Named the Allkauren koi, from the indigenous Tehuelche's words for “brain” and “ancient,” this extinct flying reptile was highly adapted to flight, with hollow bones and elongated digits.
Allkauren koi were a type of pterosaur that thrived during the mesozoic period, which began roughly 252.2 million years ago.
The research team, including scientists from the National Scientific and Technical Research Council in Buenos Aires, recently discovered a well-preserved skull from the species in the Chubut Province of Patagonia Argentina. The uncrushed brain casing allowed them to study neurocranial anatomy and discover previously unknown details about the creature’s evolution.
While pterosaurs weren’t dinosaurs, they both were born of a common ancestor that diverged some 245 million years ago, according to National Geographic. The animals ranged from about the size of a bat to nearly the height of a giraffe, with wingspans up to 33-feet.
“Allkaruen, from the middle lower Jurassic limit, shows an intermediate state in the brain evolution of pterosaurs and their adaptations to the aerial environment,” said Diego Pol, paleontologist and part of the research team, in PeerJ. “This research makes an important contribution to the understanding of the evolution of all of pterosaurs.”
Jess McHugh is a digital reporter for Travel + Leisure. You can find her on Twitter at @MchughJess.