Environment & Science

Exhibit on 'unofficial dinosaur' opens at the Natural History Museum this weekend

The colossal Tropeognathus mesembrinusmodel, with a wingspan of more than 25 feet, soars overhead at the entrance to the Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs exhibition.
The colossal Tropeognathus mesembrinusmodel, with a wingspan of more than 25 feet, soars overhead at the entrance to the Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs exhibition.
Roderick Mickens
The colossal Tropeognathus mesembrinusmodel, with a wingspan of more than 25 feet, soars overhead at the entrance to the Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs exhibition.
A gallery display illustrates the incredible variety of pterosaur crests—from a dagger-shaped blade that juts from the head to a giant, sail-like extension.
Denis Finnin
The colossal Tropeognathus mesembrinusmodel, with a wingspan of more than 25 feet, soars overhead at the entrance to the Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs exhibition.
Visitors can “pilot” a flying pterosaur over a prehistoric landscape in a whole-body interactive exhibit that uses motion-sensing technology.
Denis Finnin
The colossal Tropeognathus mesembrinusmodel, with a wingspan of more than 25 feet, soars overhead at the entrance to the Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs exhibition.
Two Thalassodromeuspterosaurs with impressive 14-foot wingspans swoop down to catch Rhacolepisfish in their toothless jawsin this large diorama showing a detailed re-creation of a dramatic Cretaceous seascape located at the present-day Araripe Basin in northeast Brazil.
Roderick Mickens
The colossal Tropeognathus mesembrinusmodel, with a wingspan of more than 25 feet, soars overhead at the entrance to the Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs exhibition.
Thalassodromeus sethihad a crest three times larger than the entire rest of its skull, when seen from the side. Indeed, it had the largest crest of any known vertebrate. This large pterosaur species, with a wingspan of 14 feet, lived around 110 million years ago near a lagoon in what is now Brazil.
Natural History Museum


This weekend, a new exhibit is flying over to the Natural History Museum, one that shines a light on a long extinct animal that is often mistaken for a dinosaur. 

The pterosaur, not to be confused with the more commonly known pterodactyl, lived alongside (or flew above) the triceratops and stegosaurus during the mesozoic era but it wasn't a dinosaur, Dr. Nathan Smith, associate curator for the Dinosaur Institute, told KPCC. 

“I think they’re animals that everybody is a little bit familiar with,” he said.

Beginning this Sunday through October 2, "Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs" will feature reconstructions of the largest of these flying reptiles, including one with a 33-foot wingspan. 

If the experience of looking up at these massive models isn't enough to transport you back 65 million years, visitors can participate in a motion-capture video experience and immerse themselves in the reptile's flight. The process involves a virtual reality experience that museum patrons can "pilot" as they chase bugs and dive for fish. 

“This exhibit really highlights the different forms, shapes, sizes, ecologies and diets that these animals had,” Smith said. 

Planning for the exhibit began more than a year ago. The museum already had an existing collection of pterosaurs but it was supplemented by other fossils and displays from across the globe including Brazil and Germany. 

Besides the scale and grandeur of the models, Smith said the exhibit offers a rare insight to an often overlooked species:

"The exhibit does a really good job of getting across science as a process and uses Pterosaurs as kind of a vehicle to teach about how our picture of ancient reptiles and their ecosystems and lives changes as we gather more evidence and more fossils and more information through time."