Millions of years ago, dinosaurs may have ruled the Earth, but the skies were dominated by flying reptiles called pterosaurs, some of whom reached the size of a modern fighter jet. In a study published this week, paleontologists report discovering the progenitor to the largest of these massive flyers, filling in a large evolutionary gap in the process.
From the fossil record that scientists have been able to uncover, pterosaurs — or 'winged lizards' — first appeared on Earth over 200 million years ago, during the Triassic period. They were fairly small back then, at least compared to the gargantuan pterodactyloids that were around in the later Jurassic period, and their evolution towards bigger species apparently stemmed from several changes to their anatomy over time. Fossil specimens of early pterosaurs showed smaller heads with toothy mouths, and short, stumpy 'pinky' fingers on their 'hand' that limited wing shape and size. Later, larger pterodactyloids had bigger heads, no teethRead More »from ‘Hidden dragon’ fossil from China fills ancient evolutionary gap