Scientists discovered an ancient flying reptile Eden in China

Ancient flying reptiles cared for their young, fossil trove suggests

An global team of paleontologists has discovered a fossil-rich site with more than 200 fossilized eggs of the Cretaceous pterosaur species Hamipterus tianshanensis in China.

"We want to call this region "Pterosaur Eden, ' " said paleontologist Shunxing Jiang of the Chinese Academy of Sciences" Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology.

The eggs were scattered randomly, different diversity dimensions, and the embryos are at different stages of development.

Fossils of hundreds of male and female adult Hamipterus individuals were found alongside juveniles and eggs at the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region site, making this Cretaceous Period species that lived 120 million years ago perhaps the best understood of all pterosaurs.

The eggs date to the Lower Cretaceous period, between 145 million and 100 million years ago. Pterosaurs had thin bones, one of the traits contributing to their flying capacity, so finding remains is challenging, not to mention eggs-only six three-dimensional preserved eggs from China and Argentina had been found earlier, according to the study.

The researchers believe that there could be as many as 300 more eggs within the same sandstone block.

"Since these are extremely fragile fossils, we were very surprised to find so many in the same place", Brazilian paleontologist Alexander Kellner told AFP.

"Their external surface shows cracking and crazing, and all are deformed to a certain extent, which indicate their pliable nature", the paper wrote.

The large quantities of eggs, together with bones and other specimens, indicated the now extinct animals participated in colonial nesting behavior, Wang said.

Scientists said Thursday that they had unearthed 215 eggs of the fish-eating Hamipterus tianshanensis - a species whose adults had a crest atop an elongated skull, pointy teeth and a wingspan of more than 11 feet (3.5 meters) - including 16 eggs containing partial embryonic remains.

"From our discovery, we conclude that the newborns of pterosaurs, at least Hamipterus, were likely to walk on the ground, but were not able to fly in the sky because the femur in the embryo is well developed, but the forelimbs are not well developed", Wang said. An analysis of the bones reveals that even the late-term embryos still had undeveloped bones, suggesting they required parental attention after hatching because they couldn't yet fly.

There had been a paucity of pterosaur eggs and embryos in the paleontological record because it is hard for soft-shelled eggs to fossilize.

This Chinese fossil contains hundreds of pterosaur eggs and bones.

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