Cryodrakon boreas, a newly discovered type of pterosaur, is the largest mammal ever to fly
Dinosaurs have captured the imaginations of generations of people. These majestic beasts have been the subject of endless fascination in the scientific community and there's still so much that hasn't been discovered. A paper describing a new species of flying dinosaur was published this week in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
Thirty years ago, the bones of a birdlike dinosaur were found Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta, CA, which is a world heritage site known for having hundreds of still-undiscovered fossils still in the ground. They were originally believed to be a part of Quetzalcoatlus, a Pterasaur discovered in Texas.
Further research into the fossil lead scientists to conclude that this was an entirely new species of dinosaur. Cryodrakon belonged to the azhdarchids family of pterosaurs, known for having long necks. The complete remains that were discovered belonged to a junior member of the species, but studying the neck bones from an adult lead the scientists to conclude that the Cryodrakon boreas could grow up to a 33-foot wingspan.
It's no wonder that the scientists gave it a name that means "frozen dragon of the north winds."
"This is a cool discovery, we knew this animal was here but now we can show it is different to other azhdarchids and so it gets a name," said David Hone, lead author of the study from Queen Mary University of London. "It is great that we can identify Cryodrakon as being distinct to Quetzalcoatlus as it means we have a better picture of the diversity and evolution of predatory pterosaurs in North America."
"The azhdarchids had long legs and large feet that marked them as being a group that spent much more time on the ground than most other pterosaurs and we have some good tracks for them from Korea that shows they were adept walkers," Hone said. "Most of their fossils are from inland environments too which fits this pattern."
There are a few things that the scientists have figured out. First, they were carnivorous, subsiding on small mammals, lizards, and baby dinosaurs. Second, though their wings were large enough to carry them across oceans they mostly stayed closer to inland areas of the environment.
From here, the next step for scientists is to figure out how the Cryodrakon boreas's muscles grew around its skeleton in order to understand how it took off and moved.