Stuart Atwood/National Museums of Scotland via AP
Scientists on the Isle of Skye in Scotland on Tuesday discovered a 170 million-year-old pterodactyl fossil, described as the world’s best-preserved skeleton of a prehistoric pterodactyl.
The Scottish National Museum said the pterosaur fossil, more commonly known as a pterodactyl, is the largest of its kind ever discovered from the Jurassic period. The reptile’s wingspan is estimated to be more than 2.5 meters (8.2 feet), similar to that of an albatross, the museum said.
The fossil was discovered in 2017 by a Ph.D. Student Amelia Penny during a field trip on the Isle of Skye in remote northwest Scotland, when she spotted a pterosaur’s jaw protruding from the rocks. It will now be added to the Museum’s collection.
Said Natalia Jagelska, a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh and the author of a new scientific paper describing the discovery.
Steve Brusatte, professor of paleontology at the University of Edinburgh, said the find was the best find found in Britain since the early 19th century, when famous fossil hunter Mary Anning uncovered several important Jurassic fossils on the English south coast.
The fossil, he said, had “feathery” bones as thin as leaves, and it took several days to cut it out of the rock with diamond-tipped saws while his team struggled against the tides.
“It tells us that pterosaurs got bigger much earlier than we thought, long before the Cretaceous when they were competing with birds, and that’s very important,” Brusatte added.
The pterosaur was given the Gaelic name Dirk Sjiatanach, which translates as “pterodactyl reptile”.
Pterosaurs were the first vertebrates to fly about 50 million years before birds. They lived until the Triassic period, about 230 million years ago. It was previously thought that they were much smaller during the Jurassic period.
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