Paleontology
Models of ventilatory kinematics and the pulmonary air sac system of pterosaurs.

Scientists Fossil Tooth Proves Pterosaurs Bigger than Previously Thought



Tweet
Models of ventilatory kinematics and the pulmonary air sac system of pterosaurs.
Leigh Goessl's image for:
"Scientists Fossil Tooth Proves Pterosaurs Bigger than Previously Thought"
Caption: Models of ventilatory kinematics and the pulmonary air sac system of pterosaurs.
Location: 
Image by: Leon P. A. M. Claessens, Patrick M. O`Connor, David M. Unwin
© This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pterosaurs.jpg

A recent study of a small fossil located in the Natural History Museum in London has lead scientists to believe the Pterosaurs was much bigger than originally envisioned. Pterosaurs are flying reptiles which reigned in pre-historic times, scientists place their existence in history at being between 210 million and 65 million years ago.

The fossil, which is a fragment of tooth, was recently examined thoroughly. Despite the portion of the tooth having been in possession of the London museum since 1884 when Sir Richard Owen gave the piece to the museum after finding it in Cambridgeshire, England, scientists had not scrutinized the fossil until now.

Owen is famous for having coined the word 'dinosaur'.

David Martill, University of Portsmouth, and David Unwin, University of Leicester, headed up this study.

Live Science reports the fossil is believed to belong to a species of ornithocheirid, a "fish-feeding reptile that was the largest of the toothed pterosaurs. Ornithocheirids used their chompers to grab their food while flying low across the surface of the water.

After doing additional research and examination, the scientists now believe Pterosaurs had a wingspan up to seven meters (about 23 feet), this is two to three meters longer than originally believed, according to the Daily Mail.

"It's an ugly-looking specimen, but with a bit of skill, you can work out just exactly what it was. All we have is the tip of the upper jaws —bones called the premaxillae, and a broken tooth preserved in one socket," said Dr. Martill.

Martill added, "Although the crown of the tooth has broken off, its diameter is 13 millimeters (0.5 inches). This is huge for a pterosaur. Once you do the calculations, you realize that the scrap in your hand is a very exciting discovery."

According to Physorg.com, Dr. Unwin said, "This is far larger than, for example, any modern bird, although some extinct birds may have reached 6 metres in wingspan."

Interestingly enough, toothless pterosaurs have long been believed to have been much larger than their toothed counterparts, however this discovery.

BBC reported, "They [the scientists] found that its[pterosaur's] skull would have been about 75 cm long, making it the largest toothed specimen yet found."

The BBC report also indicated Dr. Martill said that by the end of the Cretaceous period, pterosaurs became extinct and had no descendants.

This factor perhaps makes the discovery even more exciting.

Dr. Unwin and Dr. Martill have published their findings in the journal Cretaceous Research, where the study's abstract can be viewed online at sciencedirect.com.

Tweet
More about this author: Leigh Goessl

From Around the Web




ARTICLE SOURCES AND CITATIONS
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.livescience.com/16542-giant-toothed-pterosaur.html
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2049419/Pterosaurs-bigger-previously-thought-scientists-discover-fossil-tooth.html
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.physorg.com/news/2011-10-toothed-pterosaur-tiny-fossil-fragment.html
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/15150591
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S019566711100125X