February 23, 2021
Within the vast terrain of Canada’s badlands, all your Game of Thrones dreams will come true. The new species of pterosaur, a flying reptile, had been discovered. Its name, Cryodrakon Boreas, is Greek for ‘Frozen dragon of the North Wind’.
Despite the intimidating name, scientists say that the Cryodrakon Boreas looked less like a fire-breathing dragon and more like a giraffe-sized, reptilian type stork. The Cryodrakon, at its time, lived in what we currently know as Alberta, Canada.
Over 77 million years ago, during the Cretaceous period, this reptile thrived. The species could grow up to 13 feet tall with a bewildering wingspan of 30 feet. It is now considered one of the largest flying animals known. It had a long neck, monstrous wings, and a thin head that was predicted to be about 3.5 times the length of its body.
As big as the reptile’s head was, it had no chewing apparatus. Meaning, it had no teeth or structure to chew with. Instead, it would consume whatever was small enough to fit down its gullet. Lizards, mammals, and small dinosaurs would most likely be the Cryodrakon’s main food choices.
François Therrien is a curator at Alberta’s Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology. He explained that even though the current environment of Alberta is quite harsh and frigid, the landscape that the Cryodrakon would have soared over would have looked more like a tropical paradise near a large inland sea.
The fossils of this reptile were found over 30 years ago in Alberta’s Dinosaur Provincial Park. However, scientists believed that the fossils were a part of a known species of pterosaur, the Quetzalcoatlus. According to The Washington Posts, a scientist named Irfan Habib, along with a taxonomy specialist, David Home, made the astounding discovery that the skeleton didn’t belong to the Quetzalcoatlus but to a new species, the ‘Frozen dragon of the North Wind’.
The Cryodrakon belonged to the azhdarchids, a type of pterosaurs (or pterodactyls), which are known for their distinctive long necks. The fossils that were discovered had belonged to a younger Cryodrakon, with its wingspan “only about 16.4 feet when it died… researchers studied the giant neck bone from an adult to determine that the wingspan of a fully grown Cryodrakon likely reached 32.8 ft.” (CNN World).
Researcher’s compare the size of the Cryodrakon to the Cessna airplane, according to the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology. The Museum also released more information about the Cryodrakon, stating that it has enough wing capacity to fly across oceans.
As for the benefits to the scientific community, David Hone expressed his opinion and thoughts on the discover, stating that, “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 plan is to study how the muscles worked within the species, hopefully discovering how the Cryodrakon took off, flew, and walked.