A research team from the University of Queensland (Australia) has analyzed a fossil of a pterosaur jaw, found near Richmond, northwest Queensland, in 2011.
The results, published in the journal Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, indicate that this huge creature had a seven-meter wingspan and a lance-shaped snout, making it a “terrifying beast,” according to Tim Richards, leader of the research team at the Australian university.
The Thapunngaka shawiAs this pterosaur was named, it’s “the closest thing to a dragon in real life,” says Richards.
According to the researchers, this prehistoric beast had a skull approximately one meter long and teeth with 40 molars, which allowed it to feed on large fish that inhabited the now non-existent Sea of Eromanga (Queensland) during the Cretaceous.
In addition, they had relatively hollow, thin-walled bones, which made flight easier. “Pterosaurs were the first animals with bones in their backs adapted to propulsion flight,” the expert highlights.
However, due to these adaptations, its fossil remains are scarce and poorly preserved. “The discovery of Thapunngaka it contributes greatly to our understanding of the diversity of Australian pterosaurs, ”says the author.
The researchers highlight the immense size of the bony crest of the jaw, both lower and upper, that this species presents. “These ridges probably played a role in flight dynamics,” explains Steve Salisbury, co-author of the work, from the same university.
The name of this flying pterosaur comes from ngaka (nga-ga) and thapun (ta-boon), which in the language of the Wanamara aboriginal people, in the Richmond region —where the fossil was found—, mean “mouth” and “spear ”, Respectively, while shawy derives from the surname of its discoverer.