Near-Complete Fossil Found In Scotland Is Largest Of Its Kind To Be Discovered

STV News

A pterosaur is a type of extinct flying reptile that lived turning the time of the dinosaurs. It’s thought that they lived from approximately 230 million years ago, during the Triassic period up until about 66 million years ago through the Cretaceous period. They went extinct during a time of mass extinction when approximately 75% of all plant and animal life on earth died.

Pterosaur fossils have been found throughout the world in places like China, Italy and Brazil; however, pterosaur fossils are very rare, and it’s even more rare to find an almost fully intact pterosaur fossil.

Back in 2017, a Ph.D. student named Amelia Penny was on a field expedition in Scotland when she noticed a fossilized jaw sticking out of a rock on the Isle of Skye. That observation led to a very important discovery. Not only was the jaw in tact, but approximately 70% of a pterosaur was in tact.

Steve Brusatte oversaw the field work in 2017. He is an evolutionary biologist and vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Edinburgh. According to Brusatte, “As we started to remove it, we realized that the jaw led to a head, which led to a gorgeous skeleton in the rocks.” He added, “It was nearly midnight when we finished removing it, and we were heaving around 400 pounds off the beach with our torches and headlamps. It was really the most stressed I’ve been as far as a discovery in the field.”

This is the best preserved pterosaur skeleton that has ever been discovered in Scotland, and it is the largest pterosaur skeleton that has ever been discovered from the Jurassic period. It is estimated to be approximately 170 million years old.

Natalia Jagielska is the lead author of the study which was published in Current Biology. She is also a Ph.D. student at the University of Edinburgh. According to Jagielska, “To achieve flight, pterosaurs had hollow bones with thin bone walls, making their remains incredibly fragile and unfit to preserving for millions of years.”

Through forensic analysis, Brusatte and his colleagues discovered that the pterosaur they found wasn’t yet full grown when it died.

Brusatte explained that this particular pterosaur’s discovery is especially significant because, “There’s kind of this big black hole when it comes to pterosaurs in the Middle Jurassic period.” He added, “We had a handful of bones that hinted that there were some big pterosaurs in this age, but now with this complete fossil, we can say, yes there absolutely were very large pterosaurs in this part of the Jurassic.”

Watch the video below for more details about this important discovery.