Scientists have discovered three new species of flying reptiles that lived in the Sahara 100m years ago.
Prof David Martill, a palaeontologist at the University of Portsmouth, made the discovery with a team of researchers from Morocco and the US.
The study, published in the Cretaceous Research journal, has revealed a community of pterosaurs that inhabited prehistoric Morocco.
A university spokeswoman said: “The new finds show that African pterosaurs were quite similar to those found on other continents.
“These flying predators soared above a world dominated by predators, including crocodile-like hunters and carnivorous dinosaurs. Interestingly, herbivores such as sauropods and ornithischian dinosaurs are rare.
“Many of the predators, including the toothed pterosaurs, preyed on a superabundance of fish.”
Martill said: “We are in a golden age for discovering pterodactyls. This year alone we have discovered three new species and we are only into March.”
The new pterosaurs – identified from chunks of jaws and teeth found in the middle cretaceous Kem Kem beds of Morocco – had wingspans of three to four metres.
The spokeswoman said: “These aerial fishers snatched up their prey while on the wing, using a murderous-looking set of large spike-like teeth that formed a highly effective tooth grab.
“Large pterosaurs such as these would have been able to forage over vast distances, similar to present-day birds such as condors and albatrosses.”
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