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When dinosaurs flew the Earth -

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ELEANOR HALL: Brazilian palaeontologists working in China have discovered a rare fossil of one of
the earliest known flying vertebrates.

The researchers used a new technique involving ultra-violet rays to examine soft tissue on the

They found the ancient flying reptile had hair, claws and wings unlike anything seen on today's
living animals, as Dina Rosendorff reports.

DINA ROSENDORFF: They weren't huge like dinosaurs but the 30-centimetre-long winged pterosaurs
ruled the skies above China more than 130 million years ago.

Now a team of Brazilian palaeontologists have found a well preserved fossil of the ancient winged

It's revealed a never before seen complex pattern of fibres giving these creatures sophisticated
flying skills.

Alexander Kellner from Brazil's National Museum in Rio De Janeiro is one of the palaeontologists
who made the discovery.

He says researchers were able to uncover this new information because the fossil was so well

ALEXANDER KELLNER (translated): There are millions of fossils in China, millions. I'm not
exaggerating. And there is a single sample which has this level of conservation. Soft preserved
tissues have been found previously but very compressed and restricted preserved, which has allowed
us to identify this structure.

DINA ROSENDORFF: The palaeontologists used new technology that involved shining ultra-violet rays
on the soft tissue of the pterosaur's wings.

They found these creatures had several layers of fibres to control their wings rather than one, as
was previously thought, and were more like birds than gliders.

Palaeontologist Robert Jones from The Australian Museum explains.

ROBERT JONES: It's really remarkable presentation of the fossil and they were able to see the small
fibres in the wings of the pterosaur, the flying reptile, and they then realised that these fibres
must give the wing sort of more structure to it, enabled the pterosaur to have better control.

So it probably could fly better than what they thought they could fly because they thought they had
sort of, pretty floppy sort of wings, probably a bit like you'd see in bats. So this is a wing that
gave it better flight capability.

DINA ROSENDORFF: The researchers also found hair-like fibres rather than feathers which covered the
pterosaur's body and helped the creature to control its body temperature.

Palaeontologist Alexander Kellner explains.

ALEXANDER KELLNER (translated): They are different from other furs we find in mammals and they
provide us with another hint that these animals were able to control their body temperature. They
were hot-blooded animals. This is also of great importance to understanding how the pterosaurs

DINA ROSENDORFF: The Australian Museum's Robert Jones says the finding is an important scientific
discovery that will help to shed light on other ancient flying reptiles.

ROBERT JONES: So that preservation that allowed them to see these things, that's quite likely that
some of the other pterosaurs or some of the other flying reptiles had these, or most of the other
flying reptiles had these things. It's just they didn't get preserved as fossils.

DINA ROSENDORFF: Researchers say they'll continue to study the fossil to uncover even more
information about the ancient pterosaur.

ELEANOR HALL: Dina Rosendorff reporting.