Oldest pterosaur bones found in Australia are 107 million years old

A team of researchers led by Curtin University in collaboration with Museum Victoria has recently confirmed that 107-million-year-old pterosaur bones discovered more than three decades ago are the oldest of their kind found in Australia. The study of fossils sheds new light on the life of these mighty flying reptiles that lived among the dinosaurs in the Mesozoic Era.

Experts examine a partial pelvic bone and a small wing bone discovered in the late 1980s by Dr Tom Rich, Professor Pat Vickers-Rich and colleagues at Dinosaur Cove in Victoria, Australia.

what the researchers learned

Analysis revealed that the bones belonged to two different pterosaurs: while the partial pelvic bone belonged to a pterosaur with a wingspan of over two metres, the smaller wing bone belonged to a juvenile pterosaur (the first reported from Australia).

“During the Cretaceous period (145–66 million years ago), Australia was further south than it is today, and the state of Victoria was within the Arctic Circle – covered in darkness for weeks during the winter. Despite these harsh climatic conditions, it is clear that pterosaurs have found a way to survive and thrive,” said study lead author Adele Pentland, PhD student in paleontology at Curtin.

“Pterosaurs are rare in the world, and only a few remains have been found in High Palaeolithic sites such as Victoria, so these bones give us a better idea of ​​where pterosaurs lived and how big they were. By analyzing these bones, we were also able to confirm the existence of Australia’s first juvenile pterosaur, which lived in the Victorian forests around 107 million years ago.

However, more research is needed to determine whether pterosaurs migrated north during the harsh winters to breed, or whether they were able to adapt to polar conditions. Pentland concluded, “Finding the answer to this question will help researchers better understand these mysterious flying reptiles.”

This study is published in the journal historical biology,

Learn more about pterosaurs

Pterosaurs, often called pterodactyls, were a group of flying reptiles that lived through most of the Mesozoic Era, from the late Triassic to the late Cretaceous, approximately 228 to 66 million years ago. They were the first known vertebrates to develop powered flight, beating out birds and bats by millions of years. Pterosaurs are closely related to dinosaurs but are not considered dinosaurs themselves.


Pterosaurs vary greatly in size, with wingspans ranging from a few centimeters to over 10 meters (33 ft). The largest known pterosaurs, such as Quetzalcoatlus, are among the largest known flying animals of all time. On the other hand, some small pterosaurs, such as Anurognathus, had a wingspan of only 50 cm (20 in).

Body structure

Pterosaurs had a unique anatomy, including a body covered with pycnofiber, a type of hair-like covering similar to but not identical to the fur of modern mammals. Buds of varying sizes and shapes are also seen in some types of pterosaurs. Their wings were made of a skin and muscle membrane that extended from their elongated fourth finger to their hind limbs.


The diet and lifestyle of pterosaurs varies greatly among species. Some were fish eaters, others were eaters of small dinosaurs or insects, and some species may have been scavengers. Despite their reptilian nature, many paleontologists believe that pterosaurs were warm-blooded, similar to modern birds and mammals, which allowed them to maintain high activity levels.

The pterosaurs went extinct at the end of the Cretaceous, about 66 million years ago, probably due to the same event that killed off the non-avian dinosaurs—the impact of a large asteroid or comet in what is now Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.

Pterosaurs remain the subject of active research, and new species and discoveries continue to expand our understanding of these fascinating prehistoric creatures.


By Andrei Ionescu, terre.com personal editor

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