A group of Australian scientists discovered the remains of a giant flying dinosaur, described as a “fearsome dragon”, which flew over Australian territory during the Cretaceous periodacademic sources reported Tuesday.
With seven meter long wings and a lance-shaped snout, this new pletosaurus “would have been a fearsome beast,” said Tim Richards, leader of the team from the University of Queensland that studied this reptile, in a statement from this Australian institution.
The Thapunngaka shawi, as the prehistoric beast was baptized, is “the closest thing in real life to a dragon”stressed Richards, who is pursuing a doctorate at the University of Queensland.
The description of this pletosaurus was based on the analysis of the fossil of a jaw It was discovered in June 2011 by local Len Shaw on the lands of the Wanamara people, in a remote northern part of the eastern Australian state of Queensland. Scientists calculate that this dinosaur had a skull of about one meter and was armed with a set of 40 molars that allowed them to feed on large fish that inhabited the ancient Eromanga Sea during the Cretaceous, a period that began 145 million years ago and ended 66 million years ago.
The Thapunngaka shawi, believed to be the first animals with bones in their backs to fly and perfectly adapted to powered flight, had relatively hollow, thin-walled bone pieces, scientists say.
Steve Salisbury, a co-author of the paper and Richard’s PhD supervisor, highlighted the enormous size of the bony ridge of the lower jaw, which was presumably similar to the upper jaw of this pletosaurus, the largest described in Australia to date. According to the scientist “these ridges probably played a role in the flight dynamics of these creatures“.
The name of this flying dinosaur comes from ngaka (nga-ga) and thapun (ta-boon), which in the language of the aboriginal people of Wanamara mean ‘mouth’ and ‘spear’, respectively, while shawy derives from the surname of its discoverer .