Brazilian police seized a fossil from smugglers, which turned out to be perfectly preserved remains of a pterosaur - a flying reptile that lived on Earth more than 100 million years ago.
Scientists are lucky to find a surprisingly well-preserved remains of a pterosaur among thousands of fossils ready to be shipped abroad.
The fossil belongs to Tupandactylus navigans, a pterosaur species from the early Cretaceous, early late dinosaur era. T. navigans, first discovered in 2003, is easily identified by its large, soft tissue ridges. The "rescued" dinosaur clearly shows not only the main beautiful sail-shaped ridge sprouting from the head, but even a small ridge descending from the tip of its jaw in the manner of a pointed chin. Since all the previously known fossils were fragmentary, the new specimens are fundamentally changing the paleontologists' understanding of what the whole creature might look like.
The fossil was discovered during a police raid in the harbor of São Paulo Santos. It was one of three famous raids in 2013, in which 3,000 fossil specimens were found that smugglers were about to take out of the country. Unfortunately, the illegal export of fossils from Brazil is a fairly common practice.
All of the fossils were confiscated by the Brazilian police and eventually turned over to two Brazilian museums. It took years to disassemble and study them, so only recently a group of Brazilian researchers published an analysis of the remarkably preserved remains of T. navigans. The fossil was cut into six pieces, but this did not stop scientists from obtaining a unique view of the morphology of the early Cretaceous pterosaur. The results of their work were published in the PLOS One magazine.
Scientists have made some interesting findings. Based on the morphology of the dinosaur, whose head crest seemed too large to allow long-distance travel, they suggested that the creature was likely to have a predominantly local lifestyle. This pterosaur was fossilized in limestone strata in northeastern Brazil called the Krato Formation, known for its many well-preserved ancient animal fossils. Based on other fossils found in this area, the pterosaur could have lived in the salt lake area and found food there.