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Last Updated: Tuesday February 12 2008 15:15 GMT

Tiny flying reptile fossil found

An artist's impression of the reptile. (Photo credit: Michael Skrepnickaption)
Photo: Michael Skrepnickaption

The skeleton of a tiny reptile which lived 120 million years ago has been found in China.

The creature lived in trees, had a wingspan of just 30cm and was about the size of a sparrow.

It's been called the Nemicolopterus crypticus - which means "hidden flying forest dweller".

The reptile was a pterosaur - a family of creatures which lived alongside dinosaurs. They are also called pterodactyls.

Experts say it's unusual that this reptile is so small as some pterosaurs were the size of a small plane. This creature was probably one of the smallest pterosaurs around.

The fossil skeleton (Photo credit: PNAS/National Academy of Sciences)
Photo: PNAS/National Academy of Sciences
The fossil also shows the flying creature had no teeth, curved feet and ate insects.

A fossil is the remains of something that lived long ago.

It is usually preserved in rock and can tell us a lot about animals and plants that lived millions of years ago and have now become extinct.

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