A team of researchers has discovered fossilized remains of what they believe to be a new species of the flying reptile pterosaur in the north central Chubut province in Argentina's Patagonia region.
The newly discovered species, described in a paper published in the journal PeerJ, was named "Allkauren koi" from the native Tehuelche word "all" for "brain," and "karuen" for "ancient." The remains of Allkauren unearthed in the Patagonia region include a well-preserved and uncrushed braincase.
Using computed tomography, the researchers were able to analyze the neurocranial anatomy of Allkauren by observing the cranial endocast and inner ear in three dimensions. Furthermore, a comprehensive phylogenetic analysis of the group was performed, which include the cranial data along with other anatomical features.
"Allkaruen, from the middle lower jurassic limit, shows an intermediate state in the brain evolution of pterosaurs and their adaptations to the aerial environment," explained Dr. Diego Pol, who is part of the research team, in a statement. "As a result, this research makes an important contribution to the understanding of the evolution of all of pterosaurs."
Along with the braincase, the researchers were also able to find a vertebra and bone in the bone bed that contains many pterosaur remains. The small size of the intact braincase led the researchers to believe that it belongs to a smaller species of pterosaur.
Pterosaurs are flying reptiles that live most of the Mesozoic Era, about 252 to 66 million years ago. The flying dinosaurs underwent a series of adaptation to be good fliers. They possess pneumatic bones that lighten up its weight and an elongated digit to support a wing membrane.
Pterosaurs are divided into two major groups: "rhamphorhynchoids" and "pterodactyloids." Rhamphorhynchoids are known for their long tail, short neck and metacarpus, while pterodactyloids have a shorter tail, elongated neck and metacarpus and have a much larger body size.
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