A giant flying reptile that dominated the sky 170 million years ago has been discovered on the Isle of Skye
The terrifying beast, which had rows of “self-sharp” teeth and a wingspan of 8 feet, is the largest Jurassic pterosaur ever known.
A terrifying flying reptile with a wingspan of 8 feet is the largest Jurassic pterosaur ever
Its fossil was found on a remote beach by Amelia Penney, a student at the University of Edinburgh.
One team faced a frantic race over time to dig it out before the tide blew it away. The new species has been given the Gaelic name Dierk sagithanach, which translates as “winged reptile”.
Professor Steve Brussett of the university’s School of Geoscience called it “ancient and immaculately preserved” and said that seeing a bunch of them “would be like something out of an Alfred Hitchcock horror film”.
He said: “They would have been a spine-chilling sight, swooping down to catch and eat prey.
“It had large, sharp teeth that made a sort of cage when it closed its jaw—perfect for trapping fish.
“I don’t like being on the seashore when seagulls swarm around and they’re tiny compared to this thing. A bunch of them would have been something like an Alfred Hitchcock horror movie.
“It is one of the most beautiful, ancient and immaculately preserved pterosaur skeletons found anywhere in the world.
“This is a new species that shows that flying reptiles from the Jurassic era became much larger than previously thought.”
PhD student Natalia Jagielska said the animal had 24 teeth that would regrow when stabbed.
Natalia, 25, of Bolton, said: “This is probably the best British skeleton found from the days of Mary Anning in the early 1800s.
“Diark is the largest pterosaur we know of since the Jurassic period. This tells us that pterosaurs grew large, long before the Cretaceous period, when they were competing with birds, and this is extremely important. “
The fossil was unveiled yesterday at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.
But Prof Brusatte, author of the best-selling The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs, said his team faced an “absolutely frantic” race to retrieve the bones before the tide came.
He said: “Pterosaur bones are incredibly fragile because they are filled with air sacs. Some of the bone walls are as thin as a sheet of paper.
“We feared the rising tide would destroy a lot of the bones that we had exposed before it was time to take them out. It was absolutely frantic.”
Things got worse when researchers were spotted by a well-meaning elderly English couple vacationing on Skye.
Prof Brusatte said: “They thought we were trying to illegally poach these fossils and tried to arrest a civilian.
“As the water swirled around our feet, we had to try and convince them that we were legitimate and urgently needed to continue working. It was comical and funny.
“I’m by far the most stressed out during any fieldwork.”
Source: Chris Pollard, The Sun