This pterosaur nicknamed the “Dragon of Death” is one of the best preserved

DINOSAURS – This is a true giant of the sky. His name, Thanatos dragon Amaru, means “dragon of death” in Greek. It also has a meaning in the Quechua language, as “Amaru” denotes an Inca god, a two-headed flying serpent. There is then no doubt that his menacing shadow should sow horror during his lifetime, namely the Upper Cretaceous (about 86 million years ago).

Member of the azhdarchid family (belonging to the pterosaur group), two samples discovered, the result of research published on April 12, 2022 by Elsevier. It is the largest species ever discovered in South America. Impressive, the two fossils are seven and nine meters wide, respectively. They were discovered in the province of Mendoza in Argentina, a fertile land for fossils.

Two winged titans

In addition to its size, “Azhdarchids were known for their very large skulls (sometimes larger than their bodies) as well as hyper-elongated necks and short, powerful bodies,” he said. LiveScience Leonardo D.Ortiz David, lead author of this new study.

Based on the analysis of the various fossils found, the researchers determined that the two pterosaurs died at the same time, while the smaller one had not yet developed. However, it is difficult to say whether the two animals were part of the same family.

“There is no indication in the fossil remains of any degree of parental relationship,” For said LiveScience Ortiz David. But “it can be confirmed that the two specimens are of different sizes, and that the smallest is a subadult juvenile, and that they were together when they died over 86 million years ago.”

Fragile fossils … therefore very rare

It was during excavations for a civilian construction project that the two fossils were found. The region is actually conducive to fossils, while the province of Mendoza in particular is home to Aconcagua. The highest mountain in America, it is well known by paleontologists for other significant finds, including the giant sauropod Notocolossus, which was shown as a fierce battle in AppleTV’s “Prehistoric Planet” documentary.

It is important that the various fossils found are in a remarkable state of conservation. Some of them were complete, “such as humeri (large bones in the arm), syncarpals (one of the bones of the foot) and the vertebrae,” the study explains.

This is a surprise as it is rare to find pterosaur fossils in such good condition. “From the start, two facts caught our attention: The first was the size of the remains and their preservation in three dimensions; the second was the amount of remains found at the site, as giant pterosaurs are only known from fragmentary remains (with a few exceptions), ”explains the researcher.

The reason for this is simple, the bones of these animals are fragile and deteriorate easily. Therefore, this discovery is a chance for scientists. “The description of new samples is always important for the paleontology of vertebrates, as they shed light on the various groups studied. In this particular case, 3D elements of large pterosaurs are rare, which makes Thanatosdrakon an excellent case study ”.

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