The remains of the largest creature ever to have flown, dubbed the "Solana dragon", have been unearthed in Spain by palaeontologists.
The enormous pterosaur would have had the wingspan of a small executive jet, and soared on thermals in the skies over Cretaceous Spain.
A team of Spanish experts, led by British scientist David Unwin, curator for fossil reptiles and birds at Humboldt University in Berlin, will make their announcement at the Palaeontological Association's annual conference next week. The team declined to discuss details of their discovery before its publication.
Fragmentary remains of several of the giant pterosaurs, including vertebrae and limb bones, were uncovered in a limestone outcrop near Valencia in southeast Spain.
Comparisons with other known pterosaurs indicate that the Solana dragon is at least 10 per cent bigger than Quetzalcoatlus northropi,
the largest known
flying vertebrate described in scientific literature. It had a wingspan recently revised to about 10m.
The new-found flying reptile is estimated to have a wingspan of at least 12m, four times wider than the Andean condor.
Many different species of pterosaur have been unearthed from locations across the world. Birds evolved in parallel with them and went on to inherit undisputed control of the skies with the extinction of the pterosaurs, along with the dinosaurs and many other animals, at the end of the Cretaceous period 65 million years ago.