Sparrow-Sized Pterodactyl Found

Bird ancestor lived in trees, ate insects
By Zach Samalin,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 12, 2008 8:00 AM CST
This image released by the National Museum, shows a flying reptile named Nemicolopterus crypticus in Rio de Janeiro, Monday, Feb. 11, 2008. The toothless flying reptile lived in gingko forests that existed...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – Fossil hunters in China's Liaoning province have discovered the remains of a never-before-seen pterodactyl no bigger than a sparrow. Nemicolopterus crypticus, or hidden flying forest-dweller, had curved toes, which means it spent most of its time perched in trees. Unlike giant pterodactyls, the Nemicolopterus had no teeth and ate insects, the AP reports.

Fossils of ancient airborne animals are rare, especially outside of coastal regions, and researchers were ecstatic about the inland find. "It's showing us a new chapter of the evolutionary history of those animals," said one paleontologist. "Discoveries such as this are fundamental to understand the evolution of these winged vertebrates." The fossil was of a young pterodactyl, but not a hatchling.