Argentine scientists have discovered a new species of giant flying reptile called the “Dragon of Death” that lived alongside dinosaurs 86 million years ago, to give new insights to a hunter whose body was as long as a yellow school bus.
The ancient flying reptile, or new specimen of the pterosaur, is about 30 feet (9 m) long and researchers say it was the first bird on earth to use its wings for prey from prehistoric skies.
A team of paleontologists has unearthed the newly minted Thanatosdracon Amaru fossils in the Andes Mountains in the western province of Mendoza, Argentina. They found that rocks preserving reptiles date back to the Cretaceous, 86 million years ago.
The approximate date means that these terrifying flying reptiles survived about 66 million years ago, about 20 million years before the impact of an asteroid on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.
Project leader Leonardo Ortiz said in an interview over the weekend that fossils never seen before needed a new genus and species name, combining the ancient Greek words for dead (thanatos) and dragon (dragon).
“It seemed appropriate to name it that way,” Ortiz said. “This is the dragon of death.”
Reptiles can probably be a scary sight. The researchers, who published their findings in the scientific journal Cretaceous Research last April, said the giant bones of the fossil classify the new species as the largest pterosaurs still discovered in South America and one of the largest found anywhere.
“We have no current record of any close relatives who have even changed bodies like these animals,” Ortiz said.