Dragon of Death Largest Pterosaur Ever Found in South America

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Dragon of Death
Courtesy of Ryan Somma (Flickr CC))

Thanatosdrakon is the largest pterosaur ever found in South America. Argentina paleontologists dubbed it the “dragon of death.” Two giant flying reptiles measured approximately 30 feet (9 m) wide and 23 feet (7 meters) wide.

Researchers confirmed they are azhdarchids and lived during the end of the Cretaceous period 66 million years ago from the pterosaur’s family.

Pterosaurs were like dinosaurs to evolve powered flight beyond just gliding. It includes generating lift, flapping the wings, and powering through the air. A dragon of death is as large as an F-16 fighter jet.

Azhdarchids have large skulls, short, robust bodies, and hyper-elongated bodies, according to study lead author Leonardo D. Ortiz David, and coordinator general of Argentina’s Laboratory and Museum of Dinosaurs in Mendoza.

The scientists determined the pterosaurs as two separate species, Thanatosdrakon Amaru, the only species in the genus, which means dragon of death in Greek. The study authors reported that the Amaru from the Indigenous Quechuan language is a species that means flying serpent, a two-headed Incan divinity.

Researchers believed the two pterosaurs died simultaneously and that one was underdeveloped. But the scientists cannot say whether the two animals designate part of a family group. David said:

There is no indication in the fossil remains of a degree of parental relationship. However, it can be confirmed that both specimens are of different sizes, and that the smaller one is a juvenile-subadult, and that they were together when they died more than 86 million years ago.

Dragon of Death
Aconcagua Courtesy of audvloid Flickr CC0)

Researchers discovered the dragon of death fossils during a civil construction project excavations about 500 miles outside Mendoza’s capital. Ortiz David and his team were overseeing the dig when they found fossil fragments within floodplain residues.

In Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the Americas, Mendoza is well known among paleontologists for significant dinosaur findings, including the 2016 discovery of the giant sauropod Notocolossus, one of the enormous dinosaurs in the world.

Ortiz David said that the team found the dragon of death fossils surprising because pterosaur bones are delicate, and fossils are usually uncovered in tiny pieces.

The dragon of death fossils is presently sheltered in the National University of Cuyo Laboratory and Museum of Dinosaurs. To help conserve the samples, museum specialists made a one-to-one scale casts of the various fossils where it is on display at the museum.

Cretaceous Research journal will print the researcher’s discoveries in the September 2022 issue.

Written by Janet Grace Ortigas
Edited by Sheena Robertson

Sources:

Live Science: Giant ‘dragon of death’ with 30-foot wingspan unearthed in Argentina; by Jennifer Nalewicki
News 18: ‘Dragon of Death’: Giant Flying Dinosaur with 30-foot Wingspan Dug up in Argentina
Greek Reporter: Remains of “Dragon of Death” With 30-Foot Wingspan Found in Argentina; by Tasos Kokkinidis

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of Ryan Somma’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of audvloid’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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