Avatar-type reptile once lived on Earth

Some of the most visually stunning sequences from director James Cameron’s blockbuster movie Avatar involved graceful flying creatures that were ridden by blue human-like beings facing ecological destruction on a moon called Pandora.

Avatar-type reptile once lived on Earth

It turns out that an animal very similar to those Avatar creatures, called ikran, actually did exist on Earth long ago.

Scientists on Thursday announced the discovery of fossils in China of a new species of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120m years ago and so closely resembled the creatures from the 2009 film that they named it after them.

It is called ikrandraci avatar, meaning “ikran dragon” from Avatar. And this pterosaur is noteworthy for more than just its resemblance to a movie creature. The scientists said it seems ikrandraci avatar had a throat pouch similar to a pelican’s. It probably fed on small fish from freshwater lakes, flying low over the water and catching prey by skimming its lower jaw into the water, they said. It may have stored the fish in the pouch, they added.

This Cretaceous period pterosaur boasted an unusual blade-like crest on its lower jaw like the one on the movie creatures.

“The head structure is similar in this pterosaur to the ikran in Avatar,” said one of the researchers, paleontologist Xiaolin Wang of the Institute of Vertebrate Paleontology and Paleoanthropology, Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.

“Of course, nobody and nothing can ride this pterosaur,” Wang added.

Another researcher, paleontologist Alexander Kellner of Brazil’s National Museum at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, said: “Please, there were no blue hominids during the Cretaceous.” Ikrandraci avatar, whose fossils were unearthed in China’s Liaoning province, boasted a wingspan of about 2.5m, Kellner said.

The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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