Researchers in China and Japan have discovered a new species of pterosaur that looks a lot like a Porg from The Last Jedi. The prehistoric flying reptile with huge eyes was soaring over China 160 million years ago, gobbling up dragonflies, which were a lot bigger during this time. The new species of pterosaur has been named Sinomacrops bondei by researchers who discovered a crushed fossil in some rock in China's Hebei Province. They were able to use specialized x-ray technology to carefully put the creature back together again to give us an idea of what it looked like as it flew above dinosaurs.
160 million years ago places Sinomacrops bondei in the middle/late of the Jurassic period. The world was a temperate forest at the time, with dinosaurs roaming the Earth alongside some of the earliest mammals. While some of the pterosaurs at the time were massive beasts that could take down a dinosaur with the help of its giraffe-sized neck, Sinomacrops bondei was on the smaller side. While the face and main body resembles a Porg from the Star Wars franchise, it does have a tail and obvious wings that separate it from the fictional aliens.
Researchers believe that Sinomacrops bondei were also furry, or at the very least, fuzzy. They appear to have had a pelt of tufted "pycnofibers," which are not quite feathers and not quite fur. The "pycnofibers" were used for insulation and some of the thicker areas of the aforementioned fibers were around the mouth, allowing for easier trapping of prey when in flight. It is believed that they mostly feasted on bugs, due to their small stature.
As for finding pterosaur fossils, it is pretty rare due to how brittle their bones were. The hollow bones don't leave very good fossil records, so the Sinomacrops bondei discovery has researchers from all over the world, along with Star Wars fans, pretty excited. Megan Jacobs, a paleontologist at Baylor University in Texas, hopes that the new discovery will lead to a better understanding of other pterosaurs of the era. Jacobs likened the new discovery to a Porg and noted that this particular species is quite different from others of the time. "It's very round with large, forward facing eyes. Most pterosaurs of this period have elongated snouts full of little teeth," she noted.
The middle/late period of the Jurassic era finds the pterosaurs at a time of evolution. "Finding these early pterosaurs really gives us an insight into how they started to adapt and alter aspects of their skeleton," explains Megan Jacobs. As for Star Wars fans, they're more excited to see that something like a Porg actually existed at one point in time in our own galaxy, a long, long time ago. The interview with Megan Jacobs was originally conducted by Gizmodo, while the information about Sinomacrops bondei comes to us from PeerJ. Artistic reconstructions of the charismatic, pint-sized pterosaur Sinomacrops bondei struttin' his stuff
were created by Zhao Chuang.