Scientists have found the remains of three new species of flying reptiles in Morocco. According to the study (which can be read in full here), the new species of pterosaurs with long spiky teeth lived in the Sahara around 100 million years ago.
The discovery was made by Professor David Martill, who is a palaeontologist at the University of Portsmouth, as well as a group of researchers from Morocco and the United States, including Megan Jacobs from Baylor University in Texas, and Nizar Ibrahim from the University of Detroit Mercy.
The three new species of sharp-toothed pterosaurs were around when there was water in the desert during the time of the ancient African river ecosystem where crocodiles, turtles, fish, and other predatory dinosaurs lived. The studies also provided evidence that the pterosaurs that lived in Africa were very similar to the ones that occupied other parts of the world.
“These new finds provide an important window into the world of African pterosaurs,” Ibrahim stated. “We know so much more about pterosaurs from places like Europe and Asia, so describing new specimens from Africa is always very exciting.” Before these three new pterosaur species were discovered, one of them called Anhanguera had been connected only with Brazil, while the Ornithocheirus species had previously only been known to exist in Middle Asia as well as England.
A spokeswoman for the university stated, “The new finds show that African pterosaurs were quite similar to those found on other continents, adding, “These flying predators soared above a world dominated by predators, including crocodile-like hunters and carnivorous dinosaurs. Interestingly, herbivores such as sauropods and ornithischian dinosaurs are rare.” She went on to say, “Many of the predators, including the toothed pterosaurs, preyed on a superabundance of fish.”
The new species were found after experts analyzed pieces of jaws and teeth that were discovered in the middle cretaceous Kem Kem beds of the country. They were able to determine that their wingspan stretched three to four meters (nine to thirteen feet in width). We are in a golden age for discovering pterodactyls. This year alone we have discovered three new species and we are only into March,” Martill said.
The spokeswoman went into further detail by explaining, “These aerial fishers snatched up their prey while on the wing, using a murderous-looking set of large spike-like teeth that formed a highly effective tooth grab.” “Large pterosaurs such as these would have been able to forage over vast distances, similar to present-day birds such as condors and albatrosses.”
Since they’ve already found three new species of pterosaurs in just the first three months of 2020, it will be interesting to see how many more they find by the end of the year.