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Biggest pterosaur ever found was as tall as a giraffe

A powerful flying reptile that was as tall as a giraffe, weighed half a tonne, and had a longer wingspan than a Cessna Skyhawk plane has been put on display at a museum in Germany.

Flying reptile had a mass of more than half a tonne and a wingspan of more than 12 metres

The pterosaur nicknamed Dracula, found in Romania, is taller than a giraffe with a 12-metre wingspan 1:24

A remarkable flying reptile that was as tall as a giraffe, weighed half a tonne and had a longer wingspan than a Cessna Skyhawk plane has been put on display at a museum in Germany.

The bones of the powerful pterosaur, an ancient flying reptile closely related to dinosaurs, are now on display at the Altmuehltal Dinosaur Museum in Germany as part of its Emperors of the Skies exhibit. The museum said it's the "largest and most robust" pterodactyl ever found.

An artist's impression shows the Dracula pterosaur living in a subtropical island during the Cretaceous period in what is now Romania. (Frederik Spindler/Altmuehltal Dinosaur Museum)

In a news release, paleontologists who excavated and studied the creature reported that it would have likely had a mass of more than half a tonne and would have stood as tall as a giraffe. Its wingspan was more than 12 metres and possibly up to 20 metres. A Cessna Skyhawk four-seater plane has a wingspan of 11 metres.

The pterosaur was also very powerfully built, with a neck as wide as a full-grown man and a wrist bone bigger than that of a mammoth, said Matyas Vremir, the paleontologist who discovered the first bone of the fossil, in a statement.

Paleontologists Gerhard Haszprunar, left, Mike Reich, centre left, and Raimund Albersdorfer, centre right, stand with museum founder Michael Volker, right, in front of the Dracula pterosaur on display at Altmuehltal Dinosaur Museum. (Axel Schmidt/Altmuehltal Dinosaur Museum)

The pterosaur has been nicknamed Dracula because it was found in an 120-metre high cliff in Transylvania in Romania in 2009. The cliff would have been part of a subtropical island at the time the pterosaur lived, during the Cretaceous period leading up to the extinction of dinosaurs 66 million years ago.

Paleontologists working on the project say they initially didn't believe the creature was what it turned out to be.

"Facing this gigantic neck vertebra, we couldn't identify it, you know," said Raimund Albersdorfer, a paleontologist at the Altmuehltal Dinosaur Museum. Eventually, they realized it must be a pterosaur — "a gigantic, unique pterosaur — and we just freaked out."

Albersdorfer said his team had to rappel down a steep slope and hammer into the rock 80 metres above the base of the cliff to excavate the fossil.

With files from Reuters