Student finds new species of pterosaur

A STUDENT at Portsmouth University has discovered a new species of pterosaur, while examining fossil collections found more than 100 years ago.

Twenty-six-year-old PhD student Roy Smith spotted differences in the fossils found in Cambridgeshire, which were initially thought to be shark spines, which led him to find that they were actually fragments of the jaws of prehistoric ‘flying lizards’ with no teeth.

The fossils were found by workmen between 1851 and 1900, and frequently got sold to earn some extra money.

His supervisor, Professor Dave Martill, said it was an “extremely exciting” find, as this mystery species is unlike anything seen before.

Smith says: “Two of the specimens discovered can be identified as a pterosaur called Ornithostoma, but one additional specimen is clearly distinct and represents a new species. It is a palaeontological mystery.”

He added that the fragments were too small to allow a new species to be named and that it was doubtful more remains would be discovered in the same rock. However, once Covid restrictions are lifted, he plans to search museum collections for more examples.

The results of Roy Smith’s discovery have been published in The Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association.

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Jennifer Leighfield

Jennifer Leighfield, born in Salisbury, UK; resident in Malaga, Spain since 1989. Degree in Translation and Interpreting in Spanish, French and English from Malaga University (2005), specialising in Crime, Forensic Medicine and Genetics. Published translations include three books by Richard Handscombe. Worked with Euro Weekly News since November 2006. Well-travelled throughout Spain and the rest of the world, fan of Harry Potter and most things ‘geek’.