Giant toothless pterosaurs with wingspans stretching 39 feet (12 meters) across ruled the skies 60 million years ago, and new research suggests that these ancient flying creatures once had a worldwide presence, and likely played an important role in the Late Cretaceous ecosystem.
Despite their formidable size, the pterosaurs in the Azhdarchidae family had no teeth. The new research suggests they replaced their toothed relatives as the dominant species when high levels of carbon dioxide killed off important microscopic marine creatures, leading to a mass extinction about 90 million years ago.
"This shift in dominance from toothed to toothless pterodactyloids apparently reflects some fundamental changes in Cretaceous ecosystems, which we still poorly understand," Alexander Averianov, from the Russian Academy of Sciences, wrote in a new study of this type of pterosaur.
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