Fossil of Oldest Known Pterodactyloid Discovered

Posted on April 24, 2014

Fragmentary remains of Kryptodrakon progenitor


Scientists have discovered the fossil of the oldest known Pterodactyloid in northwest China. The newly named pterosaur species, Kryptodrakon progenitor, lived about 163 million years ago. This pushes the fossil record for pterodactyloids back by at least 5 million years. The research was led by USF paleontologist Brian Andres, James Clark of the George Washington University Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, and Xu Xing of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The diagram above shows the fragmentary remains of Kryptodrakon progenito using a skeletal outline of Pterodactylus antiques.

Chris Liu, program director in the National Science Foundation's Division of Earth Sciences, says in a statement, "This finding represents the earliest and most primitive pterodactyloid pterosaur, a flying reptile in a highly specialized group that includes the largest flying organisms. The research has extended the fossil record of pterodactyloids by at least five million years to the Middle-Upper Jurassic boundary about 163 million years ago."

Kryptodrakon progenitor had a wingspan of about 4.5 feet, which made it one of the smaller pterodactyloids. The name is derived from Krypto (hidden) and drakon (serpent), which refer to the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which was filmed near where the species was discovered. Progenitor (ancestral or first-born), referring to its status as the earliest known pterodactyloid.

A research paper on Kryptodrakon progenitor was published here in Current Biology.

Image: Brian Andres/Peter Wellnhofer