Scientists in Chile's Atacama Desert have unearthed the fossilized remains of a so-called "flying dragon", a Jurassic-era dinosaur previously known only in the Northern Hemisphere.
The flying reptile belonged to a group of early pterosaurs that roamed the Earth 160 million years ago. It had a long pointed tail, wings and pointed, outward-pointing teeth.
The fossil remains of the animal were discovered by Osvaldo Rojas, director of the Atacama Desert Museum of Natural History and Culture, and then further investigated by scientists from the University of Chile.
Details of the discovery, the first to link such organisms to the Southern Hemisphere, were published in the journal Acta Palaeontologica Polonica.
"This suggests that the distribution of animals in this group was wider than previously thought," said University of Chile scientist Jhontan Alarcón, who led the investigation.
The discovery points to a close relationship and possible migration between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres at a time when most of the world's southern landmass is thought to be connected into a supercontinent called Gondwana.
Alarcón said, "There are also pterosaurs in this group in Cuba, which were apparently coastal animals, so most likely they moved between north and south or maybe they once came and stayed, we don't know." "
Chile's vast Atacama Desert, once largely submerged under the Pacific Ocean, is now a moon of sand and stone.
The region, parts of which have not rained for decades, is a hotbed for fossil discoveries, with many remote areas remaining untouched that are not beneath the desert surface.