Researchers recently discovered that the massive pterosaur, which dominated the skies, probably lived everywhere in the world. And what researchers find especially interesting is that the dragon-like dinosaur replaced relatives that actually had teeth.

Pterosaurs

Pterosaurs play important role in the ecosystem

According to Fox News, scientists said they don’t yet understand some important changes in ecosystems during the Cretaceous period that resulted in the toothless pterosaur becoming the dominant creature in the sky. Scientists do say, however, that the dinosaurs were probably the first vertebrates to fly. They believe that some of them were so huge they had to get a running start before they could take off and fly. Scientists also think some of them had difficulties landing because of their massive size.

At this point though, they still don’t know a lot about pterosaurs because there are many holes in their fossil record. This species’ bones are apparently more fragile than those of other dinosaur species, so very few of them have been recovered. Pterosaurs belong to the Azhdarchiadae family, and the reason scientists compare this particular family of dinosaurs to dragons is because their name, Azdarha, comes from the Persian word for dragon.

Studying the pterosaur fossil record

Researchers say most Azhdarchiadae bones are preserved in sediment deposits. However, these types of fossils are rare for the late Cretaceous period when pterosaurs lived, so paleontologists have been having a difficult time putting together the lineage of this dinosaur species.

In 2008, they conducted a study on the pterosaur fossils they did have. They looked at 32 bones in that study, although Alexander Averianov of the Russian Academy of Sciences was more recently able to study a larger sample. He looked at 54 samples of known Azhdarchidae fossils, including 51 bones and three tracks that had been fossilized. His study revealed that they probably lived in many different types of environments, although most of them probably lived close to rivers, lakes and coastlines.

Scientists are now working on collecting data to learn more about pterosaurs by building an online database of fossils. The PteroTerra uses Google Earth to map out the distribution of the fossils.