Carnivorous animals lived in modern-day Alberta during the Cretaceous period about 77 million years ago, according to a study in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. It can grow to about 13 feet in height, with wingspan of up to 30 feet, making it one of the largest flying animals ever. He had no chewing apparatus, so he would probably eat anything small enough to go down the groove, including lizards, mammals and baby dinosaurs.
Like other pterosaurs, Cryodrakon had rather uncomfortable proportions, with a long neck, huge wings and a slender head about 3.5 times the length of the body. As an expert put it, imagine "a giant flying head for murder." Alternatively: "A pair of wings that carry a big head for shiny things."
Researchers say that while the new name of the pterosaur is more inspired by Alberta's frigid landscape than it was by Game of Thrones, they were aware that this might draw some comparisons.
"Yes, we had a good, personal laugh about it," says Michael Habib, a paleontologist at the University of Southern California and a fan of the show.
François Terien, curator of dinosaur paleoecology at the Royal Museum of Tirelle Paleontology in Alberta, noted that although modern Alberta is known for its harsh winters, the landscape over which the Cryodracon would eventually extend into epoch was a tropical paradise near the great inland sea.
The fossils used to establish the holodotype of the Cryodracon ̵
1; the only specimen on which the new species is found – were discovered about 30 years ago at Dinosaur Alberta Provincial Park, known as one of the richest dinosaur fossil sources in the world . Until recently, however, it was believed that the remains belong to an already known species of pterosaur, called Quetzalcoatlus, first discovered in Texas.
Habib, one of the few scientists in the world who worked extensively with Quetzalcoatlus fossils, said that when he first saw the Canadian pterosaur four years ago, he had the idea that it was not what he had seen before. While his cervical bones were as long as a typical Quetzalcoatlus, his proportions did not match.
He turned to the assistance of David Hone, a taxonomy specialist in pterosaurs, the classification of organisms, who realized that the remains in Alberta are extremely well preserved. The skeleton the researchers worked on consists of parts of the animal's wings, legs, neck and ribs – a remarkable sample, he said, given that the bones of these reptiles tend to be thin and brittle, leading to to their disintegration over time.
"This type of pterosaur [azhdarchids] is quite rare and most specimens are just one bone," Habib tells SciTech Daily. "Our new species is represented by a partial skeleton. This tells us a lot about the anatomy of these big flyers, how they flew and how they lived. "
Heine had a" Eureka moment "early on when he discovered a particular pattern of holes in the fossils that seemed unique but took him and other researchers a few more years to test the pterosaur remains in Mongolia, France and elsewhere to confirm it is a new species, he said.
Now that they have the Opportunities for future research is expanding, says Terien.
"I tell my students all the time, taxonomy is the most fundamental bit of biological science," says Hoyne, director of the biology program at Queen Mary University of London. "If you don't know what species you have, how do you know what's going on?"