February 26, 2020 - 17:47 AMT
Scientists rename pterosaur after Game of Thrones dragons

Author George RR Martin is celebrating after a palaeontologist, who named a new genus of pterosaur after the dragons of House Targaryen, agreed with him that dragons should have two, rather than four, legs, The Guardian reports.

The fossilized bones of Targaryendraco wiedenrothi, which lived 130m years ago, were discovered by Kurt Wiedenroth in 1984 in northern Germany. The specimen was originally classified within the Ornithocheirus group of pterosaurs, as Ornithocheirus wiedenrothi, but the toothy pterosaur has now been reassigned to the new genus Targaryendraco.

“All these species are from shallow coastal environments and probably fed on fish,” study leader Rodrigo Pêgas, a palaeontologist at Federal University of ABC in São Bernardo do Campo, Brazil, told National Geographic. “The slenderness of jaw is the main feature they share … it’s the most extreme slenderness in the jaws of any toothed pterosaurs.”

The wings, he added, “were elongate and narrow, and this shape is specific for modern birds and bats that fish on the wing”.

Martin called the decision to name the genus after the former royal house from his Game of Thrones books “really too cool”.

“I am delighted, needless to say. Especially by the kind words of the discoverer, paleontologist Rodrigo Pêgas, who is solidly on my side about dragons having two legs, not four,” he said.

Pêgas and his co-authors chose the name because the oddly dark fossils reminded them of the black bones of the dragons from Martin’s fantasy series, and because “pterosaurs have inspired some biological aspects of the dragons”, they write.

The novelist is currently working on the sixth book in the Song of Ice and Fire series, "The Winds of Winter".