‘Dragon of Death’ fossilized reptile unearthed in Argentina

·2 min read
Vinyards in Mendoza with the Andes mountains in the background.   (Getty)
Vinyards in Mendoza with the Andes mountains in the background. (Getty)

Scientists in Argentina have discovered the fossilised remains of a species of flying reptiles known as the “Dragon of Death.”

The scientists’ research was published in the Cretaceous Journal in April and has become a subject of interest in and around the province of Mendoza, where the fossils were found.

Scientists believe that the “Dragon of Death,” a pterosaur known as Thanatosdrakon amaru, was the first animals with wings to hunt its prey — predating even birds. The species was thought to have been alive some 86 million years ago. 20 million years after that, an asteroid destroyed the majority of life on Earth.

The fossils, which scientists discovered while doing excavation for a civil construction project in the Andes mountains in Mendoza, are believed to be the largest ever discovered in South America and among the largest in the world. The fossils’ wingspans were measured at 23 and 30 feet wide respectively.

Creatures like this pterosaur were known for having extraordinarily large heads that could sometimes dwarf the rest of their bodies. They also, according to Leonardo Ortiz David, leader of the study on the “Dragons of Death,” had extremely long necks.

Amaru, taken from the species’ scientific name, is a Quechuan word that means flying serpant and refers to a two-headed Incan diety that is said to live at the bottom of lakes and rivers. Thanatosdrakon is the combination of two Greek words, thanatos for death and drakon for dragon.

Researchers believe that the two fossils they discovered died at the same time and that the one with the smaller wingspan was not yet fully mature. The fossils are currently being held at the Laboratory and Museum of Dinosaurs at the National University of Cuyo in Mendoza, the capital city of the province of the same name.