THE FOSSILISED remains of a giant prehistoric creature with a wingspan of at least 20ft have been found embedded in cliffs on the Isle of Wight.
The giant pterosaur fossil, known as Hatzegopteryx, lived about 125 million years ago and could be one of the biggest species ever to fly.
The giant pterosaur could be one of the biggest species ever to fly[/caption]
Boffins reckon the dinosaur-hunting predator weighed up to 650lbs and had enormous elongated jaws to catch and kill prey.
The sheer size of such creatures has long baffled scientists because they seem too heavy to take off.
Now research with a computerised 3D model suggests they used their massive leg and wing muscles to catapult themselves into the air.
Robert Coram, a professional fossil hunter who made the find, said: “It might have been the largest flying creature that had ever lived up to that time.
“We think this is one of the first superpterosaurs.
“The Isle of Wight is incredibly heavily prospected by people almost on a daily basis, so it’s a matter of being able to spot the little things that they can’t.”
Pterosaurs, which are separate from dinosaurs, were the first backboned animals to evolve powered flight.
They emerged about 228 million years ago and dominated the air for 160 million years.
The Isle of Wight pterosaur is thought to have been one of the earliest species to reach such monstrous sizes.
Michael Habib, a pterosaur expert at the University of Southern California, said: “Unlike birds, which walk and jump into the air using only their hind limbs, pterosaurs walked on all fours.
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“Mathematical modelling indicates that launching from a quadrupedal stance – pushing off first with the hind limbs and then with the forelimbs – would have provided the leaping power giant pterosaurs required for takeoff.”
Pterosaurs vanished from the skies when an asteroid hit the Earth 66 million years ago, also wiping out the dinosaurs.
Mr Habib added: “Although it ends with extinction, the story of pterosaurs is one of success: they were the ultimate aerial giants.”
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