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What Is a Pterosaur? (Video)

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Our new exhibition, Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs, opens on Saturday, April 5. So now seems a good time to ask—and answer—the fundamental question: What is a pterosaur, anyhow?

Is it a type of an extinct bird? Or bat? Maybe it's a dinosaur? 

Preondactylus Pterosaur

This early pterosaur, Preondactylus buffarinii, had a wingspan of about 18 inches. A fossil cast of this pterosaur is featured in Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs.

© AMNH 2014

Neither birds nor bats, pterosaurs were reptiles, and they were close cousins of dinosaurs (but not dinosaurs) which evolved on a separate branch of the reptile family tree. A video below explains more.

The video features Pterosaurs curator Mark Norell, co-curator Alexander Kellner, and flight expert and neurobiologist Michael Habib. The trio explain more about the types of pterosaurs that evolved while the winged reptiles existed, from about 220 million years ago until 66 million years ago. 


Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs opens Saturday, April 5, 2014. 

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