Scientists discover pterodactyl that looks like Elvis

Scientists have named a new species of pterodactyl with a distinctive pompadour-looking crest on its skull – earning it the nickname ‘Elvis’.

The creature, which is one of the largest pterodactyls (more scientifically called pterosaurs) in the Jurassic, has just been scientifically named in a new paper, published in the journal Palaeontologica Electronica.

“In this paper we describe a mostly complete specimen of a ctenochasmatid pterosaur,” the scientists write in their new paper.

“Despite well over two centuries of discovery, new pterosaurs continue to be discovered in these critical deposits that add to our knowledge of their diversity and ecology.”

The team has called the specimen Petrodactyle wellnhoferi in honour of a German palaeontologist called Peter Wellnhofer.

“Peter Wellnhofer is long overdue having a species of German pterosaur named after him to honour his lifelong contribution to the study of these amazing animals,” said lead author, Dr David Hone of Queen Mary University of London.

The fossil itself is housed in a huge slab of limestone – almost a metre square, and the team used UV light to highlight the bones in the rock face.

Photo of specimen LF 2809 under UV lighting. Credit: Palaeontologica Electronica

And what they found was a very large crest – by far the largest ever seen in a ctenochasmatid, a type of pterodactyl.

“Big though this crest is, we know that these pterosaurs had skin-like extensions attached to it, so in life Petrodactyle would have had an even larger crest,” said Hone.

Not only was the crest large, but the rest of the creature was also oversized. Despite being a ‘teenager’ and not fully grown, it had a wingspan of 2.1 metres. This makes it one of the largest pterosaurs known from the late Jurassic period. 

The team also suggest that it’s short spiked teeth and crest would have allowed it to have a fearsome, strong bite.

The pterodactyl was discovered in 2010 in the Schaudiberg Quarry in Bavaria, Germany. It was found in the visitor area by an unknown collector, but was then excavated by scientists.

“The specimen was located in a quarry which is producing scientifically important fossils that provide additional insights into Late Jurassic Pterosaurs,” says one of the authors of the study, Bruce Lauer of the Lauer Foundation.

“This research is a great example of the benefits of cooperation between amateur collectors, commercial fossil dealers, our Foundation and research scientists to advance science.”

The Lauer foundation is a group that acquires, curate and provides access to fossils for scientific research.

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