These flying reptiles lived in Africa 100 million years ago. They were predators and capable of flying hundreds of miles.
Three species of toothed pterosaurs were identified in Morocco by a team led by scientists at Baylor University in the United States. These animals were flying reptiles that lived during the Cretaceous period, about 100 million years ago.
An article about the findings was published in the journal Cretaceous Research and, according to the authors, this will assist in studies about the evolutionary history of these flying reptiles in Africa. “Pterosaur remains are very rare, with most known from Europe, South America and Asia,” said one of the researchers, Megan L. Jacobs, in a statement. “These new finds are very exciting and provide a window into the world of pterosaurs in Cretaceous Africa.”
According to the researcher, these animals were part of the African river ecosystem, a region that was teeming with life and was full of carnivorous species, such as crocodiles and dinosaurs. Toothed pterosaurs were also predators and hunted mainly fish.
“Their wingspans were around 10 to 13 feet,” said Jacobs. Still, the expert explains that, considering its size, it was surprisingly light, since the bones, almost as thin as paper, were full of air. “This allowed these awesome creatures to reach incredible sizes and still be able to take off and soar the skies,” pointed out the scientist.
Large pterosaurs like these were able to fly hundreds of miles in search of food if necessary – there is fossil evidence showing they went from South America to Africa, as some birds do today.
The research also found that African fossils are quite similar to those found in other corners of the world, such as the Anhanguera species, previously found only in Brazil, and the Ornithocheirus species, until now found only in England and Central Asia.
The fossils were identified thanks to miners working in a small village called Beggaa, in southeastern Morocco. According to the experts, these villagers climb a large slope known as Kem Kem every day to dig a layer of thick sand in search of fossils.
“They excavate everything they find, from teeth to bones to almost complete skeletons,” said Jacobs. “Villagers sell their findings to resellers and scientists, ensuring that they earn enough money to survive, while [we researchers] obtain new fossils to study.”