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Rare Desert Pterosaur Fossil Discovered in Utah


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The rare Triassic fossil is the most complete early pterosaur ever found, and gives new insight into the evolution of the first flying vertebrates

Researchers in Utah have unearthed one of the most detailed pterosaur—aka pterodactyl—fossils found to date, a discovery that tells us the first known vertebrates to take to the skies were more diverse and widespread than previously thought.

While dinosaurs ruled the land, pterosaurs ruled the heavens during the late Triassic and Jurassic periods. Unlike the dinosaurs, whose heavy bones make pretty good fossils, we don’t know much about the early evolution of the pterosaurs. Their fine bones were easily pulverized, meaning we have bits and pieces of just 30 pterosaurs dating from the Triassic, roughly 220 million years ago.

The new find comes from a rock formation on public land in northeastern Utah known as the Saints and Sinners Quarry. Hundreds of millions of years ago, it’s believed the area was an oasis in a massive dune-covered desert, drawing animals from all over the place during droughts. Some such visitors were preserved as fossils after dying at the hands of predators or getting stuck in the mud as the water dried up.
Caelestiventus hanseni is apparently closely related to another Triassic pterosaur from the U.K, Dimorphodon.

The interesting thing about this find is the incredible state of preservation, similar to the bird fossil from Utah that I posted the other day.
The interesting thing about this find is the incredible state of preservation, similar to the bird fossil from Utah that I posted the other day.

Even more interesting is that the very fragile skull could not be isolated from the rock matrix without damaging it. So they had it CT scanned & then had the skull artificially regenerated by a 3-D printer:

View attachment 67244486

Reconstruction of Dimorphodon:

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Here is the skull of the Utah pterosaur made by 3-D printing based on CT scan:

Pterosaur skull.jpg
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