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Pterosaurs Thrived In Antarctic Forests Over 100 Million Years Ago

Bones discovered in Australia reveal rare glimpse into lifestyle of largest animals to ever fly.

Pterosaurs lived in the Antarctic more than 100 million years ago, according to new research.

They soared above dinosaurs when the great landmass was covered in forests, say scientists.

Evidence comes from 107-million-year-old pterosaur bones discovered in Australia – more than 30 years ago.

At the time the South Polar region was part of the supercontinent Gondwana – which broke up during the Cretaceous.

Lead author Adele Pentland, a Ph.D. student at Curtin University in Perth, Australia, explained: “Australia was further south than it is today.”

Her team analyzed a pelvis fragment and a small wing bone unearthed in the late 1980s at a prehistoric animal graveyard named Dinosaur Cove in Victoria.

Pentland said: “The state of Victoria was within the polar circle – covered in darkness for weeks on end during the winter.

“Despite these seasonally harsh conditions, it is clear that pterosaurs found a way to survive and thrive.”

The winged reptiles were close cousins of the dinosaurs – reaching the size of airplanes.

The replica of a pterodactyl at the opening of Dinoworld Berlin at Tierpark Berlin. Until October, visitors to Tierpark Berlin-Friedrichsfelde can visit the exhibition with around 23 life-size dinosaurs. Pterosaurs lived in the Antarctic more than 100 million years ago, according to new research. GERALD MATZKA/GETTY IMAGES

They were among nature’s most successful species – feeding on fish and small land animals.

They had terrifyingly long beaks, hooked claws and sharp teeth. Some were as big as a giraffe – with a wingspan of 40 feet (12.19 m) .

The pterosaur fossils are the oldest ever found in Australia – providing a rare glimpse into the lifestyle of the powerful, flying reptiles.

They belonged to two different individuals – the pelvis bone to a pterosaur with a wingspan exceeding six and a half feet. The small wing bone was from a juvenile.

Pentland said: “Pterosaurs are rare worldwide, and only a few remains have been discovered at what were high palaeolatitude locations, such as Victoria, so these bones give us a better idea as to where pterosaurs lived and how big they were.

“By analyzing these bones, we have also been able to confirm the existence of the first ever Australian juvenile pterosaur, which resided in the Victorian forests around 107 million years ago.”

The bones, described in the journal Historical Biology, shed fresh light on the biggest animals that ever flew. They may even have bred in these harsh polar conditions.

Pentland said: “It will only be a matter of time until we are able to determine whether pterosaurs migrated north during the harsh winters to breed, or whether they adapted to polar conditions.

“Finding the answer to this question will help researchers better understand these mysterious flying reptiles.”

Dinosaurs are known to have roamed a ‘lost world’ between Australia and Antarctica when the planet was in the grip of an extreme Greenhouse Effect.

The polar ice caps had melted and there were lush rainforests. The study shows pterosaurs shared a strange environment.

Co-author Dr Tom Rich, from Museums Victoria Research Institute, said it was wonderful to see the fruits of research coming out of the hard work of Dinosaur Cove which was completed decades ago.

“These two fossils were the outcome of a labour-intensive effort by more than 100 volunteers over a decade,” Dr Rich said.

“That effort involved excavating more than 60 metres of tunnel where the two fossils were found in a seaside cliff at Dinosaur Cove.”

Produced in association with SWNS Talker

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