New Species of Pterosaur Discovered by Four-Year-Old Girl

First Posted: Mar 20, 2013 12:06 PM EDT

Pterosaur remains have been discovered before, but they haven't all been discovered by a four-year-old. A new species of this flying reptile was uncovered by a little girl; now, the pterosaur has been named in her honor.

Pterosaurs once roamed the Earth during the Cretaceous, living worldwide in all kinds of different environments. The reptiles had the ability of powered flight--actively gaining height and taking off from the ground rather than just gliding or soaring. In addition, pterosaurs had short, fur-like reptilian "hair" which has been observed in the soft tissue preserved in some fossils. They ranged greatly in size, with some of them possessing a wingspan that stretched up to 42 feet. The recent find, though, only had about a two-foot wingspan and was small-bodied. Yet even so, it lived alongside the much larger ornithocheirids and istiodactylids.

The new species that was discovered is now named Vectidraco daisymorrisae. "Vectidraco" means "dragon from the Isle of Wight" while "daisymorrisae" honors the founder, Daisy Morris. According to her mother, Daisy had been an avid fossil hunter since she was three. When she came across blackened bones sticking out of the sand on the Isle of Wight in 2009, the young girl quickly dug them up. The family eventually presented the girl's findings to Southampton University's Martin Simpson, a fossil expert.

Without Daisy, in fact, the fossil may have never been found. The Isle of Wight's coastline is slowly eroding, which means that the pterosaur remains would have eventually been washed away over time.

The island itself, though, is receiving quite a bit of attention. More and more fossils are being unearthed from its shoreline and it's known to some as the "dinosaur capital of Great Britain." The recent announcement comes only a week after the discovery of an almost complete skeleton of a 12-foot long dinosaur on the same island.

The fossil has now been donated to the Natural History Museum and the findings are published in PLOS One.

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