Paleontologists announced Thursday the discovery of a new genus and species of flying pterosaur found among a treasure trove of fossils in northeastern China.
The new species so resembled the winged creatures in the popular 2009 film ‘Avatar,’ the scientists have named them Ikrandraco avatar. The name ‘Ikran’ is a tribute to James Cameron’s flying creatures in his sci-fi film and ‘draco’ comes from the Latin word for ‘dragon.’ A paper detailing the discovery is published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Following the fossil analysis, the team inferred that the species had sharp teeth, a flat and elongated skull and a blade-like bulge of bone on the lower jaw — features similar to that of ‘Ikran’ in the James Cameron’s blockbuster.
It also has a throat pouch like that of a pelican, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
However, this pterosaur, with a wingspan of 1.5 meter, is smaller than its cinematic look-alike.
Pterosaurs, which are linked to dinosaurs, lived between 225 million and 65 million years ago.
The creature ‘Ikran’ was fashioned after the largest known pterosaur with a wingspan up to 12 meters.
Two fossil sets of the species were found — a rare feat in pterosaur discoveries — in a geological formation rich in fossils from the early Cretaceous era 120 million years ago.
The creature’s skull features are unknown among the pterosaur species, Wang said, adding, its sharp, semicircular mandible could reduce air resistance.
The animal flew close to the water surface with its jaw crest cutting through the water when hunting and its throat pouch might serve as a store for its catch, Wang added.