In the ancient skies above the Eromanga Sea, a formidable pterosaur known as Haliskia peterseni once soared, capturing marine prey with its bony crests and spike-shaped teeth. This prehistoric creature, recently discovered in Queensland, Australia, represents the most complete pterosaur fossil ever unearthed in the country. Dating back approximately 100 million years, Haliskia had a wingspan of 15 feet (4.6 meters), making it larger and slightly older than the closely related Ferrodraco, which was discovered in 2019. The pterosaur’s name, meaning “sea phantom,” reflects its eerie presence in the ancient skies. According to Adele Pentland, a paleontology doctoral student at Curtin University and lead author of the study published in Scientific Reports, the Eromanga Sea once covered vast parts of Australia, both of which have since disappeared. The ghostly remnants of both the sea and Haliskia are evidenced by the fossils found in the region. The delicate nature of pterosaur skeletons often hinders fossilization, yet 22% of Haliskia’s skeleton was remarkably well-preserved, including the lower jaws, upper jaw tip, throat bones, 43 teeth, vertebrae, ribs, wing bones, and part of one leg.

Haliskia’s remains provide unprecedented insights into the anatomy and behavior of these ancient flying reptiles. Pentland noted the unusual preservation of throat bones, typically as thin as spaghetti, revealing a likely muscular tongue that could have provided an advantage in trapping live prey such as fish and squid-like cephalopods. Haliskia’s fossilization was facilitated by sediment burial at the bottom of the Eromanga Sea, allowing for its extraordinary preservation. The name Haliskia also honors Kevin Petersen, an avocado farmer turned museum curator who discovered the remains in 2021.