New Pterosaur Species Discovered in the South of France



Artistic impression of the pterosaur Mistralazhdarcho maggii (image: Pierre Lavaud, Mazan)
New Pterosaur Species Discovered in the South of France
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Siska Van Parys

Belgian and French palaeontologists have discovered a new pterosaur species in the South of France. This flying reptile with a wingspan of about 4,5 meter belongs to the same family as the iconic Quetzalcoatlus.

After two new dinosaur species, a French-Belgian team of palaeontologists now also found a new pterosaur species on the excavation site of Velaux, near Aix-en-Provence. The lower jaw, vertebrae and several long bones were found in 2009 and most probably belonged to one individual. The new species belongs to the family of the Azhdarchidae, just like the gigantic and iconic Quetzalcoatlus. The Azhdarchidae lived during the Late Cretaceous (more than 66 million years ago) and are characterized by a big skull, long toothless jaws and an extremely long neck. The palaeontologists named the new species Mistralazhdarcho maggii, after the ‘mistral’, a strong northwest wind in the south of France, and after major Maggi of Velaux, who made the excavations possible.

A big youngster

The pterosaur is one of the most complete skeletons found in Europe for that period. Most probably the animal was not yet fully-grown, as the ossification was not fully completed. But this junior already had a wingspan of about 4,5 meters. For adults this would have been 5 to 6 meters, or possibly even more.

The estimated size is right in between the two other groups within the Azhdarchidae: the medium-sized Eurazhdarcho and the gigantic Hatzegopteryx, with an estimated adult wingspan of 3 and 10 meters respectively. This discovery therefore suggests the presence of a third size class within the Azhdarchidae.

The site of Velaux turns out to be unique. The skeleton remains are not only well preserved and often articulated, we also get an insight in the extraordinary fauna of this spot, with amongst others the dinosaur species Atsinganosaurus velauciensis (a sauropod) and Matheronodon provincialis (an ornithopod), that were recently described.

The study was published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.


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