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Prehistoric flying reptile used its 'enormous teeth' to threaten others

Washington , Wed, 15 Feb 2012 ANI

Washington, Feb 15 (ANI): Paleontologists have discovered that the prehistoric flying reptile, pterosaur, had massive, curved teeth, which they used to catch fish and also possibly to scare off others.


They said Coloborhynchus capito, which had teeth measuring up to 4 inches long each, is the world's largest known toothed pterosaur.


Although this pterosaur was large, with an estimated 23-foot wingspan, other pterosaurs, such as the enormous Quetzalcoatlus, grew to even larger sizes.


"The first two teeth of each jaw projected forwards and may have been 3 inches long, and the two teeth behind it would have been a bit longer at 4 inches," David Martill, a professor in the University of Portsmouth's Palaeobiology Research Group, told Discovery News.


"Together (the teeth) formed a sort of rosette that interlocked when the jaws were closed," he added, saying that they might have been used in "threatening displays" and for catching fish.


Martill and colleague David Unwin of the University of Leicester made the discovery after analyzing a fragmentary, yet toothy, fossil housed within the collections of the Natural History Museum, London.


The fossil was unearthed from the Cretaceous Cambridge Greensand of eastern England, revealing that the pterosaur lived around 100 million years ago during what is known as the Albian stage.


During that time, Cambridge was under the sea. But Martill said there might have been a low island to the south where London is now. The climate was tropical then.


Based on other fossil finds, the region was teaming with life. Fish, ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, crocodiles, turtles, dinosaurs (including prehistoric birds), and different types of pterosaurs all lived in the area.


Unlike dinosaurs, which live on today through birds, pterosaurs have no modern day descendants. They were "a sort of cousin to dinosaurs," according to Martill, and they bit the earthly dust 65.5 million years ago, when the world's non-avian dinosaurs also went extinct.


They researchers believe that one of the biggest known pterosaurs was Quetzalcoatlus, with a wingspan that could have extended 32 feet.


The finding will be published in the April issue of the journal Cretaceous Research. (ANI)


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