You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Fossil find of Jurassic bird in Patagonia

AAP logoAAP 30/08/2016 mgv/bp

A group of scientists found a fossilised skull believed to be that of the oldest pterosaur or flying reptile from the early Jurassic period at the bottom of a lake in Argentina's Patagonia region.

The species has been named "Allkauren koi."

"We can say that they were reptiles ... completely adapted to flight. The bones of the cranium are pneumatic and ... they have no air cavities. This pterosaur in particular had teeth and a beak, a species with an elongated snout," Ariana Carabajal, an expert in neuropaleontology who was part of the scientific team, told EFE on Tuesday.

Allkauren koi means "ancient brain" in the Tehuelche language of the Indians who historically lived in the southern Chubut area, where the fossil was found.

Carabajal said the dinosaur had a skull about 7cm long, making it distinctive for both its age of some 170 million years and its small size.

"Compared to the other similar species we know of, this one is about the size of an egret, but it's very difficult to know exactly, since we only have parts of the skull and some neck vertebrae," Carabajal said.

The research paper discussing the find was published on Tuesday in the PeerJ scientific journal and it provides details of the circumstances surrounding the fossilised remains found by the team comprised of three Argentine and two German scientists.

Allkauren does not have the same anatomical characteristics as the two other species of ancient winged reptiles from the Mesozoic era, also known as the "Age of Reptiles."

The first, Rhamphorhynchus, was found in Germany and dates to the Triassic period, which preceded the Jurassic. It has a "horizontal cranial anatomy similar to Allkauren," although it was "more similar to a modern-day crocodile, but with wings," Carabajal said.

The second, Anhanguera, was found in Brazil and dates from the Cretaceous period, which followed the Jurassic and, in addition, had a different evolutionary history in terms of its cranial structures, not to mention being larger.

Carabajal said that this new species has cerebral characteristics that make it more similar "to a dove than to a reptile," although it is not at all certain if it was an ancestor of modern-day birds.

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon