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Pterosaurs take flight at Natural History Museum




Learn about ancient flying reptiles (not birds!) in our new exhibit: Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs. Now open!
Learn about ancient flying reptiles (not birds!) in our new exhibit: Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs. Now open!
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There's a new exhibit at LA's Natural History Museum all about Pterosaurs, those amazing, prehistoric flying reptiles

Mike Habib is the resident mind on all-things dinosaurs at the museum.

And even though he's spent many years studying all sorts of Jurassic and Cretaceous animals, he told Take Two's A Martinez that the Pterosaur holds a special place in his heart.

On why he's so interested in pterosaurs

I think the thing that most interests me about pterosaurs is that they're so incredibly strange. When you work on a lot of different sorts of animals both living and fossil, fewer things start to wow you over time, I guess. You get sort of jaded about things, but you never really get jaded over pterosaurs. They're just too strange for that.

On the diversity of pterosaurs 

It was a really diverse group actually, much more so than probably a lot of people realize... Some had a wing that was formed largely from one giant finger. A lot had really big heads and had big crests on those big heads ... the smallest ones would fit in the palm of your hand; the largest ones... would have a wing span of about 35 feet.

On whether or not a Bald Eagle would stand a chance against a pterosaur

Well it depends the largest pterosaurs would of course be able to swallow a bald eagle whole, but none of the pterosaurs that we've discovered so far have talons like a bird... So despite what the movies show you, there were no pterosaurs...that could swoop down and carry a human off.

On the lies that Hollywood has spread about prehistoric creatures

The greatest myth in movies about dinosaurs and pterosaurs.. is mostly I would say that they make them all hyper aggressive. There's this myth that animals in the past were monsters. And that... they would go on a murderous rampage. Being trapped with a small to midsized predatory dinosaur would be about as dangerous as being enclosed with a leopard: Risky, not recommended, but not an immediate death sentence.

On what this new exhibit will feature

This exhibit's pretty cool. This is the largest pterosaur exhibit that's ever been launched anywhere. It has a really cool mix of kind of 2016 style stuff and old-school if you will. Plenty of original specimens on display; we've got original fossils as well as research grade casts... Kids and they're parents are [also] invited to get onto two [interactive simulations] and fly like a pterosaurs. It's a virtual reality style capture. So you stand on ti put your arms out and it captures those as the wings. It's not a perfect physic simulation of course, but it's pretty good. You can dive into the water the catch fish, tuck your arms, stuff like that. it's also a lot of fun to watch people on it, so get your kids on it and take video.

Can you actually bring a dinosaur back to life, Jurassic Park style?

I can confirm you cannot do it as you do in Jurassic Park. The best you could do is you could retro engineer something that was pretty close in appearance from what you would  imagine a cretaceous dinosaur like from a living bird. Because a lot of the genes are still in there. You could engineer a chicken for example to have teeth and claws. That's not difficult to do really with modern technology.

On what Pterosaur he'd be interested in bringing back for research purposes

I'd bring back quetzalcoatl. One species of quetzalcoatl is one of the animals that's tied for largest known flying animal because I want to see what it can do! You'd have to keep your dogs away from it because we think its optimal feeding size was probably about the size of the average medium dog or ten year old. So you wouldn't want your kids or dogs near it. But with a few safety precautions it'd be pretty cool to see what that thing could do.

To hear the full converation, click the blue player above.

Pterosaurs: Flight in the age of Dinosaurs is now on display at the Natural History Museum until Oct. 2.



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