Sometimes it pays to snoop around. When researcher Victoria Arbour opened a storage cabinet at the University of Alberta, she discovered a jawbone sitting in a dark corner.
The fossil had been found inside a rock on B.C.'s Hornby Island five years ago. It had then been placed in storage at the University's paleontology department, its origin a mystery.
Arbour was baffled, and initially thought the jawbone may have belonged to a dinosaur. And yet the teeth, Arbour explains, "reminded me of piranha teeth, designed for pecking away at meat," according to CTV News. Finally, after months of investigation, Arbour identified the bone as belonging to a pterosaur.
Pterosaurs are giant flying reptiles that lived until the Cretaceous period, about 65 million years ago. Although often confused for dinosaurs, pterosaurs are not dinosaurs. In fact, DiscoveryNews reports that one pterosaur may have even eaten dinosaurs.
As for Arbour's pterosaur, her particular reptile has smaller teeth than others, and thus it is believed that Arbour has discovered a new genus, which she has named Gwawinapterus beardi. It is believed that this pterosaur had a wingspan of about ten feet, while other pterosaurs can have wingspans of over 30 feet. Arbour states that the pterosaur was a scavenger, and probably patrolled the skies with its wide wingspan.
This is the first pterosaur ever found in B.C., although back in the Cretaceous period, the coastal islands were actually part of what is now California. Perhaps sometimes, it's not bad to have a skeleton in your closet. Or at least a jawbone.
Arbour's study was published in the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences.