Fossilized pterosaur bones discovered three decades ago are the oldest of their kind ever found in Australia, according to a study published in the journal "Historical Biology." Photo Courtesy of Historical Biology
May 31 (UPI) -- Fossilized pterosaurs bones discovered three decades ago are the oldest ever discovered in Australia, according to a new paper published in the journal Historical Biology.
Researchers say the bones are 107 million years old. Pterosaurs were flying reptiles that lived at the same time as the dinosaurs during the Mesozoic era.
In collaboration with Museums Victoria, researchers analyzed pieces from a pterosaur's pelvis bone and part of a pterosaur's wing.
Researchers were able to determine that the bones came from two separate creatures, one adult and one juvenile.
"Incongruence in the size of specimens described herein indicates the presence of two individuals," researchers said in the study.
Unlike many gliding winged creatures, it is believed that pterosaurs were able to fly under their own power the way a modern bird or bat would fly. It is also believed that they were able to travel long distances, which raises the possibility that the creatures were migratory.
"By analyzing these bones, we have also been able to confirm the existence of the first ever Australian juvenile pterosaur, which resided in the Victorian forests around 107 million years ago," said lead researcher Adele Pentland of the Curin's School of Earth and Planetary Sciences.
During the Cretaceous era, which lasted from about 145 million years ago to 66 million years ago, Australia was closer to Antartica and had a much cooler climate.
Though they are believed to have been warm-blooded, the presence of pterosaurs in Australia raises questions about how the creatures lived and bred.
"During the Cretaceous Period (145-66 million years ago), Australia was farther south than it is today, and the state of Victoria was within the polar circle -- covered in darkness for weeks on end during the winter," said Pentland.
"Despite these seasonally harsh conditions, it is clear that pterosaurs found a way to survive and thrive," said Pentland.
"It will only be a matter of time until we are able to determine whether pterosaurs migrated north during the harsh winters to breed, or whether they adapted to polar conditions. Finding the answer to this question will help researchers better understand these mysterious flying reptiles," said Pentland.