An artist’s interpretation of the newfangled that snacking on a primitive crocodylomorph known as a sphenosuchian. Credit: Josh Cotton
A little more than 200 million years ago, a four-fanged that flew over the vast desert of the Triassic Utah snagging other reptiles with toothy mouth, until he has met her untimely end on the banks of a dried-up oasis, new research finds.
The that had a huge wingspan of about 4.5 feet (1.3 meters) — about as big as a 10-year-old child is long, and carried a total of 110 teeth, four of them inch long (2.5 centimeters) fangs, said study researcher Brooks Britt, a professor of geology at Brigham Young University in Utah.
The Brigham Young University student Scott Meek took the specimen, including the skull and bones of his body, in 2014, when he was excavating the bones of a 300-lb. (136 kilo chunk of sandstone. The piece came from the Saints and Sinners quarry, Utah near the Colorado border, said Britt. [Photos: Flight in the Age of the Dinosaurs]
“The [quarry] site, which dates back to the Late Triassic, about 210 million years ago], when Pangaea was still together, and the vast desert stretched from what is now southern California to Wyoming,” Britt told Live Science. (The supercontinent Pangaea start to break up about 200 million years ago.)
The fossil is remarkably well preserved, not crushed like the other that remains. “Outside of a find in Greenland, this is the first good Trias of North America,” he said.
A geological analysis of the stone suggests that during the Late Triassic, a lot of animals gathered around a lush oasis decked out with plants, surrounded by a vast desert. But then the oasis dried up, making the fauna and flora without a drop of water.
“The animals that have died during a drought, and the sediments indicate their corpses were buried when the rains returned to normal, and the more filled with the murmur of the waves buried the bones with sand,” said Britt.
The old sand and water does a good job of preservation of the fossils, the researchers can create a detailed image of the animal. For example, the spaces in the braincase and lower jaw, which suggest that the bones were air-filled in life, just as the bones of later, and birds (which have been not related), Britt said.
In addition, that is surprisingly small eyes, and its teeth is “quite a mix, with a combination of teeth and small teeth in each side of the lower jaw,” said Britt. In all, it has 80 teeth in the lower jaw (including the four canines), and 30 on the upper jaw, including eight little ones in the front and 22 medium teeth in the back.
His strange smile is not so different from other early, they have a tendency to sport a mix of dramatically different shaped teeth; that is in contrast to pterodactyloids (a different type of flying reptile), which often lacked teeth, said Britt.
Also, such as the Dimorphodon, a medium that lived during the Jurassic, the new species has a relatively large head and relatively short wings, which indicates that it is not floating over vast areas, but probably flew in places filled with trees and other obstacles. They probably fed on insects or small terrestrial animals, including a small crocodylomorph known as a sphenosuchian, which Britt described as a fast creature that looks like a crocodile, but with the legs of a Chihuahua. [Image Gallery: 25 Beautiful Old Beasts]
The researchers found a treasure trove of sphenosuchian fossils in the old oasis. They also found at least 20 individual coelophysoid theropods (bipedal, mainly carnivorous dinosaurs), the teeth of a much larger theropod, a drepanosaurid (a creature with a head like a bird, arms like a mole, and a claw at the tip of the tail) and the two types of sphenodontids (which looks like the modern tuatara of New Zealand).
“Pterosaurs were the first vertebrate animals that are capable of active flight,” said Britt. “This finding is further evidence that flight opens up a wide range of niches for occupation, in this case, feeding on insects and small vertebrates that flourished along the banks of an oasis of calm in the middle of a giant desert.”
The researchers have named the newly identified genus and species of that, but that plan officially the title in a following study, said Britt. They presented their study published this month in the 75th annual Society of Vertebrate Paleontology conference in Dallas.
Original article on Live Science.