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Two new ancient flying reptiles have been identified from remains excavated from the baked red clay of outback Queensland.
And bone scarring suggests one of the pterosaurs – the earliest vertebrates known to evolve powered flight – may have been snapped at by a crocodile.
The Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum and Melbourne Museum announced the discovery last week, with the bones also described in the journal Alcheringa.
A close-up view of the Boulia pterosaur femur.
A close-up view of the Boulia pterosaur femur. (Australian Age of Dinosaurs)
The second pterosaur femur was found near Winton, at the Elliot dig site in 2004.
The second pterosaur femur was found near Winton, at the Elliot dig site in 2004. (Australian Age of Dinosaurs)

The fossilised pterosaur bones were recovered on cattle stations in Boulia and Winton, approximately 355km apart.

It’s believed they date back to the early to mid-Cretaceous period; about 145 million years ago.

The first bone, a partial right femur, was discovered in 1991 during a field expedition and a second partial femur was found over a decade later around Winton.

In Australia, remains from these ancient flying reptiles are rare; to date, only four pterosaur species have been identified in Australia.

A previously discovered pterosaur, Thapunngaka shawi, is Australia's largest known flying reptile. It boasted a wing span of at least seven metres
Only four pterosaurs have been identified in Australia. A previously discovered species, Thapunngaka shawi, is Australia’s largest known flying reptile; it had a wing span of at least seven metres. (University of Queensland )

The new findings have been celebrated by researchers as they provide invaluable evidence into how reptiles interacted millions of years ago.

Lead author, Swinburne University PhD student Adele Pentland, said: “Insight into how ancient animals interacted with one another can be difficult to find.

“However, the presence of two circular depressions on the pterosaur’s femur suggests it may have been bitten by a small crocodile.”

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Despite being separated by hundreds of kilometres, the two leg bones were very similar to one other.

“These pterosaurs share commonalities to each other as well as to others found in Brazil,” Pentland said.

“At this time they were present on almost every continent and their similarities are a clear indication that they were incredibly successful animals.”

Outback Queensland is one of Australia’s richest sources of fossils.

Its remains were excavated from a sheep station near the Winton Formation in 2010.

Its last meal was a young dinosaur.

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