One of the world’s largest and rarest pterosaurs (flying reptiles) was discovered on one of Lourinhã’s beaches. The discovery was announced today, 11 November, by paleontologists Simon Kongshøj Callesen and Octávio Mateus.
Pterosaurs are part of the now extinct class, Reptilia (or Sauropsida), which corresponds to the various flying reptiles of the Mesozoic period.
Contemporaries of the dinosaurs, these animals disappeared during K-T extinction, about 65 million years ago. Some of the best pterosaur fossils were found on the Araripe plateau in Brazil.
The first fossil of pterosaur found was described in 1784, by the Italian naturalist Cosimo Collini, who assumed in the first instance that they would be aquatic animals and not flying reptiles.
The researchers told Lusa that the track, which has about three hundred footprints, is “one of the largest in the world” and “the largest” found in Portugal.
“These footprints were not known in Lourinhã and there were only two in the county of Sesimbra,” they said.
The study of these 152 million-year-old footprints from the Upper Jurassic period, dating to almost all of those already discovered in Lourinhã, also brings important new data to science.
Paleontologists have not yet known whether pterosaurs, described as flying reptiles, moved with two or four legs. Simon Kongshøj Callesen of the University of Southern Denmark and Octávio Mateus of the New University of Lisbon concluded that these footprints found clearly show a quadruped movement.
Still, the footprints of these animals are “very rare and those that are known belong to smaller pterosaurs,” they added.
The footprints discovered in Lourinhã “show the existence of large pterosaurs that were unknown in the Upper Jurassic.”
The deposit was found in 2010 on the cliffs of Peralta beach by Octávio Mateus and was studied together with the Danish Simon Kongshøj Callesen.
Simon Kongshøj Callesen At the end of last October, a student at the University of Southern Denmark defended his master’s thesis: “New Pterosaur Traits of the Upper Jurassic of Praia da Peralta”, which was guided by Octavio Mateus and Donald Eugene Canfield.