A flying reptile that lived 200 million years ago was discovered by a student in the United Kingdom, according to a new study published earlier this month. The discovery occurred while the UK student was studying reptile fossils from limestone quarries in the region surrounding the city of Bristol. Fossils of the ancient reptile sheds new light on unusual animals from prehistoric ecosystems in what is now the UK.
The prehistoric flying reptile belongs to the genus Draco, consisting of agamid lizards called gliding lizards, flying dragons, or flying lizards. The discovered extinct reptile in the area where Bristol now sits belong to a group known as “kuehneosaurs.” The family Kuehneosauridae consists of extinct small, gliding reptiles that lived during the Triassic period of Europe and North America.
Now, the new study (mentioned earlier) is led by researchers from the University of Bristol, who confirmed the existence of these flying reptiles during the Late Triassic and Early Jurassic periods, particularly in the area around Bristol and South Wales. The discovery of the prehistoric animal also shows the different environment the UK region has 200 million years ago.
Prehistoric Flying Reptile Discovered
The University of Bristol research paper was published in the journal Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association on January 20. It is led by Michael Cawthorne, who is one of the authors and the same person who found the prehistoric flying reptile in the Bristol area. Being a masters student at the UK university, Cawthorne is under the School of Earth Sciences, along with other authors.
Based on the new paper, the area surrounding Bristol and South Wales was an archipelago of islands occupied by relatively small-sized tetrapods. The largest of these now-vanished islands was Mendip Island, which now forms the Mendip Hills, a site rich in fossils. However, the research team acknowledged these sites have not been described in detail before.
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What are Kuehneosaurs?
Cawthorne identified the flying reptile creature through fossils from the ancient island and his team investigated fossils from these sites collected during the mid-20th century. During a press release, the UK student said he studied fossils made in the 1940s and 1950s when quarries in the region were still active. Still, Cawthorne was able to discover the fossils of the 200-million-year-old gliding reptile.
The prehistoric animal involved in the study is called, Kuehneosaurus latus, a species that is more related to dinosaurs and crocodilians than lizards. Yet, it is somehow similar to the Draco lizard species in Southeast Asia. Based on evidence, kuehneosaurs most likely roamed above ground and climbed trees to hunt for their insect prey. This hunting behavior is like predatory birds in modern times.
Despite the extinction of kuehneosaurs, surviving non-avian dinosaurs and its avian descendants from the mass extinction 66 million years ago were still able to evolve with some maintaining the ability of flight and gliding, as the case for some bird species of today.
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