Image of the Day: Pterosaur Fossils

Paleontologists find fossils from at least seven species of the flying reptiles in Morocco.

Mar 14, 2018
The Scientist Staff

T. regalis ulnaeN.R. LONGRICH ET AL.Pterosaurs—the largest animals ever to take flight—ruled the skies for more than 150 million years before they went extinct at the end of the Cretaceous period, about 65 million years ago. Yesterday (March 13), researchers announced in PLOS Biology that they unearthed multiple pterosaur fossils in North Africa. The discovery includes at least seven species from three families and is the most diverse group of pterosaur fossils found to date.

The collection of assorted species indicates that pterosaur diversity was more abundant at the close of the Cretaceous than paleontologists previously believed, pterosaur expert Elizabeth Martin-Silverstone of the University of Southampton tells Smithsonian.com. While the winged reptiles were “maybe less diverse than they were at their height,” Martin-Silverstone says, they were “doing better than we initially appreciated.”

N.R. Longrich et al., “Late Maastrichtian pterosaurs from North Africa and mass extinction of Pterosauria at the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary,” PLOS Biology, doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.2001663, 2018.