Pterosaurs went out with a bang, not a whimper | 3/13/2018 | Staff
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Fossils of six new species of pterosaurs - giant flying reptiles that flew over the heads of the dinosaurs - have been discovered by a research team led by the Milner Centre for Evolution at the University of Bath, revealing that this lineage was killed off in its prime. An analysis of the fossils, publishing 13 March in the open access journal PLOS Biology shows that, contrary to previous studies, there was still remarkable diversity among pterosaurs up to the point of their extinction.

Pterosaurs - prehistoric reptiles popularly known as pterodactyls - were flying cousins of the dinosaurs. Soaring on skin wings supported by a single huge finger, they were the largest animals ever to take wing.

Pterosaurs - Mass - Extinction - End - Cretaceous

The pterosaurs were previously thought to be declining before the mass extinction at the end of the Cretaceous period, which was caused by an asteroid impact 66 million years ago. However, hundreds of new fossils from the end of the Cretaceous, discovered at sites in northern Morocco, show that the region supported seven species of pterosaur from three different families. It was thought that the rarity of pterosaur fossils from the end of the dinosaur era meant that they were slowly going extinct. But the new study shows that the data had been misleadingly skewed by the dearth of fossils and that the pterosaurs at this time were actually far more diverse than thought.

The new pterosaurs ranged in wingspan from a little over two meters to almost ten meters (from 6 to 30 feet) - almost three times bigger than the largest living bird - and weighed up to 200 kg (440 pounds). The fossils date to just over 66 million years ago, the very end of the Cretaceous period, making these pterosaurs among the last of their kind on Earth. As well as...
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