In Images: A Butterfly-Headed Winged Reptile

Butterfly-headed reptile

flying reptile

(Image credit: Maurilio Oliveira/Museu Nacional-UFRJ)

Researchers in Brazil have unearthed a new species of flying reptile, Caiuajara dobruskii from the Cretaceous Period.

Bony crest

bone bed of pterosaurs

(Image credit: Manzig et al, PLOS ONE 2014)

The odd-looking creature, described in a 2014 PLOS ONE paper, sported a bony crest on its head that looked like butterfly wings. The crests changed in size an orientation as juveniles (white) grew into adulthood (red).

Huge trove

bone bed of pterosaurs

(Image credit: Manzig et al, PLOS ONE 2014)

The species was identified from a bone bed about 213 square feet (20 square meters) in area, which contained fragments from potentially hundreds of individuals. The aggregation suggests pterosaurs were social animals that flocked together.

Leg bones

pterosaur fossils in a bone bed

(Image credit: Manzig et al, PLOS ONE 2014)

Several leg bones from animals of various sizes were unearthed. Bones from below the head didn't change that much in size as the animals grew, suggesting they could have flown at a very young age.

Jaw bones

bone fragments from the head of flying reptile

(Image credit: Manzig et al, PLOS ONE, 2014)

The lower jaw bones from juveniles, adolescents and adults were unearthed.

Partially intact

bone fragments from caiujara dobruskii

(Image credit: Manzig et al, PLOS ONE, 2014)

Some of the ancient reptile skeletons were partially intact and had their 3D structure preserved.

Adult skull

head bones from a flying reptile

(Image credit: Manzig et al, PLOS ONE, 2014)

Fragments of head bones from an adult, shown how they would have appeared on the animal.

Head bones

head bones from a flying reptile

(Image credit: Manzig et al, PLOS ONE, 2014)

Some of the head bones from the ancient reptile.

Bone fragments

new species of flying reptile

(Image credit: Manzig et al, PLOS ONE, 2014)

The ancient creatures probably lived around a desert oasis 80 million years ago. As they died, the bones were carried into the lake by desert storms and preserved indefinitely. The different stages of degradation probably reflect how long the animals were exposed to the elements before being submerged, the authors wrote in the paper.