A fossil acquired during a police raid turned out to be one of the best-preserved flying reptiles ever found, according to a study published August 11, 2021 in the open access journal. PLOS A by Victor Beccari of the University of São Paulo and his colleagues.
This fossil belongs to a species called Tupandactylus veil, and it has a dramatic story. It is preserved on six squared limestone slabs that were confiscated during a police raid on the port of Santos in São Paulo. It is now part of the collections of the University of São Paulo, where researchers were able to reunite the slabs and examine the entire fossil, even by CT scan to reveal the bones hidden in the stone. This is the first time that paleontologists have been able to study more than the skull of this species.
The description suggests that this species had a terrestrial foraging lifestyle, due to its long neck and the proportions of its limbs, as well as its large cephalic crest which could negatively influence long-range flight. However, the specimen has all the adaptations necessary for powered flight, such as the presence of a notarium and a developed muscle anchoring region in the bones of the arm. This specimen also has an unusually large crest on its chin, part of its already impressive cranial ornamentation. Exactly how all of these factors contributed to the flight performance and lifestyle of these animals will be the subject of future research, among many other questions that may be answered by studying this exceptional fossil.
The authors add: “We have described the most complete tapejarid fossil from Brazil, a partially articulated skeleton of Tupandactylus veil with preservation of soft tissues. This specimen brings new knowledge about the anatomy of this animal and its constraints for flight, arguing for the ecology of terrestrial foraging. ”
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