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Three new species of pterosaurs discovered in Morocco

In a study to be published in the scientific journal Cretaceous Research, researchers announce the discovery of three new species of pterosaurs from fossils found near Erfoud. Species that allow us to trace the evolution of this species before the extinction of the dinosaurs.

The Kem-Kem mountains in south-eastern Morocco continue to reveal their secrets to paleontologists. In a study published in the June 2020 edition of the scientific journal Cretaceous Research, an international team of scientists led by Baylor University announces that it has identified three new species of African pterosaurs. A discovery based on fossils found in the village of Beggaa, near Erfoud.

“The Pterodactyloidea pterosaurs underwent diversification in the Upper Jurassic and the Lower Cretaceous, followed by a major renewal event in the Middle Cretaceous, when the ornithocheiridae and the basal azhdarchoids were replaced by the pteranodontids, the nyctosaurids and the azhdarchidae the last Cretaceous,” explain the editors of the study.

However, the renewal patterns of this species remain “obscured by the incomplete nature of the fossil record of pterosaurs”, it is said. The fossils of the beds of the Middle Cretaceous Kem Kem of Morocco thus make it possible to offer more details on the diversity of pterosaurs of this period.

Predators feeding on fish

Since the fossils discovered, the study evokes several species, some of which have been discovered elsewhere. In total, the Kem Kem pterosaur fauna includes at least nine species, five of which are ornithocheiridae: an ornithocheirids Siroccopteryx Moroccensis, a Coloborhynchus fluviferox, an Anhanguera piscator, an Ornithocheirus simus and a Coloborhynchus.

“Pterosaur fossils are very rare, most of them found in Europe, South America and Asia”, explains Megan Jacobs, doctoral student in geosciences at Baylor University and main author of the study, quoted by Futura Sciences. “Despite their three to four meter wingspan, these pterosaurs were real featherweights, with bones as thin as paper and filled with air, very similar to those of birds. This allowed these creatures to reach incredible sizes while being able to take off and fly away,” describes the scientist.

Quoted by The Guardian, a spokeswoman for the University of Portsmouth, said that “these predators had flown over a world dominated by other predators, including hunters resembling crocodiles and carnivorous dinosaurs.” “Interestingly, herbivores such as sauropods and ornithischian dinosaurs were rare,” she said at the time.

She specifies that these dinosaurs spotted and thus captured fish thanks to their beak furnished with long teeth in the shape of an ear. “Large pterosaurs like these could have fed over great distances, like today’s birds such as condors and albatrosses,” she says.

For his part, Professor David Martill, paleontologist at the University of Portsmouth estimated that this is the “golden age to discover pterodactyls”, welcoming this discovery of the three new species.

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