A newly discovered species of pterosaur may have foraged for food by flying low over water and scooping up prey near the surface much like a modern-day pelican.
Two sets of fossils from north-eastern China show the flying lizard, which lived during the Early Cretaceous period about 120 million year ago, had an elongated skull and a pelican-like throat pouch.
Pterosaurs are the earliest vertebrates known to have evolved powered flight.
Ikrandraco avatar, the new species unearthed by Xiaolin Wang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Alexander Kellner of the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiroand colleagues, was found in the Aptian Jiufotang Formation of northeast China.
Features identified in two partial skeletons include a very low and elongated skull, a
well-developed crest on the lower jaw bone with a unique hook shape on it, which the authors
propose may have served as an anchor for soft tissue such as a throat sac.
The name derives from Ikran, from the fictional flying creatures in the film Avatar which are reminiscent of pterosaurs and are depicted with a similarly well-developed dentary crest, and draco, from the Latin meaning dragon.
Details of the find are published in the journal Scientific Reports.
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