Pterosaurs Filled the Skys Over Africa

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Four New Species of Prehistoric Flying Reptiles Unearthed in Morocco

by Alex Fox/Smithsonianmag.com

In recent weeks, paleontologists have reported four new species of prehistoric flying reptiles dating back to the mid-Cretaceous, or about 100 million years ago all found in Morocco.

These leathery-winged predators, part of an extinct group known as pterosaurs, were excavated from the Kem Kem fossil beds in southeastern Morocco. Three new species of toothed pterosaur, all part of the Ornithocheiridae family, identified from chunks of jaws studded with pointed teeth, were first reported last month in the journal Cretaceous Research. A fourth pterosaurAfrotapejara zouhrii, which had no teeth, is the first of its kind found on African soil, identified by part of its skull, according to a University of Portsmouth statement.

“These new finds provide an important window into the world of African pterosaurs,” Nizar Ibrahim, a paleontologist from the University of Detroit Mercy, says in a statement. “We know so much more about pterosaurs from places like Europe and Asia, so describing new specimens from Africa is always very exciting.”

Researchers hypothesize these soaring hunters had 13-feet-wide wingspans, and snatched fish with their sharp teeth, forming part of an ancient river ecosystem that included crocodiles, turtles and predatory dinosaurs. The fourth species, Afrotapejara zouhrii, …read more:

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