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The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHM) presents the largest exhibition in the United Sates dedicated to pterosaurs — diverse winged reptiles which were the first animals with a back bone to fly.
“Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs,” an exhibit running from Sunday, July 3 through Oct. 2, highlights the latest research by museum scientists and leading paleontologists around the world. Rare casts from Italy, Germany, China, the United States, United Kingdom and Brazil are included, as well as life-size models, videos and interactive exhibits. Visitors will be immersed in the mechanics of pterosaur flight. The exhibit is complemented by NHM’s collection of pterosaur artifacts, including rare trackways and a giant crested Pteranodon longiceps on display in the mezzanine of the Jane G. Pisano Dinosaur Hall.
The exhibit underscores the vast and newly revealed variation among the ancient creatures, which ranged from the size of a sparrow to a two-seat plane. The exhibit also explores how pterosaurs evolved to dominate the sky when dinosaurs roamed the Earth.
“This exhibition represents a remarkable moment in the wonderfully rich, vital area of pterosaur research and discovery,” said NHM president and director Lori Bettison-Varga, “We are delighted to partner with our East Coast colleagues at the American Museum of Natural History to bring to life these fascinating flying creatures, both through discoveries of rare prehistoric specimens and today’s cutting-edge technology. We look forward to working together with the global scientific community to learn more about this exciting group of reptiles as new information continues to unfold.”
The exhibit features dozens of casts and replicas of fossils from the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) collection and from museums around the world.
Also in the exhibition is a cast of the remains of an unknown species of giant pterosaur unearthed in Romania in 2012 by scientists working with the AMNH.
“Despite persistently captivating our popular imagination, pterosaurs are among the least well-understood large animals from the age of dinosaurs,” said AMNH president Ellen V. Futter. “In the past decade, however, there has been an explosion of pterosaur research and new fossil discoveries including by scientists at the AMNH and the exhibition’s curatorial team. Showcasing scientifically accurate information, this exhibition presents these fascinating winged reptiles, compares them to both dinosaurs of yesteryear and modern day birds and bats, and explores the biomechanics of pterosaur flight.”
Despite popular misconceptions, pterosaurs were not dinosaurs, although the two groups are closely related. The flying reptiles diversified into more than 150 species and spread throughout the planet over a period of 150 million years until they went extinct 66 million years ago. Full-size models of one of the largest and one of the smallest pterosaur species ever found: the colossal Tropeognathus mesembrinus, with a wingspan of more than 25 feet, and the sparrow-size Nemicolopterus crypticus, with a wingspan of 10 inches.
The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is located at 900 Exposition Blvd. For information, call (213)763-3218, www.nhm.org.
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