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Unearthed in three separate pieces, the jaw bone has a total length of 344mm (13.5 inches). Each piece is well preserved, uncrushed, and unlike most other pterosaur fossils, retains its original three dimension shape. "This pterosaur is distinguished from all others by its lance-shaped lower jaw which had no teeth and looked rather like the beak of a heron," says Nizar Ibrahim, a PhD research scholar from University College Dublin, who led the expedition and is the lead author on the scientific paper.
On the same expedition, and in the same region as where the fossils of Alanqa saharica were uncovered, the scientists also discovered fossils of two other previously identified types of pterosaur.
This suggests that several types of pterosaurs lived alongside one another in the same region at the time, each probably specialising in a different ecological niche.
"When this pterosaur was alive, the Sahara desert was a river bed basin lush with tropical plant and animal life," explains Ibrahim. "This means there were lots of opportunities for different pterosaurs to co-exist, and perhaps feeding on quite different kinds of prey."