The discovery of the giant “dragon of death” with a wingspan of 9 meters in Argentina

Translated by Giulio Batista
Original by Jennifer Nallwicki for LiveScience

Two giant flying reptiles that paleontologists have dubbed the “death dragon” have been discovered in the Plottier Formation, an outcrop located in Mendoza Province. The wingspan of the two specimens is about 7 meters and 9 meters wide, respectively. Researchers have confirmed that they are azhdarchidae, a family of pterosaurs that lived during the late Cretaceous period (approximately 146 million to 66 million years ago). Leonardo de Ortiz David, lead author of a new study describing the huge pterosaurs and general coordinator of the Argentine Dinosaur Laboratory and Mendoza Museum, told Live Science via email.

Scientists have identified pterosaurs as two individuals of a species Thanatosdracon Amaro. This is the only type of genus, which means “dragon of death” in Greek. The study authors stated that the species name, “amaru,” translates to “flying serpent” in the indigenous Quechua language and refers to Amaru, a two-headed Inca deity.

The researchers determined that both pterosaurs died at the same time and that one was not yet complete. But scientists can’t say for sure if the two animals are part of a family group.

“There is no indication in the fossil remains of a degree of paternal relationship,” Ortiz-David said. “However, it can be asserted that both specimens are of different sizes, that the smaller specimen is one of the sub-juveniles, and that they were together when they died more than 86 million years ago.”

Paleontologist Leonardo de Ortiz David stands next to a full-size reconstruction of Thanatosdracon at the Dinosaur Laboratory and Museum of the National University of De Cuyo in Mendoza, Argentina. (Credits: Courtesy of Leonardo de Ortiz David)

The excavations were found during excavations of a construction project 800 km from the capital of Mendoza (also called Mendoza). David Ortiz and his team were supervising the excavations when they discovered fossil fragments within sediments in the area. Mendoza, where Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the Americas is also located, is well known among paleontologists for other important dinosaur discoveries, including the discovery of a giant sauropod. nototocolosusone of the world’s largest dinosaurs, in 2016. (Ortiz David’s research group also made this discovery.) “Fossils [de Thanatosdrakon] They were in various states of preservation; Some were complete, like the humerus [ossos grandes do braço]Syncarpus [ossos do pé fundidos] and dorsal vertebrae. Others were fragmented, including the phalanxes [ossos do dedo do pé]ulna radio [ossos do antebraço]Thigh bone [osso da perna] And the pelvis. “

This image shows part of the Thanatosdrakon radius, or forearm bone, where it connects to the shoulder. (Credits: Courtesy of Leonardo de Ortiz David)

Ortiz-David said the team’s discovery of fossils in such good condition was surprising, because pterosaurs’ bones are fragile and fossils are often found in small pieces.

From the start, two facts caught our attention: the first was the size of the remains and their preservation in three dimensions, a condition not uncommon in this group of vertebrates; The second is the amount of remains found at the site, since giant pterosaurs are known only from fragments (with a few exceptions).” The description of new specimens is always important to vertebrate paleontology, as it illustrates the different groups being studied. In this particular case, 3D elements of large pterosaurs are scarce Thanatosdracon Excellent case study.

The fossils are currently in the Dinosaur Laboratory and Museum at the Universidad Nacional de Cuyo in Mendoza. To aid in the preservation of the specimens, museum experts made molds of the various fossils on a scale of 1 to 1; The molds are on display in the museum.

The researchers’ findings will be published in the September 2022 issue of the journal Cretaceous search.

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