The ancient reptile lived in the Late Cretaceous period 86 million years ago, and is the largest pterosaur species ever discovered in South America, said study author Leonardo D. Ortiz David. He is the general coordinator of the Dinosaur Laboratory and Museum of the National University of Cuyo. in mendoza argentina
In Greek, Thanatos means death and drakon means dragon, Ortiz David said.
“Amaru was selected as the name of the species because it represents an imposing deity in the cosmovision of some aboriginal peoples of South America,” he said.
Two different specimens were found in 2012 in the south of Mendoza in the Plottier Formation, a group of sedimentary rocks that contains the remains of sauropods, theropods, turtles, crocodiles and pterosaurs, Ortiz David said.
He had been working in the area for 12 years and was surprised to find the remains of pterosaurs, which were rare in the outcrops where he worked, he said.
The flying reptiles belong to the pterosaur family called Azhdarchidae and featured large heads, elongated necks and short bodies, he said. The wingspans of the two specimens were about 23 and 29.5 feet (7 and 9 meters), respectively, Ortiz David said.
The largest specimen has a upper arm bone, while the smaller one has much of its body, legs and wings, said James Kirkland, a Utah state paleontologist with the Utah Geological Survey. He was not involved in the study.
“This is a very impressive discovery, as the bones of the giant azhdarchid pterosaur are so thin and delicate that very few are found, especially since they live in inland environments,” said Kirkland.
The animal also sported a proportionally big head, but Ortiz David said he didn’t know what his purpose, if any, was.
Kirkland also didn’t know the reason for the huge head, but the matching beak could be used for eating, he said.
“The long toothless bill may have served well to swallow smaller prey like pelicans do,” Ortiz David said by email.
How to see the pterosaur
The fossils are being stored in the Mendoza Dinosaur Laboratory and Museum.
The public cannot see the specimens because they are so valuable, but casts of some of the fossils from the two specimens were made to view in the museum, Ortiz David said.
There is also a life-size reconstruction on display, he added.