In 2019 paleontologists Alexandru Solomon and colleagues named a new azhdarchid pterosaur, Albadraco tharmisensis, from the Upper Cretaceous Șard Formation of Romania. It’s based on the incomplete remains of a single animal consisting of fragments of the upper and lower jaws, as well as a single cervical vertebra. The genus name honors Alba County in west-central Romania, while the species name refers to the ancient Dacian name for Alba Iulia, the seat of Alba County.
The two fragments of the upper and lower jaw are both about 6.5-7.5 cm (2.5-3 inches) long and appear to be from an adjacent portion of the beak near but not at the tips of the jaws. They show that the beak of Albadraco was tapering and toothless, and would have resembled the beaks of herons in life. The lateral and occlusal surface of both fragments have a large number of nutrient foramina, with those in the upper jaw being slit-shaped and forming two rows on the lateral surface. The upper jaw was triangular in cross-section, with a rounded upper surface. Unique among pterosaurs, the lower jaw has a U-shaped distal cross-section and a V-shaped proximal cross-section.
The single vertebra is a largely complete fourth cervical, missing the left prezygapophysis. Like most azhdarchids, the neural spine is reduced to a low ridge, and the pre- and post-zygapophyses are widely divergent. Although Albadraco is known from just a few bones, Solomon and colleagues could estimate that it was a medium-sized azhdarchid, with a wingspan of about 6 m (20 feet).
There are three species of azhdarchid known from rocks formed at the end of the Cretaceous Period in Romania; small Eurazhdarcho, medium-sized Albadraco, and giant Hatzegopteryx. Solomon and colleagues noted that the Albadraco specimen has fibrous bone tissue, suggesting it wasn’t fully grown and might have been a young individual of Hatzegopteryx. However, they noted that the articular surfaces of the cervical vertebra are well-developed, something seen in adult azhdarchids, so it’s more likely to represent an almost fully-grown animal, and thus, not Hatzegopteryx.
Azhdarchids were among the largest pterosaurs, and hunted small terrestrial animals including young and small dinosaurs. When Albadraco was alive, most of Europe was under water, with only a few small to medium-sized islands. Its remains were found in rocks formed on Hațeg Island, which was about the same size as modern Hispaniola. Most theropod dinosaurs were relatively small, and it appears that the top predators on ancient Hațeg were azhdarchid pterosaurs.