Some 160 million years ago, a tiny winged creature with wide eyes and a goofy grin lived among the trees in what’s now modern day China.
The scientists, mostly from China and Japan, discovered the fossilized, crushed skeleton of the creature in a rock preserved in China’s Hubei Province and realized it was a new species of pterosaur, the outlet reported.
“Despite being crushed to the point of obliterating many details, the specimen is rather complete and provides new information for the group,” researchers wrote in their report.
Using x-ray imaging, the team was able to reconstruct the long-extinct flyer and illustrations were created to show what it likely looked like when it was still around.
The illustrations depict a creature that looks a bit like a flying squirrel but instead of a rodent body, the shaft appears more like a salamander with large, membranous wings jutting from each side. It has gaping eyes, a wide smile and a tiny tail between a pair of feet.
It was also likely furry but not with hair or feathers — scientists think it was covered in a pelt of tufted “pycnofibers” — a completely different and independently evolved form of covering.
While it is part of the pterosaur family, the Sinomacrops is quite different from its massive, often terrifying, relatives that were once as large as giraffes, sported long beaks and had an appetite for dead dinosaurs.
Scientists believe the new dino is a prehistoric version of nightjars or bats — prowling in low-light conditions to gobble up insects for its primary diet.
Megan Jabobs, a paleontologist from Texas’s Baylor University who wasn’t involved with the research, told the outlet the findings are exciting because pterosaur fossils are extremely rare as their thin, hollow bones didn’t preserve as well as other creatures.