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New species of pterosaur discovered on Isle of Skye

Scientists have discovered a new species of pterosaur on the Isle of Skye in Scotland.

The winged reptile, Ceoptera evansae, lived between 168 to 166 million years ago during the Middle Jurassic period.

Palaeontologists spotted the fossil remains in 2006 during a field trip to Elgol, on the south-west coast of the island.

Since then, the team have spent years physically preparing the specimen and taking scans of the bones, some of which remain completely embedded in rock.

Despite the skeleton being incomplete – with only parts of the shoulders, wings, legs and backbone remaining – the researchers said it provides key insights into the evolutionary history and diversity of pterosaurs.

They said the new species belongs to a group of pterosaurs known as Darwinoptera.

Professor Paul Barrett, researcher at the Natural History Museum, said: “Ceoptera helps to narrow down the timing of several major events in the evolution of flying reptiles.”

“Its appearance in the Middle Jurassic of the UK was a complete surprise, as most of its close relatives are from China.”

“It shows that the advanced group of flying reptiles to which it belongs appeared earlier than we thought and quickly gained an almost worldwide distribution.”

Ceoptera evansae gets the first part of its name from the Scottish Gaelic word “cheo”, meaning mist or fog, and the Latin word “ptera”, meaning wing.

The second part, evansae, honours British palaeontologist Professor Susan E. Evans for her years of scientific work, particularly on the Isle of Skye.

Dr Liz Martin-Silverstone, a palaeobiologist from the University of Bristol, said: “The time period that Ceoptera is from is one of the most important periods of pterosaur evolution, and is also one in which we have some of the fewest specimens, indicating its significance.”

“To find that there were more bones embedded within the rock, some of which were integral in identifying what kind of pterosaur Ceoptera is, made this an even better find than initially thought.”

“It brings us one step closer to understanding where and when the more advanced pterosaurs evolved.”

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