Thursday, February 7, 2013

Ancient Winged Transylvanian Predator Discovered

When you think of winged predators soaring through the Transylvanian evening, you generally think of a mythical bat preying on men, hotly pursued by Dr. Abraham Van Helsing to rid the world of vampires.

However, some cryptozoologists feel that Bram Stoker’s legendary monster story is rooted in the genuine reports of Transylvanians who observed a monstrous, nocturnal flying predator: namely a pterosaur.

The discovery of Eurazhdarcho is the most complete example of an azhdarchid found in Europe so far. According to researchers, its discovery adds credence to a theory about the behavior of these types of creatures.

I’m in no way about to propagate that myth (however cool it would be!) but there is a romantic relationship between discovering a large pterosaur in the Late Cretaceous rocks of the Sebeş-Glod in the Transylvanian Basin, Romania, and Dracula himself.

The location of the discovery is what’s most exciting about this find, too. The Sebeş-Glod has been the source of other prehistoric and fossilized dinosaurs, mammals, turtles, lizards and ancient crocodiles.

It’s a 68-million-year-old formation which senior lecturer in vertebrate palaeontology at the National Oceanography Centre Southampton Gareth Dyke says was comprised of an inland, continental environment which included meandering rivers and swampy regions.

It strengthens the argument to suggest these pterosaurs soared above forests and plains in search of small animal prey.

What makes this pterosaur, Eurazhdarcho langendorfensis, special is that it’s the first azhdarchid pterosaur discovered in Europe, and one of the most complete discoveries of its kind, which helps further illustrate its bizarre form:

A medium-sized wingspan of three metres, long neck, long beak and wings strongly adapted for a soaring lifestyle. Features of its wings and hind-limb bones show it could fold its wings and walk on all fours, as well. 
“Experts have argued for years over the lifestyle and behavior of azhdarchids. It has been suggested that they grabbed prey from the water while in flight, that they patrolled wetlands and hunted in a heron or stork-like fashion, or that they were like gigantic sandpipers, hunting by pushing their long bills into mud,” says Gareth Dyke.
Its discovery strengthens suggestions that azhdarchid pterosaurs were linked to terrestrial floodplains and wooded environments, because Eurazhdarcho lived alongside other gigantic contemporary pterosaurs, like Hatzegopteryx thambema.


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