Scientists unearth ‘iron dragon’ of ancient Queensland outback

Scientists unearth 'iron dragon' of ancient Queensland outback
Scientists unearth 'iron dragon' of ancient Queensland outback

Scientists have discovered a new type of pterosaur in outback Queensland, with the find rewriting the history of the species.

Pterosaurs were ancient flying reptiles, close cousins of dinosaurs, which ruled the skies of the ancient world for over 150 million years.

Some pterosaurs were the largest flying animals of all time, with wingspans exceeding 30 feet (9 m) and standing heights comparable to modern giraffes.

Ferrodraco lentoni (Lenton’s iron dragon, after the late Mayor of Winton, Graham Lenton) had a wingspan of around 13 feet (4 m).

The flying reptile lived approximately 96 million years ago, during the Cretaceous period.

Its fossilized remains were found near the northeastern margins of the Winton Formation in Queensland by paleontologist Bob Elliott in April 2017.

The specimen is the first pterosaur reported from the Winton Formation, and is also the most complete pterosaur ever found in Australia.

“The skeleton of Ferrodraco lentoni is exceptionally well preserved and comprises five partial vertebrae, eight limb bones, a large portion of the jaw, skull and crest, and 40 isolated and partial teeth,” said Adele Pentland, a PhD candidate at the Swinburne University of Technology and the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum.

“This is the most complete pterosaur that has ever been found in Australia and we have somewhere between 10 to 11% of the skeleton.”

Ferrodraco lentoni was likely a top aerial predator in its ecosystem.

“At this time the Winton region was on the southern shores of an inland sea and was globally positioned about where Victoria’s southern coastline is today,” Pentland said.

The description of Butch’s Iron Dragon has been published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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