Washington, Feb 12 : Scientists have identified a tiny, toothless pterodactyl from a well-preserved Chinese fossil, which had a wingspan of about 250 millimetres, making it the smallest pterodactyl ever found.
According to a report in Discovery News, this tree-dwelling pterodactyl lived about 120125 million years ago, and had bat-like wings, bird-like claws and a sharp, pointy beak.
Named "Nemicolopterus crypticus", this sparrow-sized flying reptile could be a record breaker of sorts.
"It's the smallest arboreal pterosaur, the smallest toothless pterosaur and the smallest Cretaceous pterosaur in the world," said Professor Xiaolin Wang, a paleontologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.
Because the specimen is so small, especially in relation to other known pterodactyl species with wingspans up to 10 metres, the researchers at first wondered if it might have been a baby.
The scientists, however, ruled that out, since all of its bones were well developed.
The fossil was so well preserved that it includes portions of yellow-coloured matrix surrounding some parts along the bones and particularly near where the reptile's stomach would have been.
According to the report, the pterodactyl might have mainly fed on insects.
"The pterodactyl's features indicate it fed on insects while living in the canopies of ancient forests," said Wang.
"Its beak would have been perfectly suited for grabbing bugs, while its curved claws would have helped it hold onto trees," he added.
The newly identified pterodactyl might have become extinct due to volcanic gases, according to Professor Alexander Kellner, co-author of the study.
But according to Kellner, "The mini pterodactyl opens a new chapter in the evolutionary history of flying creatures."