Pterosaurs Fly Again at New Exhibit (VIDEO)

Apr 04, 2014 10:30 AM EDT | Jordan Ecarma


Dinosaur fans might want to take a trip to the American Museum of Natural History this weekend. A new exhibition called "Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs" is opening on April 5 at the New York museum to showcase facts about the flying creatures and some of the fossils they left behind, NBC News reported.

Highlighting the pterosaur, which is the largest known animal ever to fly, the exhibit will run until Jan. 5.

Pterosaurs are believed to be reptiles that were related to dinosaurs and diversified into 150 species. They ranged in size from the Quetzalcoatlus northropi, the largest discovered with a 33-foot wingspan, to Nemicolopterus crypticus with wings that were a mere 10 inches across. Most likely had a wingspan of about 6 feet.

Because their bones were engineered for flight to be lightweight and hollow, pterosaur fossils are extremely rare.

"I have been excavating fossils in the Gobi Desert for 25 years and I have collected thousands and thousands of dinosaur bones," Mark A. Norell, chair of the museum's division of paleontology, told NBC News. "I have only collected one pterosaur bone in that entire time."

Scientists have used computer models to hypothesize how the flying creature moved through the air and on land. They earlier believed the pterosaur walked on two legs, similar to the pigeon, but the current theory is that it actually crawled on all fours like a bat, NBC News reported.

A biology professor recently created a computer model to see how the animal launched itself into the air to fly. Some thought pterosaurs climbed trees to get height or ran on the ground to get momentum, but the new computer model shows the animal likely just jumped into the air to take off.

"Habib's evidence is pretty, pretty good that they were able to take off with an explosive jump into the air," Norell told NBC News. "Then, they put out their wings and could generate enough lift with one downstroke to take off."

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