Science/Tech

Scientists Discover Giant ‘Frozen Dragon’ In Canada

A giant creature that could fly across oceans and continents once existed in North America. Scientists unearthed a prehistoric animal with wingspan the size of a small plane and could be a new species of flying reptile that existed with dinosaurs. 

The team from the University Of Southern California (USC) called the creature the Cryodrakon boreas or the Frozen Dragon of the North. It appears similar to pterosaurs but with unique characteristics. 

"These are among the most popular and charismatic of all fossil animals," Michael Habib, an assistant professor at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, said in a statement. "They were critical parts of global ecosystems worldwide during the Age of Dinosaurs, so they are key to understanding the ecology and extinctions of that time.”

The team found bones of the Cryodrakon at the Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta, Canada. Habib and his team said the creature appears different in the shape of spine, cervical bones, leg bones and size compared to pterosaurs. 

"This type of pterosaur is quite rare, and most specimens are just a single bone,” Habib said. “Our new species is represented by a partial skeleton.”

His team expects the Cryodrakon to offer new information on how its relatives or other large flying reptiles lived during the dinosaur era. Habib added the Frozen Dragon would help scientists explore how animals during its time responded to major changes in climate.

The USC team detailed the discovery in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. Initial analysis of the creature stated it is close to the Quetzalcoatlus in terms of size and physical characteristics. 

However, the newly found species were likely heavier and more robust. The Cryodrakon potentially had extra-muscular body. But its weight raised questions as majority of flying reptiles are known for their ultralight bodies. 

Habib said the anatomy of pterosaurs and related flyers might soon help scientists understand the limits of animal flight. He added studying the animals might also guide the development of new technologies for flight. 

Pterosaurs are known to be the biggest flying creatures that existed on Earth. The unearthed bones of the creatures have the widest wingspan of 30 feet and the smallest expands like the largest living albatross.

Frozen Dragon of the North Fossil discovery shows new species of pterosaur, Cryodrakon boreas, that dominated the skies above North America about 75 million years ago. David Maas/University Of Southern California

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