Pterosaurs fly at the Museum of Discovery in Fort Collins

Can you say Quetzacoatlus? I bet your kids can. I’ll call this creature Q for short to make things simple. Q flew over the Cretaceous skies of North America about 70 million years ago. Q was a flying reptile called a pterosaur — not a dinosaur — but anything with the wingspan of a MIG jet in the air and the height of a giraffe when perched on the ground deserves a bit of awe and respect. In fact, pterosaur expert Mark Witton in a book on these creatures said if Q and their kin “fail to stir your paleontological loins, you may want to see a doctor.”

Check out the exhibit at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery beginning Nov. 17 and you may be able to delay that trip to the doctor. A reconstruction of Q will cast a shadow on the exhibit floor that will give museum-goers a sense of what big fish and small dinosaurs might have felt while being eyed as a dinner prospect. After that frisson of excitement fades, visitors can enjoy observing rare pterosaur fossil casts from around the world, other life size models, videos, and a variety of interactive exhibits — including one that allows you to pilot a pterosaur over virtual prehistoric landscapes.

The Museum of Discovery landed this exhibit prepared by the American Museum of Natural History in New York after 4 years of work and is proud that they are only the fourth museum to host it, according to Cathy Jones, the museum’s marketing manager. “It will not be shown anywhere within a 150 mile radius of Fort Collins,” she boasts. The exhibit has also toured New York, Pittsburgh, and Los Angeles. (Learn more at fcmod.org/prehistoricair )

For those in the paleontological know, Dr. Mark Norell from AMNH will be giving some in depth lectures the first week of the exhibit (which will be around until April 2). New pterosaur research and discoveries over the past decade have made pterosaurs a hot topic. According to Ellen V. Futter, president of AMNH, “pterosaurs are among the least well-understood large animals from the age of dinosaurs.”

This exhibit compares and contrasts pterosaurs and dinosaurs as well as showing how pterosaurs differ from other more familiar flyers like birds and bats. It’s tough to explain how a creature the size of Q, for example, can get and remain airborne.

Naturalist Sir David Attenborough will narrate a program entitled “Flying Monsters” in the museum’s domed theater. Jones says that the dome show as well as a ticket to the exhibit will be featured as a package purchase on their website soon (fcmod.org). The museum is located on Mason Court, at the intersection of Cherry and Mason streets.

Still want to be able to say Q’s name and sound smart to the kids? Here’s the link to a YouTube video that gives you two variations: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ANxYWjepMGs. Hang around after the pronunciation is over and you can hear a kid’s song all about this impressive flying reptile. Let pterosaurs engage your sense of wonder during the holidays.

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