Paleontologists around the world are rejoicing—and anyone who ever harbored a secret fondness for dinosaurs, might be celebrating too.
A fossilized pterosaur has been found with a fossilized egg between its legs allowing scientists to identify a female of the species for the first time in history.
The findings appear in the journal Science.
The remains of the creature was discovered in a dried lake bed in China frozen in sediment that had become rock. No crest is discernible in this latest fossil leading scientists to conclude that only males had crests used as sexual displays to attract females. Crested Pterosaurs also have narrower hips. That physical feature also supports the view that crested ones were male.
The Pterosaur found with the egg has wide hips.
Terrifying predators that flew up to 75mph
Pterosaurs, often called pterodactyls, had wingspans that could reach up to 35 feet—making them the size of some modern jet fighter aircraft. They dominated the skies from the late Triassic to the end of the Cretaceous Period (220 to 65.5 million years ago), able to fly thousands of miles and reaching speeds up to 75 miles per hour. The female discovered lived about 160 million years ago.
Pterosaur eggs were leathery, not hard-shelled. The eggs were flexible and described by some researchers as “parchment-like.”
Took flight from birth
Unlike birds raised by parents in nests, Pterosaur hatchlings were left untended. That supports the idea that the young could fly from birth.
And while some researchers contend that females laid a clutch of eggs, others point out that the fossilized egg found with the female specimen was so large in relation to the “mother’s” internal organs that the evidence suggests Pterosaurs may only have laid one egg at a time.
In an interview with the BBC, David Unwin, a palaeobiologist in the Department of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester described the find as astonishing. “If somebody had said to me a few years back that we would find this kind of association, I would just have laughed and said, ‘yeah, maybe in a million years,’ because these sorts of things are incredibly rare.”
In December of 2010 a Lufkin, Texas man discovered that he had the world’s only known in-egg Pterodactyl embryo.
“I had these eggs, and I was always curious and wondering if something was inside,” Dr. Neal Naranjo told The Lufkin Daily News.
Naranjo had six eggs, one identified as Pterodactyl. After CT scanning—that revealed five of the six eggs had embryos—the doctor realized the Pterodactyl egg was one of the five.
“When we saw it, we started yelling and screaming and jumping up and down and going ‘It’s a baby! It’s a baby!’” Naranjo told the newspaper.