The fossil of a gigantic flying reptile from the Jurassic period has been found in Oxfordshire - and it is one of the largest ever discovered from the era. 

With a wingspan of more than three metres, the pterosaur bones found have been topographically scanned and identified as belonging to an adult Ctenochasmatoidea.

These were a group of pterosaurs known for their long, slender wings, long jaws and fine bristle-like teeth.

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The fossil, which features part of the pterosaur's wing bone, has been nicknamed Abfab - after being excavated from a gravel pit near Abingdon.

The fossil was broken into three pieces but was still well-preserved. 

Experts from the universities of Portsmouth and Leicester have published a paper on the specimen.

Herald Series: Professor Martill was excited by the discovery.Professor Martill was excited by the discovery. (Image: SWNS)

Professor David Martill from the University of Portsmouth said: “When the bone was discovered, it was certainly notable for its size. 

''We carried out a numerical analysis and came up with a maximum wingspan of 3.75 metres. 

''Although this would be small for a Cretaceous pterosaur, it’s absolutely huge for a Jurassic one.

“This fossil is also particularly special because it is one of the first records of this type of pterosaur from the Jurassic period in the United Kingdom.”

Pterosaurs from the Triassic and Jurassic periods typically had wingspans between one and a half and two metres, so were generally smaller than their later relatives from the Cretaceous period, which could have wingspans of up to 10 metres. 

Herald Series: Bones found of the ancient species.

However, this new discovery suggests that some Jurassic pterosaurs could grow much larger.

Professor Martill added: “This specimen is now one of the largest known pterosaurs from the Jurassic period worldwide, surpassed only by a specimen in Switzerland with an estimated wingspan of up to five metres.”

Geologist Dr James Etienne discovered the specimen while hunting for fossil marine reptiles in June 2022 when the Late Jurassic Kimmeridge Clay Formation was temporarily exposed in the floor of a quarry. 

This revealed a number of specimens including bones from ichthyosaurs and plesiosaurs and other ancient sea creatures including ammonites and bivalves, marine crocodiles and sharks.

Dr Dave Unwin, from the University of Leicester, said: “Abfab, our nickname for the Abingdon pterosaur, shows that pterodactyloids, advanced pterosaurs that completely dominated the Cretaceous, achieved spectacularly large sizes almost immediately after they first appeared in the Middle Jurassic right about the time the dinosaurian ancestors of birds were taking to the air.”

The paper on the special find is published in Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association and the fossil is now housed in the Etches Collection in Kimmeridge, Dorset.