Sep 17, 2014 02:46 AM EDT
Only weeks ago there was news of not one, but three sequels to the largest film the industry has ever known-Avatar. Proclaimed to be the box-office winner of all time, grossing approximately $2.8 billion worldwide in 2009, James Cameron's "Avatar" was one for the record-books. A shockingly realistic portrayal of a far off alien civilization on the planet Pandora, the film was the first of its kind in creating an entire existence, along with a language and a planet filled with new species. But it turns out that one may have been hidden here on Earth.
Revealed in this week's issue of the journal Scientific Reports, a team of paleontologists from China's northeastern Liaoning province where a treasure trove of fossils has unearthed dozens of newly found species, reports that a pterosaur ancestor may have once looked like the Pandora creature called the "ikran".
Known as the mountain banshee "ikran" species in the film Avatar, the pterosaur-like creatures were to be feared as almost mythical giants that took flight. Though only based in part on Earthen species, researchers say that Cameron and his graphic designers created a fairly accurate depiction of the newfound dinosaur.
"The head structure is similar in this pterosaur to the Ikran in 'Avatar'" author and vertebrate paleontologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xiaolin Wang says.
Belonging to the family of Pterosaurs, the first vertebrates to ever take flight, the species dates back to the early Cretaceous period roughly 120 million years ago. Smaller than the ikran, the new species of pterosaur was only about 2.3 feet long and had a wingspan of about 4.9 feet. With a pouch-like appendage attached to their throats, much like what pelicans have today, these pterosaurs foraged on ancient fish and spent much of their time not on mountain peaks, but down by the shore.
Paying homage to the Avatar origins of the species, the researchers have decided to incorporate Na'vi into binomial nomenclature, and named the new pterosaur species Ikrandraco avatar.
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