The “Dragon of Death” might sound like something right out of Game of Thrones‘ prequel House of the Dragon. But this dragon is actually an ancient creature recently discovered in Argentina’s Andes Mountains. Unlike Game of Thrones‘ dragons, this creature actually existed. Much like Game of Thrones‘ dragons it was one enormous beast. The Dragon of Death or Thanatosdrakon amaru is a new species of pterosaur. As a bonus, it’s the biggest pterosaur researchers have ever discovered in South America.
The Largest Ever South American Pterosaur
According to a release by the National University of Cuyo, the Dragon of Death pterosaur had a wingspan of approximately nine meters or 30 feet. If we want to put that in terms we can more easily understand, the pterosaur had a wingspan the size of a school bus (or approximately ten lightsabers). Imagine meeting that on the street. A fellow, slightly smaller, Thanatosdrakon amaru specimen discovered at the site had a wingspan of seven meters or about 23 feet.
The release shares:
Pterosaurs (flying reptiles) were a very unique group of animals that lived from the Triassic to the Cretaceous and represent the first vertebrates to acquire the ability to actively fly. They are generally confused with dinosaurs, a closely related group.
The “Dragon of Death”
But this species of pterosaur is by and far the largest one discovered in South America. And, in part, that helped inspire its scientific name, Thanatosdrakon amaru. “Thanatosdrakon,” its genus name, as mentioned, means “dragon of death.” In the meanwhile, “amaru,” its species name, “translates as ‘flying serpent’ from the Indigenous Quechuan language and refers to Amaru, a two-headed Incan deity, the study authors reported” to Live Science. A pretty deadly combo, if you ask us.
The Dragon of Death fossil remains were found in an excellent state. They “belong to the axial skeleton (vertebrae) and the appendicular skeleton (bones of the fore and hind limbs) of two specimens.” They are 86 million years. You can see some of them in the below video. Auto-translated English subtitles are available.
A New Species of Pterosaur
An ancient creature, a huge wingspan, and most importantly, a new species. Leonardo D. Ortiz David, the lead author of the study detailing these pterosaur findings shares with USA Today, “The remains of Thanatosdrakon present different particularities that allow us to differentiate them from other known pterosaurs. Fundamentally, these characteristics are found in the vertebrae and limbs. This allowed us to establish a new species of pterosaur.”
Additionally, he notes more about why this discovery is so important. Ortiz David shares “The description of new specimens is always important for vertebrate paleontology, as they shed light on the different groups being studied. In this particular case, 3D elements of large pterosaurs are scarce, making Thanatosdrakon an excellent case study.”
Cheers to you, Dragon of Death. We applaud your contributions to science. And we also cheer for your excellent name. We hope scientists will discover more of this species of pterosaur, and others, in the future.