Mammals will have to take a seat in history books after a group of international scientists discovered a flying reptile with the oldest recorded opposing pollex — commonly known as a thumb.
In a report released Monday, scientists announced the finding of the ‘Monkeydactyl’ that lived 160 million years ago in a forest ecosystem in China during the Jurassic era.
Nicknamed the ‘Monkeydactyl’ by a friend of one of the report’s authors, the species is a pterosaur and scientifically known as Kunpengopterus antipollicatus. Pterosaurs were the first known vertebrates to evolve powered flight, according to the report.
The fossil was found in China in September 2019, with both hands having thumbs preserved in an opposed way, according to report co-author Fion Waisum Ma.
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Ma, a doctoral student at the University of Birmingham, said researchers used CT scans to enlarge the hands and look at anatomical features on the computer due to the small size of the fossil.
“The finding of the opposed thumbs isn’t something that happened after its death,” Ma said. “This discovery means thumbs first appeared on Earth 160 million years in a flying reptile.”
An opposed thumb is very rare among reptiles and most commonly found in mammals and humans. The ‘Monkeydactyl’ likely used the thumb to climb and grab things, according to Ma.
Although the finding of this fossil changes the history books for now, Ma is leaving the door open for more possibilities.
“It is possible if we go out and find more fossils we could find an even older opposing pollex in the future,” Ma said.
Follow reporter Asha Gilbert @Coastalasha. Email: [email protected]