Paleontologists have analyzed a partial pelvis bone and a small wing bone from two different pterosaur individuals found in the Australian province of Victoria.
The fossils are the first pterosaur remains reported from Victoria. Moreover, they represent the geologically oldest pterosaur remains reported from Australia, and include the first report of a juvenile pterosaur from the continent.
“Pterosaurs — which were close cousins of the dinosaurs — were winged reptiles that soared through the skies during the Mesozoic Era,” said Adele Pentland, a Ph.D. student at Curtin University and the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum of Natural History.
“During the Cretaceous period (145-66 million years ago), Australia was further south than it is today, and the state of Victoria was within the polar circle — covered in darkness for weeks on end during the winter.”
“Despite these seasonally harsh conditions, it is clear that pterosaurs found a way to survive and thrive.”
The pterosaur specimens analyzed by Pentland and colleagues were found in the 1980s at a locality called Dinosaur Cove in the Cretaceous-period Eumeralla Formation, Cape Otway, Victoria.
The partial pelvis bone belonged to a pterosaur — either a member of the Archaeopterodactyloidea or Pteranodontia — with a wingspan exceeding 2 m.
The small wing bone belonged to a juvenile pterosaur — the first ever reported in Australia.
“Pterosaurs are rare worldwide, and only a few remains have been discovered at what were high paleolatitude locations, such as Victoria, so these bones give us a better idea as to where pterosaurs lived and how big they were,” Pentland said.
“By analyzing these bones, we have also been able to confirm the existence of the first ever Australian juvenile pterosaur, which resided in the Victorian forests around 107 million years ago.”
“Although the bones provide important insights about pterosaurs, little is known about whether they bred in these harsh polar conditions.”
“It will only be a matter of time until we are able to determine whether pterosaurs migrated north during the harsh winters to breed, or whether they adapted to polar conditions.”
“Finding the answer to this question will help researchers better understand these mysterious flying reptiles.”
Adele H. Pentland et al. Oldest pterosaur remains from Australia: evidence from the Lower Cretaceous (lower Albian) Eumeralla Formation of Victoria. Historical Biology, published online May 30, 2023; doi: 10.1080/08912963.2023.2201827