An ancient flying reptile with a bizarre, butterfly-like head has been unearthed in Brazil. The new-found reptile species, Caiuajara dobruskii—a type of flying reptile known as a pterosaur—lived about 80 million years ago in an ancient desert oasis. The beast sported a strange bony crest on its head that looked like the wings of a butterfly, and had the wingspan needed to take flight at a very young age. Hundreds of fossils from the reptile were unearthed in a single bone bed, providing the strongest evidence yet that the flying reptiles were social animals, said study co-author Alexander Kellner, a palaeontologist at the National Museum at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.
This helps us to have a glimpse on the anatomical variation achieved by this species from young to old.
Alexander Kellner, a palaeontologist with Brazil’s National Museum at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro
These pterosaurs, whose wingspans measured up to nearly 2.35 metres, inhabited a lakeside oasis in a large desert region during the Cretaceous Period, living in vibrant colonies with others of the same species of all ages. Pterosaurs were Earth’s first flying vertebrates, with birds and bats making their appearances much later. They thrived from about 220 million years ago to 65 million years ago, when they were wiped out by the asteroid that also doomed the dinosaurs.