Largest flying animal in history identified - study

Scientists on Tuesday unveiled a new species pterosaur, the plane-sized reptiles that lorded over primeval skies above T-rex, Triceratops and other dinosaurs of the late Cretaceous.

With a wingspan of ten metres and weighing 250kg, Cryodrakon boreas rivals another pterosaur as the largest flying animal of all time, researchers reported in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

"This is a cool discovery," said David Hone, lead author of the study and a researcher at Queen Mary University in London.

"It is great that we can identify Cryodrakon as being distinct from Quetzalcoatlus," the other giant pterosaur for which it was initially mistaken, he said in a statement.

C. boreas was hiding in plain sight.

Its remains were first discovered more than 30 years ago in Alberta, Canada, yet elicited scant excitement because of the misclassification.

But a closer look at the fossil remains of a juvenile and the intact giant neck bone of a full-grown specimen left no doubt that a new species had been discovered.

Like other winged reptiles living at the same time, about 77 million years ago, C. boreas was carnivorous and probably fed on lizards, small mammals and even baby dinosaurs.

Despite a likely capacity to cross large bodies of water, the location of fossil remains and the animal's features point to an inland habitat, Hone said.

There are more than 100 known species of pterosaurs.

Despite their large size and wide distribution - across North and South America, Asia, Africa and Europe - only fragmentary remains have been unearthed, making the new find especially important.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
The ANC's leadership race is heating up. Who do you think will be elected party president at Nasrec in December?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has got it in the bag
7% - 811 votes
I foresee a second term for Cyril Ramaphosa
83% - 9279 votes
Don’t discount a Zweli Mkhize win
10% - 1089 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
18.01
-1.3%
Rand - Pound
20.11
+0.1%
Rand - Euro
17.64
-0.4%
Rand - Aus dollar
11.55
-0.0%
Rand - Yen
0.12
-1.0%
Gold
1,713.07
-0.2%
Silver
20.66
+0.1%
Palladium
2,253.50
-0.2%
Platinum
925.00
+0.3%
Brent-ruolie
93.37
+1.7%
Top 40
59,416
+0.4%
All Share
65,833
+0.3%
Resource 10
63,279
-0.6%
Industrial 25
80,027
+1.0%
Financial 15
13,997
+0.3%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE