'Frozen dragon of the north wind' was one of the largest animals to ever fly
Abc7chicago.com - Wed 11 Sep 10:52 GMT

Cryodrakon boreas, a previously unknown type of pterosaur, was one of the largest flying animals that ever lived. The name means "frozen dragon of the north wind" and it flew over North America 77 million years ago.

  But this gigantic flying reptile had a wingspan up to 32.8 feet.The fossils were initially discovered 30 years ago in Dinosaur Provincial Park, located in Alberta, Canada.

  The park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that contains a wealth of dinosaur fossils, where multiple species have been discovered.But the paleontologists who found them thought they belonged to the pterosaur species Quetzalcoatlus, which was initially discovered in Texas.New research has shown that Cryodrakon is a previously unknown species and it's the first of its kind to be found in Canada.

  Cryodrakon belonged to the azhdarchids family of pterosaurs, known for having long necks.These pterosaurs from the Cretaceous period are often incorrectly called pterodactyls.A paper describing the new species published this week in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.The remains belonged to a younger member of the species, so its wingspan was only about 16.4 feet when it died.

  But the researchers studied the giant neck bone from an adult to determine that the wingspan of a fully grown Cryodrakon likely reached 32.8 feet.The Quetzalcoatlus pterosaur had a wingspan of 34 feet, by comparison, and weighed 551 pounds.

  And even though they had the wing capacity to fly across oceans, the fossil record shows they stuck close to inland environments.Although azhdarchids were incredibly large and lived in Asia, Africa, Europe and North and South America, their fossil record is sparse and fragmentary.

  "It is great that we can identify Cryodrakon as being distinct to Quetzalcoatlus as it means we have a better picture of the diversity and evolution of predatory pterosaurs in North America.

  "The azhdarchids had long legs and large feet that marked them as being a group that spent much more time on the ground than most other pterosaurs and we have some good tracks for them from Korea that shows they were adept walkers," Hone said.