The remains of an ancient flying predator that ruled the skies some 70 million years ago have been discovered in Mongolia, and researchers say the species likely ranked among the largest of its kind.
The fossil discovered belongs to a kind of pterosaur – a group of flying reptiles that lived around the same time as dinosaurs. These animals were the first vertebrates known to evolve the power of flight, and are thought to be the largest flying animals ever seen on Earth.
The pterosaur species unearthed in Mongolia has not yet been identified, but based on the size of the fragments of cervical vertebrae (neck bones) found, this sucker was huge. While it’s hard to estimate the size of an extinct pterosaur solely from chunks of neck, the team thinks its footprint would have been comparable to the two largest species we know about: _Quetzalcoatlus_ and _Hatzegopteryx_, which had wingspans up to approximately 11 metres (36 feet).
That puts them, and potentially our Mongolian John Doe, on a par with a small plane – which, frankly, would have been terrifying if you were a small vertebrate being stalked and swooped by these things 70 million years ago.