Scientists discovered recently that the largest flying bird to ever roam on Earth, Pelagornis Sandersi, had a wingspan of up to 24 feet. The huge wingspan made scientists doubt the fact that the bird could even fly at all.
However, a large variety of reptiles used to fly as well. Among them, Pterosaurs stand out as some of the largest animals to have ever flown. The giant animals had wingspans of up to 39 feet. The Azhdarchidae family from the Pterosaur order had a peculiar trait. New research unveiled the fact that the probably frightening animal did not possess teeth. Aždarha is the Persian word for dragon, but giant toothless ‘dragons’ sounds less impressive now.
Pterosaurs were the first vertebrates to start flying 220 million years ago. Their sizes made it very difficult to take off, implying a probable two stages strategy involving running beforehand.
Giant toothless ‘dragons’ lived 60 to 90 million years ago
Around 90 million years ago, the levels of carbon dioxide started rising, leading to decreased levels of microscopic marine creatures. From then on, the Azhdarchidaes became the dominant family in the Pterosaurs order.
“This shift in dominance from toothed to toothless pterodactyloids apparently reflects some fundamental changes in Cretaceous ecosystems, which we still poorly understand,” Alexander Averianov, Russian Academy of Sciences, described in a new study of this type of pterosaur, Foxnews states.
The Azhdarchidae flying reptile was spread all over the world and dominated the skies for 20 to 30 million years, until around 60 million years ago. The ‘dragons’ thrived near waters.
Paleontologists face an important problem when studying the ‘dragons’. Because their bones are very fragile, scientists have to attempt proper understanding of how the flying reptiles lived based on various fragments. In 2008 scientists reviewed 32 ‘dragon’ bones, but Averianov looked now at 54 fossils. The majority of ‘dragon’ fossils are found in Konservat-Lagersttten, a soft sediment.
“Azhdarchidae currently represent a real nightmare for paleontologists: most taxa are known from few fragmentary bones, which often do not overlap between named taxa, the few articulated skeletons are poorly preserved, and some of the best available material has remained undescribed for forty years.” explains Dr Averianov about the difficulties studying the group.
The results of the study on the giant toothless ‘dragons’ appeared in ZooKeys journal under the title “Review of taxonomy, geographic distribution, and paleoenvironments of Azhdarchidae (Pterosauria)”.