Scientists in South America have dug up a “flying dragon” fossil, the first of its kind to be found in the Southern Hemisphere.
The discovery of the winged beast, an early pterosaur, in Chile’s Atacama Desert gives an insight into the migration patterns and the overall distribution of them.
“This shows the distribution of the animals in this group was wider than what was known up to now,” Jhonatan Alarcon, a University of Chile scientist who led the investigation, told Reuters.
”There are pterosaurs of this group also in Cuba, which apparently were coastal animals, so most likely they have migrated between the North and the South or maybe they came once and stayed, we don’t know.”
Paleontologists have only ever found the creatures, which roamed the earth 160 million years ago, in North America previously.
The flying reptiles existed during most of the Mesozoic, from the late Triassic to the end of the Cretaceous periods, from 228 to 66 million years ago.
They are not dinosaurs because they flew and their front limbs stretched out to the sides. Rather, they are a distant cousin of dinosaurs.
Newscientist reported that the smallest of the species had wingspans of just 25 centimetres, while the largest had wingspans of 10 metres.
The remains were unearthed by Osvaldo Rojas, director of the Atacama Desert Museum of Natural History and Culture.
Detail of the discovery were published in the journal Acta Palaeontologica Polonica.
In 2013 a well preserved pterosaur fossil was found by police during a raid on a house in Brazil.
The animal was a, Tupanactylus navigans, a roughly swan-sized animal with a huge head crest.
“I was in awe when I saw it the first time,” said Victor Beccari, a paleontologist at the University of São Paulo in Brazil.