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Pterodactyl in the Trees

Enlarge Image credit: Courtesy of Michael Skrepnick MORE IMAGES

The discovery of a bat-size, branch-hopping pterodactyl helps round out the origins of the far larger variety that would dominate the skies millions of years later, according to a new report. Among the smallest pterodactyls yet discovered, Nemicolopterus crypticus was (at least in its juvenile form) a toothless creature with a 25-centimeter (9.8-inch) wingspan and possessing curved foot bones that suggest a life spent grasping tree branches. Researchers discovered the nearly complete, 120-million-year-old remains in northeastern China. They say the teensy pterodactyl (envisioned here snacking on an insect) is closely related to the monster, six-meter- (20-foot-) wide and larger wingspan pterosaurs that soared during the upper Cretaceous, 65 million to 100 million years ago. The fossil is described in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA.

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