Australia, rare pterosaur fossil found


From the Courier-Mail in Australia:

Rare fossil find on roadside

By Laine Clark

November 02, 2006
Article from: AAP

DISCOVERING a rare, 100 million-year-old fossil is amazing enough.

But not as surprising as the way Queensland Museum palaeontologist Alex Cook found it.

Keen for a break after more than three hours of driving, Dr Cook thought he would stretch his legs at the northwest Queensland town of Hughenden – and literally stumbled over the fossil.

“I found it literally on the side of the road. It’s serendipity, a happy accident,” Dr Cook said today.

It is the third jaw fragment of a pterosaur – a winged, fish-eating reptile that lived in the time of the dinosaurs – found in Australia.

It also is one of the “most exquisitely preserved” pterosaur specimens found in the world.

Dr Cook said pterosaur bones were “rare worldwide”.

Only 50 pterosaur bones have been found in Australia in 140 years of collecting.

No wonder Dr Cook couldn’t believe his luck.

“We were getting a little tired … so we stopped at Hughenden, had some lunch, had a bit of a look around and I literally kicked it over,” he said.

“It is a little bit like finding an extraordinarily endangered species that you have been looking for – they are that rare.”

Dr Cook was on a fossil-finding trip in northwest Queensland with fellow palaeontologists – Colin McHenry, from the University of Newcastle and Adam Morell of the Richmond Marine Fossil Museum, near Hughenden about 500km from Mt Isa – when he made the surprise find in 2004.

After almost two years of painstakingly removing the 12cm by 1cm lower-jaw fragment from the 5kg of limestone rock with micro jackhammers, Dr Cook proudly unveiled the discovery in Brisbane today.

The jaw fragment was from a pterosaur that had a wingspan of two metres, which lived near an inland sea that flooded the Great Artesian Basin between 100 million to 250 million years ago.

It was just another rare fossil find accidentally discovered in north-west Queensland.

Winton grazier David Elliott has stumbled across not only the remains of the biggest dinosaur yet found in Australia but also two rare meteorites, by driving around his property.

“David’s on a roll. But accidental finds are not uncommon in Queensland,” Dr Cook said.

“Many of our big dinosaur finds have been found by graziers accidentally running into them with their motorbikes.”

All three pterosaur jaw fragments found in Australia were discovered in Queensland.

Dr Cook said he visited the Hughenden site at least twice a year to go over it with “an extremely fine-toothed comb” – but so far had not found any more pterosaur remains.

“It won’t stop me looking though,” he laughed.

Ornithocheirus pterosaurs: BBC video and German text: here.

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