A newly discovered ancient reptile dubbed the “flying dragon of the north” is said to be the largest flying animal that ever existed, according to scientists.
The reptile with an F-16 sized wingspan, named Cryodrakon boreas, lived in what is now western Canada about 76 million years ago, according to a study published last week.
The Cryodrakon’s bones have been known to scientists for nearly three decades, but it has only now been confirmed as its own genus in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.
“The animal, when alive, would not have been a frozen dragon,” the study’s co-author Mike Habib, a paleontologist at the University of Southern California, told National Geographic.
“It would have [been] flying in a landscape that would have been reasonably temperate ... but a hell of a lot warmer than central Alberta is now.”
The flying dragon's wings are believed to have stretched more than 30 feet and when walking on the ground was more than 8 feet tall at the shoulder, which is roughly the same height as some giraffes.
The partial skeleton of the Cryodrakon was dug up from Canada's Dinosaur Provincial Park in 1992. Dave Hone, another co-author of the study, said he and Habib worked with the “exceptionally well preserved” specimen, which included parts of the Cryodrakon's wings, legs neck, and rib.
"This type of pterosaur [azhdarchids] is quite rare, and most specimens are just a single bone. Our new species is represented by a partial skeleton. This tells us a great deal about the anatomy of these large fliers, how they flew, and how they lived,” Hone told SciTech Daily.
“This particular group of pterosaurs includes the largest flying animals of all time. Their anatomy holds important clues about the limits of animal flight and may be important in the future for biologically inspired mechanical design for flight.”