Cryodrakon Boreas: A giant flying reptile, newly identified

New reptile species was one of largest ever flying animals

New reptile species was one of largest ever flying animals

Hone, a paleontologist at Queen Mary University of London, himself has looked for pterosaur fossils in the park annually for seven years, but hasn't yet found any. The reptile lived over 77 million years ago in what is western Canada today.

The invention could sound like one thing out of Westeros, however "Game of Thrones" followers should not get too excited: In line with researchers, Cryodrakon regarded much less like Daenerys Targaryen's fire-breathing dragons than it did a giraffe-size, reptilian stork.

A giant neck bone, for instance, indicates a wingspan twice as long as the juvenile's, according to the authors.

Hone had a "Eureka moment" early on when he discovered a particular pattern of holes in the fossils that seemed unique, but it took him and the other researchers several years more to cross-check the specimen with pterosaur remains in Mongolia, France and elsewhere to confirm that this was a new species, he said. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that contains a wealth of dinosaur fossils, where multiple species have been discovered.

Palaeontologists had assumed that it belonged to the species Quetzalcoatlus, which was discovered in Texas, US.

Closer analysis of the fossils, however, points to a new species altogether, a pterosaur from the Azhdarchid group that the team christened Cryodrakon boreas.

The remains consist of a skeleton that has part of the wings, legs, neck and rib originally assigned to Quetzalcoatlus. The pterosaur could grow up to 4 meters tall and was mostly mouth-its skull was about 3.5 times the length of its body-leading one expert to liken it to a "giant flying murder head".

Fossil of a neck bone of a full-grown Cryodrakon boreas a newly discovered species of pterosaur
Fossil of a neck bone of a full-grown Cryodrakon boreas a newly discovered species of pterosaur

These pterosaurs from the Cretaceous period are often incorrectly called pterodactyls.

A new species of flying dinosaur with a plane-sized wingspan was unveiled by researchers on Tuesday.

The remains belonged to a younger member of the species, so its wingspan was only about 16.4 feet when it died.

The Quetzalcoatlus pterosaur had a wingspan of 34 feet, by comparison, and weighed 551 pounds.

Like other azhdarchids these animals were carnivorous and predominantly predated on small animals which would likely include lizards, mammals and even baby dinosaurs. This is because, while they were distributed across the Americas, Asia, Africa and Europe, few azhdarchids remain except in fragments. "It is great that we can identify Cryodrakon as being distinct to Quetzalcoatlus as it means we have a better picture of the diversity and evolution of predatory pterosaurs in North America".

"It's a attractive, stark landscape in winter, but dear God it's cold and snowy", Hone told CBC News.

Azhdarchid fossils have been found in terrestrial settings suggesting that, despite likely being able to cross an ocean in flight, they were adapted for and lived in inland environments.