Transylvania Pterosaur Was Top Predator On Its Island Home


Transylvania Pterosaur Was Top Predator On Its Island Home

The Transylvania pterosaur

During the Late Cretaceous period some 66 to 70 million years ago, part of the region that is now present-day Transylvania in Romania was an island in the now gone Tethys Sea. On this island, the top predator of its time was the Transylvania pterosaur, or officially known as Hatzegopteryx. This was a giant flying reptile from the Azhdarchidae family.

In fact, the largest ever flying animals were from this family of pterosaurs.The Quetzalcoatlus, for instance, had a wingspan bigger than 30 feet (9 meters). Hatzegopteryx, on the other hand, was even larger, with its wings reaching some 39 feet (12 meters) across. And besides their wings, azhdarchids are also known for their long necks and their main source of food was smaller species of dinosaurs or baby dinosaurs.

Hateg Island some 70 million years ago.

But according to Darren Naish, of the University of Southampton, and Mark Witton, of the University of Portsmouth, the Transylvania Pterosaur had a distinct look about it. For instance, a neck vertebra discovered in Hateg, Romania, indicates that this particular flying reptile had a thicker neck than its counterparts and unusual for its family, Because of this, Hatzegopteryx may have been able to feed on even larger prey.  

Its stout neck “shows potential for tackling much larger prey items, perhaps even killing animals too large to ingest whole,” the UK scientists wrote.

With no fossil evidence of large predators on the island and given the size of the Transylvania pterosaur, scientists strongly believe that it was the apex predator on the island and surrounding archipelago. This theory is also coupled with a natural phenomenon known as insular dwarfism. This states that once an island is formed or it breaks apart from the mainland, animals living there will tend to become smaller in relation to their mainland counterparts.

This phenomenon was also observed in more recent times with the dwarf elephant. Even though it is now extinct, these smaller species of elephant were found all throughout the Mediterranean islands like Crete, Cyprus, Sicily, Sardinia or Malta. Other species of dwarf elephants were also common in the Indonesian archipelago, as well as the Channel Islands of California with mammoths.