Pterosaurs Take Flight at AMNH

by Amy Kraft on April 16, 2014

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Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs is a great new show at the American Museum of Natural History, great for dinosaur lovers young and old. I recently attended a preview of the exhibit, where paleontologist curators Mark Norell and Alexander Kellner talked about pterosaur fossils and the formation of this new exhibit.

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The first thing they said is that pterosaurs are not dinosaurs. Dude! That’s like when Neil deGrasse Tyson tells me Pluto’s not a planet. They’re simply dinosaur-like reptiles that flew around in the age of dinosaurs. It was fascinating to hear about fossil collection from those who have been out in the field, trying to find them. Pterosaur fossils are elusive because many had delicate bones that didn’t hold up well as fossils. Also, over 90% of pterosaur fossils come from only five places on earth, but new discoveries in recent years have shed light on the diversity of these animals. Alexander Kellner talked about the Transylvania mountains as a hotbed of pterosaur findings. (Does anyone else hear that and imagine a killer horror movie with bloodsucking flying beasts? Just me? Okay, then.)

Indeed, when you walk through the exhibit, the most magnificent thing is the variety of fossils on display. The exhibits show how they ranged from teeny tiny pterosaurs to gigantic ones that you can’t believe got off the ground. Some fossils show how pterosaurs walked around on land, and what their takeoff might have looked like.

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Kids will love the interactive part of the exhibit. There’s a room where you can use your hand and your whole body to fly like a pterosaur. Spread your arms, bend your body, and soar! These are surprisingly effective interactions, and it’s almost as much fun to watch someone doing it as doing it yourself.

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If you can’t make it to the museum, or you simply couldn’t get enough pterosaurs while you were there, fear not! Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs is also a free app, highlighting the main points of the exhibit with interactivity that lets you learn more about these crazy flying reptiles.

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There’s also a Pterosaurs card game designed by high school students in the museum’s Science For the Win (#scienceFTW) program. You can print out cards found online and use the app for some augmented-reality pterosaur fun.

The Pterosaurs exhibit is now open, and it runs through January 4, 2015.

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