Unleashing Curiosity, Igniting Discovery - The Science Fusion

An illustration of the newly recognized species, referred to as Haliskia peterseni

Gabriel Ugueto

A 100-million-year-old fossil pterosaur present in Australia could have had the most important and most muscular tongue of all its kin.

The fossil was present in 2021 by Kevin Petersen, the curator at Kronosaurus Korner, a museum close to the outback city of Richmond in Queensland.

Usually with pterosaurs – flying reptiles that inhabited Earth similtaneously dinosaurs – you may discover one bone, says Petersen. “However as I began to dig round, increasingly more bone began to point out and I realised I wanted to go very fastidiously,” he says.

Almost 1 / 4 of the skeleton has now been recovered, making it essentially the most full pterosaur ever discovered by scientists in Australia.

All the decrease jaw was preserved, together with a part of the higher jaw, vertebrae, ribs, and leg and ft bones. However most shocking was the preservation of the extraordinarily delicate throat bones, only a few millimetres in diameter, which reminded Petersen of spaghetti.

A staff led by Adele Pentland at Curtin College in Perth realised the fossil belonged to a completely new genus and species within the Anhangueria household of pterosaurs, that are discovered globally. The creature is estimated to have had a wingspan of 4.6 metres. In honour of Petersen, it has been named Haliskia peterseni.

Though unrelated to birds, it could have regarded a bit like a large pelican, says Petersen. However Pentland says it could have been a “demon pelican” as a result of it had a mouth stuffed with spiky tooth.

What units H. peterseni other than every other identified pterosaur is that its throat bones are a lot bigger, indicating that it had a large, muscular tongue, says Pentland.

The staff thinks the tongue was used to catch and maintain prey, most likely slippery animals resembling squid and fish. As soon as prey was grabbed by its jaws, H. peterseni’s tooth would have closed like a zipper or cage, stopping escape, says Pentland.

Like a pelican, it most likely swallowed its prey entire, she says. The tongue was additionally most likely used to push the meal down into its throat.

In the course of the Cretaceous Interval, when H. peterseni lived, what’s now inland Queensland was lined by ocean, which was the pterosaur’s looking floor.

“It was actually breathtaking to see the stays of this fossil animal and to think about the abundance of life that should have been there at the moment and the way very totally different it could have been to what we see in outback Queensland right now,” says Pentland.


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