosaur itself. According to researchers, it’s likely that the specimen had a wingspan of 36 feet, similar to a small airplane.
Its size isn’t the only terrifying thing about this pterosaur, however. Scientists also say that not only did this carnivore terrorize the skies, it also swooped down to land and feasted on the babies of other dinosaurs.
A monstrous dinosaur that flies and feeds on babies? That a really good thing it’s extinct, then.
An artist's impression of the Quetzalcoatlus
Due its size, the researchers of a new study say it’s possible that this pterosaur is one of the largest of its kind to ever live. It’s possible, according to the researchers, that this new pterosaur is larger than the two largest known pterosaur species, Quetzalcoatlus and Hatzegopteryx. Scientists that these species had wingspans of 32 to 36 feet, and stood 18 feet tall on the ground. The width of the cervical vertebrae fragments, which measured eight inches, indicated the new pterosaur’s possible size.
As of now, scientists haven’t yet figured out if the Gobi pterosaur is a new species, and if it is, what its name will be. However, the researchers are certain that the fossils did indeed belong to a pterosaur. It took them years to puzzle it out, since the bones were so fragmented. In fact, the fragments were found in 2006, and have only relatively recently been pieced together. Researchers eventually came up with a number of neck bones that look like the vertebrae of azhdarchid pterosaurs.
“What we don't have for these pterosaurs is the association of the neck bones with the body to confirm whether they just have much bigger necks, or whether they are much bigger animals,” says pterosaur expert Mark Witton, who wasn’t involved in the study.
An artist's impression of the Hatzegopteryx
Witton also says that the Gobi pterosaur is pushing the maximum limit of how large pterosaurs can be. It’s possible that there may not be others of the same kind larger than the Gobi pterosaur. Witton also suggests that the pterosaur may have been able to gobble up prey the size of a human being. It’s possible that these winged monsters generally just picked up whatever they can fit into their beaks and ate it.
Even with how fearsome this beast was, it’s likely that it wasn’t an apex predator. After all, it lived alongside the ferocious Tyrannosaurus rex relative Tarbosaurus. However, it’s likely that the Gobi pterosaur and others of its kind didn’t fall prey to the Tarbosaurus, since they could just take off to the skies to escape.
Remarkably, this pterosaur is also the only one of its general size to be found in Asia. This means, however, that there are still a lot of questions left to be answered. Unfortunately, to find the answers to these questions, finding more fossils would be necessary.
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