In 2013, a police raid at Santos Harbor in Brazil recovered about 30,000 smuggled fossils, together with essentially the most intact specimen of a sort of big-headed pterosaur ever discovered. A brand new evaluation of the fossil gives perception into the flying reptile’s foraging type, flight functionality and anatomy, researchers report August 25 in PLOS ONE.
Recognized as Tupandactylus navigans, the fossil is a member of a bunch of pterosaurs known as tapejarids. These pterosaurs are identified for his or her oversize, crested skulls, and hail from the early Cretaceous Interval, which lasted from about 145 million to 100 million years in the past.
Some well-preserved tapejarid fossils have been present in China, however they aren’t as full because the newly analyzed fossil, and the pterosaur’s anatomy hadn’t been totally described. “That is the primary time we’ve the complete cranium and the complete [body],” says Victor Beccari, a paleontologist on the NOVA College of Science & Know-how in Caparica, Portugal.
When Beccari’s workforce acquired the fossil in 2016, it had already been lower into six blocks. “It’s a disgrace,” Beccari says, “however we used it to our benefit.” The researchers match the sliced items inside a CT scanner, after which used the scans to supply a 3-D mannequin of the pterosaur’s skeleton that exposed elements nonetheless buried inside rock.
Earlier research instructed that tapejarids had a brief, stout neck to assist their giant head throughout flight. However Beccari’s workforce confirmed that the neck accounted for over half of the backbone’s size, which might have made sustained flight tough. The fossil’s lengthy hind legs and comparatively brief arms trace that tapejarids might have been snug strolling.
These observations recommend that T. navigans could have behaved equally to peacocks, Beccari says. The tapejarid’s crest in all probability attracted mates, and the pterosaur could have flown to treetops to search for meals or escape from predators, he says. “Nevertheless it spent most of its time strolling on the bottom.”