It's hard to imagine dinosaurs being afraid of anything, aside from attacks from other dinosaurs. But scientists have just discovered the fossil of a behemoth creature that did just that, preying on dinosaurs. Dear god.
Scientists just discovered the fossilized remains of a pterosaur embedded in a cliff in the Isle of Wight. Pterosaurs aren't actually dinosaurs - they're flying reptiles of the order Pterosauria (birds today descended from smaller feathered dinosaurs, not these ones). These non-dinosaurs had a wingspan of at least 20 feet and weighed around 650 lbs, with elongated jaws to catch and eat their prey with.
Until now, these reptiles have baffled scientists. Although fossils show that they had wings, scientists couldn't figure out how such heavy creatures could take off to fly. However, 3D new technology has provided the answer: pterosaurs used their strong leg and wing muscles to catapaut themselves into the air.
Pterosaurs were the first animals with backbones to fly, and that happened around 228 million years ago (for some perspective, humans have been around for 200,000 years). These gigantic reptiles ruled the skies for 160 million years until they went extinct along with the dinosaurs when a giant asteroid hit the Earth.
However, 160 million years is a pretty good run - humans are only 0.125% along 160 million years and we're facing extinction a lot sooner than the pterosaurs did. During their time, pterosaurs evolved from the size of pigeons to that of fighter jets without much trouble, as they only had one known predator: the theropoda.
The pterosaur found on the Isle of Wight is thought to be one of the first super-pterosaurs, and it is not the first huge dinosaur (or reptile, in this case) to be found on the island. In the past few years, aided by new technology and fossil findings, understanding of the pterosaurs diet, flying abilities and appearance have developed greatly. While scientists previously thought the creatures could only soar, rather than take off from the ground, due to their weight, this theory has been proven wrong. Using their strong legs and the "arms" inside their wings, they were able to launch themselves off the ground.
Additionally, the reptiles were thought to be cold blooded, but they were actually warm blooded - and possibly covered in fur. And the last discovery? It turns out that they eat a lot more than fish from the ocean. In the later stages of their evolution, when pterosaurs had gotten as large as fighter jets, they ate mammals, eggs, other pterosaurs, terrestrial dinosaurs, avian dinosaurs, and carrion. And if they still existed today, I reckon they'd have a sweet tooth for humans.
Although the story of the pterosaur ends in extinction, it wasn't due to their demise. The pterosaur was a predator of dinosaurs, and I can make an educated guess that if that asteroid didn't hit Earth, the pterosaurs would have been around for a long time to come.
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