A quarry on the Virginia–North Carolina border has yielded fossils of an unusual, gliding reptile that lived in the region about 220 million years ago. Depicted here, Mecistotrachelos apeoros, which in Greek means “soaring and long necked,” presumably spread a long, membrane-covered set of ribs to glide from tree to tree, says Nick C. Fraser, a paleontologist at the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville.
The resulting aerodynamic surfaces gave the 25-centimeter-long reptile the 30-cm wingspan of a modern-day cardinal. Remains of the creature were encased in rock so hard that the bones couldn’t be extracted without damaging them, says Fraser. He and his colleagues revealed the fossils by doing computerized tomography scans of the rocks surrounding the bones, the scientists report in the June Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.