Fossil Came From Big, Toothy Flyer

Fossil Came From Big, Toothy Flyer

Daisy Yuhas
Published: 10/24/2011

Scientists in the UK have identified a little fossil that came from a very big flying reptile.

The fossil was a wee fragment of beak, including a tooth, 13 millimeters in diameter. Half an inch isn’t the tiniest of teeth, but when you consider the dimensions of the beast it came from, the tooth pales in comparison.

Coloborhynchus
A toothy pterosaur of the Coloborhynchus genus. Illustration: Mark Witton, University of Portsmouth, www.markwitton.com.

The scientists, from the University of Portsmouth and the University of Leicester, identified the fossil’s source as a pterosaur (specifically Coloborhynchus capito), and using the toothy clue estimated the pterosaur’s skull to have been about three quarters of a meter in length. Even more impressive, the wingspan estimate was 7 meters.

To the less metric-inclined, that’s about 23 feet, a spread surpassing two stories. When Coloborhynchus capito would glide over the water in search of fish, his wingspan was more than twice that of today’s wingspan record holder, the wandering albatross.

Before the cryptozoologists of the world get too excited about finding the fabled thunderbird, they should look at when this pterosaur was estimated to have thrived. As redOrbit reports, these guys took to the skies 210-65 million years ago.

It’s also worth noting that these were not the biggest pterosaurs. Toothless flyers could reach a wingspan of 10 meters. That's about a sixth of a Boeing 747 wingspan.

You can check out the study’s abstract in Cretaceous Research online and for more flighty dino news check out Audubon’s blog post on proto-feathers of the late Cretaceous.

An artist's rendition of a pterosaur. Illustration: John Conway, from the English Wikipedia