Scientists have discovered in northwestern China over 200 fossilised eggs of the pterosaurs, a flying reptile that went extinct about 66 million years ago, Reuters reported.

The record haul of 215 eggs belong to a pterosaur species known as Hamipterus tianshanensis, which was first discovered in 2005 in the Turpan-Hami Basin in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region site, scientists said on Thursday. This includes 16 eggs with partial embryonic remains. The adults of this fish-eating reptile had a crest on top of an elongated skull, pointy teeth and a wingspan of more than 11 feet.

The huge number of eggs, which are are extremely rare, suggests that the pterosaurs may have nested in colonies, which enabled them to defend their offspring from predators, BBC reported.

The discovery would help palaeontologists study how these animals reproduced, among other things. “The work is a crucial advance in understanding pterosaur reproduction,’’ said Charles Deeming of the University of Lincoln in England.

The discovery was made by pterosaur experts Xiaolin Wang of the Institute of Vertebrate Palaeontology and Paleoanthropology in Beijing, and Alexander Kellner of the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro, BBC reported.

Kellner told the news channel that an almost complete skeleton of a hatchling showed that the newborns might have been able to walk first but not fly. “That implies some parental help was needed for the hatchlings,’’ he said.

The scientists, Kellner added, would try to get a more detailed picture of “the first vertebrates that conquered the air some 225 million years ago and that went extinct, without leaving any descendants some 66 million years ago’’.