Pterosaur Discovery: Prehistoric Flying Reptile Named After Fossil Hunter

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By sangeetha seshagiri | March 24, 2013 9:44 PM EST

A nine-year-old girl who discovered a new species of flying reptile four years ago has been honoured by having the species named after her.

Youngster Daisy Morris found some "bones sticking out of the sand," while hunting for fossils at the UK's Isle of Wight in 2008 when she was five years old, reported BBC.

The girl's parents brought the fossils to fossil expert Martin Simpson, at the University of Southampton. Simpson and his colleagues identified the specimen as a new species of pterosaur - a flying reptile that lived alongside dinosaurs during the Lower Cretaceous period, 220 million years ago. The crow-sized pterosaur was named Vectidraco daisymorrisae by the paleontologists. They belong to the group of group of pterosaurs called the azhdarchoids.

The fossils are being preserved at the Natural History Museum for public display. The discovery of the fossil remains of a pterosaur has come just a week after paleontologists discovered a nearly complete skeleton of a 12-feet long dinosaur on the Isle of Wight. Following the discoveries, the museum has named the island as the "dinosaur capital of Great Britain," the BBC report said.

It is very difficult to determine the size of pterodactyloids as they are highly variable in relative body proportions and wing shape, said the researchers. They compared the newly-discovered species with the skeletal reconstructions of the small azhdarchoid Tapejara - a genus of Brazilian pterosaur from the Cretaceous Period. The research team estimated the total length of Vectidraco (from snout to tail) to be about 35 cm (14 inches). They also suggested that the pterosaur likely had a wingspan of about 30 inches (75 cm).

The newly-found species probably had a head crest similar to other small-bodied azhdarchoids. The pterosaur was a good walker and runner on the ground, as well as an expert in flying through dense forests, reported National Geographic.

The findings of the study are published in the journal PLOS ONE

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