British scientists have discovered a fourth species of prehistoric flying reptile in just a few weeks in what they are describing as a “golden age” of pterosaur discoveries.
Professor David Martill, of the University of Portsmouth, has been the head of the international research group that has led to the discovery of the new species that flew above the deserts of Morocco 100 million years ago.
A university spokeswoman said: “You wait ages for a pterosaur and then four come along at once.
“Hot on the heels of a recent paper discovering three new species of pterosaur, University of Portsmouth palaeobiologists have identified another new species, the first of its kind to be found on African soil.”
The new species belongs to a group of pterosaurs called tapejarids from the cretaceous period.
Tapejarids were small to medium-sized pterosaurs with wingspans perhaps as wide as four metres, most of which had large, broad crests sweeping up from the front of the skull.
The discovery differs from three other recent species discovered in the region as this one had no teeth.
Prof Martill said: “The study of Moroccan material shows that we are still far from having found all the paleontological treasures of North Africa. Even fragmentary fossils, like the jaw piece of the new pterosaur, can give us important information about the biodiversity of the past.”
The new pterosaur has been named Afrotapejara zouhrii to honour the Moroccan palaeontologist Professor Samir Zouhri.
Originally a mammal specialist, Zouhri also contributed to several discoveries of prehistoric reptiles in Morocco, including dinosaurs and pterosaurs.
The fossil material is part of the collections of the Faculty of Sciences Ain Chock, Casablanca Hassan II University and the paper was published in Cretaceous Research.