Ancient Flying Reptile Named After Kung Fu Film 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon'

"Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"

Fossilized remains of the kryptodrakon progenitor ("hidden dragon"), which evolved into the largest flying creatures ever to inhabit earth, were discovered in northwest China, where Ang Lee's Oscar-winning film was shot.

It appears some paleo-herpetologists -- i.e., zoologists specializing in ancient reptiles -- are also avid kung fu fans.

Upon discovering fossilized remains of a new species of pterodactyloid -- a class of ancient reptile that evolved into the largest flying creatures ever to inhabit earth -- a group of U.S. and Chinese scientists named the animal "kryptodrakon progenitor," a tribute to Ang Lee's Oscar-winning martial arts epic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon ("krypto" = hidden; "drakon" = dragon, or serpent; and progenitor refers to the creature's status as the earliest of the pterodactyloids, a type of pterosaur). Pterosaurs went on to become the dominant winged animals of the prehistoric world. 

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The fossils were found in a "dinosaur death pit" in a northwestern region of China where parts of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon were filmed in 1999-2000.

Writing in the scientific journal Current Biology, the team of scientists, led by Brian Andres, a paleontologist at University of South Florida, describe how the new discovery proves that pterodactyloids existed at least five million years earlier than previously believed, or about 163 million years ago. For complex taxonomical reasons, the scientists say the kryptodrakon was a reptile, not a dinosaur.

The Crouching Tiger franchise will also soon find itself jumping back in time, when the upcoming Weinstein Company-produced prequel, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon II: The Green Destiny, goes into production in New Zealand later this year, starring Donnie Yen and Michelle Yeoh