Soaring Over the Sands

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Flying pterosaurs soared through the skies of what is now Chile more than 100 million years ago, according to a discovery in the Atacama Desert.

An archaeological team came across a peculiar cemetery holding the well-preserved bones of the ancient reptiles, which they described as a rare find.

“This has global relevance because these types of (discoveries) are relatively rare,” lead scientist Jhonathan Alarcon told Reuters. “Almost everywhere in the world, the pterosaur remains that are found are isolated.”

Pterosaurs lived among other dinosaurs and are considered the latter’s close cousins that evolved on a separate branch of the reptile family tree, according to the American Museum of Natural History. They are believed to be one of the first animals to develop powered flight – meaning they could flap their wings to generate lift and travel through the air, not just glide.

They differed in size: Some were as big as an F-16 fighter jet but others could be compared to the size of a paper plane. They fed by sifting water via their long, thin teeth, similar to modern-day flamingos.

The discoveries will allow scientists to better study the creature’s anatomy and their habits.

“We could determine how groups of these animals were composed if they raised their babies or not,” Alarcon added.

The find was made about 40 miles away from another site where pterosaur remains were found, which further supports previous theories that the ancient reptiles were widespread in northern Chile.

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