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Pterosaurs: Ancient Rulers of the Sky
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Pterosaurs: Ancient Rulers of the Sky

Pterosaurs: Ancient Rulers of the Sky

Pterosaurs​ explores the majesty and wonder of a group of species that lived between Late Triassic through the Late Cretaceous Periods (228 to 66 million years ago) of the Mesozoic Era. The exhibit is being built in-house by the talented design and build team at the Museum, and will feature original designs as well as fossil replicas. Eight interactive stations will enable visitors to learn what is a pterosaur, when and where they lived, how they moved and ate, and about the diversity of the species.

The ​Pterosaurs​ exhibit is ideal for learners of all ages. Families and individuals will have the ability to learn about these fascinating and visually striking animals in a variety of engaging ways. Fossil replicas are accompanied by plaques containing information and illustrative examples. Technology-based stations include interactive projections and holographic images. Visitors will also discover how the arms of birds, bats and pterosaurs differ from their own and watch how these incredible animals launched themselves in the air from a standing start.

Visitors will also discover why many pterosaurs had enormous and colorful head crests and why males and females may have looked different (sexual dimorphism). Viewers will take a tour of this ancient world to see where pterosaurs lived, what their skull shapes tell us about how they fit in the environment, and what they at.

What is a Pterosaur?

Pterosaurs were the first flying vertebrates (animals with backbones) in evolutionary history. The smallest species was sparrow-sized and the largest was as tall as a giraffe (​Quetzalcoatlus northropi​). Pterosaurs were winged, flying reptiles which lived alongside dinosaurs, and are a distinct order within the scientific classification system Pterosauria. Pterodactyls are the most commonly referenced species, and are often considered to be “flying dinosaurs” which is scientifically false. Pterodactyl refers only to members of the Pterodactylus genus, while there are over 150 genera of pterosaurs known at this time.

The wings of pterosaurs were not thin membranes of skin, but instead made up of individual fibers called actinofibrils. These fibers were able to shift with the changing air currents. Additionally, pterosaurs had hollow bones (like birds) and air sacs which lessened their weight and increased metabolism. Some species even showed evidence of furry filaments, or pycnofibers, covering their bodies that suggest warm-bloodedness. Habitats were varied, with evidence of pterosaurs living in many environments, from beaches and deltas to forests, plains and mountains. Their eating habits were similarly varied and matched their habitats, and included fruit-eaters, fishermen, filter-feeders and even terrestrial stalkers with skulls longer than a human is tall.

Pterosaurs is the latest exhibit designed, built and assembled right here in the Museum by the energetic and creative Exhibits Team at ScienceWorks.

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