After 166 million years since its existence on Earth, researchers have unveiled the discovery of a winged dinosaur skeleton on the Isle of Skye in Scotland.

Published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology on Feb. 5, the findings detail the unearthing of the remains of a single pterosaur, named Ceoptera evansae, believed to have inhabited the Earth 166 to 168 million years ago during the Middle Jurassic era.

Conducted by scientists from the Natural History Museum, University of Bristol, University of Leicester, and University of Liverpool, the research outlines how Ceoptera evansae’s incomplete fossilized remains were initially found in 2006 on a small beach along the Loch Scavaig coastline on the Strathaird Peninsula in the Isle of Skye. Since then, researchers have examined partial skeletons, including remnants of the shoulders, wings, legs, and backbone. Utilizing digital scanning, multiple elements of the skeleton were revealed, offering insights that were previously inaccessible due to being encased in rock. The skeleton of Ceoptera evansae stands as one of the first fully digitally prepared pterosaur species, as noted in the report.

Isle of Skye Scotland

According to the findings, Ceoptera evansae belongs to the Darwinoptera group of pterosaurs, which were predominantly found in China, where fossils of the species have been unearthed previously. The discovery in Scotland suggests that Darwinoptera may have existed 25 million years longer than previously thought, spanning from the Early Jurassic period to the late Jurassic, shedding light on the species’ diversity. This pterosaur species represents one of the earliest vertebrates known to have developed flight capabilities, and the analysis indicates that it coexisted with avialans, dinosaur species believed to be ancestors of modern birds.

Professor Paul Barrett, a merit researcher at the Natural History Museum and the senior author of the paper, expressed surprise at finding this species in the UK, stating that it helps refine the timing of significant events in the evolution of flying reptiles.

Dr. Liz Martin-Silverstone, a paleobiologist from the University of Bristol and the lead author of the paper, emphasized that the discovery brings researchers closer to comprehending the evolution of pterosaurs, particularly during a crucial period of their development.