New York

Flying Reptiles Head for SoCal

A new NHM exhibition will examine the epic pterosaurs.

If you're a kid, and you own a pair of pajamas covered in Triceratops, and the sheets on your bed depict the Tyrannosaurus Rex, and your walls are covered in Stegosauruses, then you likely think nothing is quite as cool as a giant, ancient land roamer.

With one notable exception: A giant, ancient flying reptile.

Pterosaurs, those winged, on-the-wind beasties who once roamed the skies of the later Triassic and Cretaceous periods, capture the fancies of both kids and former kids in a way that few creatures can, fictional or real (and pterosaurs were definitely real).

And they're making their way to Exposition Park, and the Natural History Museum, for a summertime opening of a major exhibition, one that's organized by the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

"Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs" will alight at our venerable science institution on July 3, 2016, with a close date of Oct. 2.

The show, which will feature a host of life-size models as well as videos and exhibits, is described as "the largest exhibition in the United States dedicated to exploring these incredibly diverse winged reptiles." Some were as small as the wee birds we know today, while some boasted prodigious wingspans of 30-plus feet or more, making them the size "of a two-seater plane."


Recently discovered information about the diversity of these long-ago flyers will also be presented in the exhibition, which will highlight the 150 species that reigned, in various forms and numbers, for some 150 million years. 

Where were they? All over the planet, pretty much (pterosaurs had a knack for getting around and not encountering too much gridlock, as we know it, as you might guess). The exhibit will delve into their geography, as well as the deep research about these early vertebrate animals, which were not, repeat not dinosaurs.

Not. Dinosaurs. "Closely related" but not. Very dino-looking, true, but doing their own prehistoric, not-a-dinosaur thing.

So how long ago did the pterosaurs make their final flights? About 66 million years in the past, an amount of time that inspires a small sigh of relief for modern earthlings, as the idea of getting buzzed by a reptile that's the size of a two-seater plane while walking to the market does bring a spot of consternation (as cool as they are).

Count on loads of fascinating tidbits to roll out at NHM, including news on contemporary findings, like the how "an unknown species of giant pterosaur" was "unearthed in Romania in 2012." 

Aaaawesome, part two.

Clearly there's so much more to learn, and discover, with these massive-of-wings icons of the wayback skies. For sure, we'll keep putting them on bedroom posters, and pajamas, and creating toys and puzzles in their likenesses, because flying reptiles will never not intrigue.

But that enduring appeal and mystery doesn't preclude us from grabbing the proverbial spade and digging deeper into the pterosaurs' stories. The info-digging begins in early July at the Natural History Museum.

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