Scientists have discovered a unique type of feathered dinosaur that lived on the Isle of Skye in Scotland during the Middle Jurassic period, about 168 million years ago.
The new type of winged dinosaur, called Sioptera evansi, belongs to a group of pterosaurs (flying reptiles) known as Darwinoptera, many of which were also found in China.
Ceoptera evansae gets the first part of its name from the Scottish Gaelic word “cheo”, meaning fog, and the Latin word “ptera”, meaning wing. The second part, Evansae, is named after the British paleontologist Professor Susan E. Evans.
Paleontologists discovered the fossil remains in 2006 during a field trip to the village of Elgol, located on the southwest coast of the Isle of Skye in the Scottish Highlands, the Independent newspaper reported on Tuesday.
Since then, the team has spent years physically preparing the sample and making scans of the bones, some of which are completely embedded in the rock.
Although the skeleton is incomplete – only parts of the shoulders, wings, legs and spine remain – researchers said it provides important insights into the evolutionary history and diversity of pterosaurs.
The findings, published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, suggest that Darwinoptera may have been far more diverse than previously thought, and may have lived for more than 25 million years.
Professor Paul Barrett, mural researcher at the Natural History Museum, said: “Ceoptera helps to narrow down the timing of several key events in the evolution of flying reptiles. Its presence in the Middle Jurassic in the UK was a big surprise, as most of its close relatives Was in China.”
He said, “It appears that the advanced group of flying reptiles to which it belongs appeared earlier than we thought and rapidly gained an almost global distribution.”
Because the Elgol coastal site is classified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, the team led by Professor Barrett was only able to collect samples from rocks that had fallen on the beach, but the rocks themselves were used to examine these fossils. While crawling, researchers noticed the presence of a small number of bones, which have now been identified as new pterosaurs.
Lead author and palaeontologist Dr Liz Martin-Silverstone of the University of Bristol said: “The time period to which Ceoptera belongs is one of the most important periods in the evolution of pterosaurs, and it is also the period in which we have some of the most Out of small samples, demonstrates its importance.
“Finding more bones buried within the rock, some of which were integral to identifying the species of pterosaur Ceoptera, is a better discovery than initially thought. It brings us one step closer to understanding how That's where and when the more advanced pterosaurs evolved,” he added.
Pterosaur fossils from the Middle Jurassic period are rare and often incomplete, hampering efforts to understand how these creatures evolved, the researchers said.
Flying reptiles or pterosaurs are creatures that lived alongside dinosaurs from the late Triassic period to the end of the Cretaceous period (225 to 65.5 million years ago). There are over 100 known species of pterosaurs, and they were predators.
Pterosaurs are also the oldest known vertebrates capable of flight, and their wings consisted of a thin but strong skin membrane, and muscles and other tissues extending from the legs to the fins and 4 toes. They have long, fully serrated jaws and relatively long tails.