Fossil of Flying Reptile With 29-Foot Wingspan Discovered

Thursday, May 10, 2018

The new species was found in the same region, and is related to, this pterosaur called "Dracula." ANDREAS GEBERT/GETTY IMAGES

Paleontologists have recently discovered the biggest pterosaur jawbone ever found, indicating the existence of a previously unknown flying reptile that lived in what is now Romania.

Romania is known for being the former home to a variety of enormous pterosaurs, some with huge heads and necks oddly disproportionate to their bodies. Pterosaurs, like the famous Pterodactyl, lived alongside the dinosaurs and are related to them, but pterosaurs aren’t dinosaurs.

The various species of these winged creatures could be as small as seagulls or as tall as giraffes. The newly-discovered creature’s jaw was incomplete, but paleontologists estimate that if reconstructed, it would have measured 3.6-4.2 feet, National Geographic reported. Paleontologists published a formal description of the creature in the journal Lethaia.


By comparing this jawbone to that of other pterosaurs, paleontologists estimate that the animal was imposing, with a wingspan of 26-29 feet. By comparison, the wandering albatross has the longest wingspan of any living animal at nearly 12 feet.

Surprisingly, that doesn’t mean that the new creature was the largest pterosaur ever found. A North American pterosaur called Quetzalcoatlus and a Transylvanian pterosaur called “Dracula” are among the largest, with wingspans nearing 40 feet.  

As paleontologists have only part of the jawbone of the unnamed new species, it’s hard to understand exactly what it was like in life. Having only a partial fossil means that they have to compare the bone with those of other pterosaurs and modern animals. Paleontologists believe it may have been a heavy, wide omnivore, National Geographic reported.

The new creature, as well as two other giant pterosaurs found in this region of Romania, had lived on islands when they were alive. There were no known large, carnivorous dinosaurs that could access the island, so it’s likely that pterosaurs were the top predators of their ecosystem.