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Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs app review

pterosaurs menuThough the American Museum of Natural History‘s Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs exhibit closed a few weeks ago, those of us who missed it can learn about these fascinating animals with the associated app (2014).

The first section, “What Is a Pterosaur?,” introduces this prehistoric creature, which lived for 150 million years, going extinct about 66 million years ago. Related to both birds and dinosaurs, the flying reptiles were the first vertebrates to develop flight and have “no modern analogue.” (One of many reasons pterosaurs were unique: though their wings look similar to bats’ on the surface, only one digit — a very long fourth finger — supported their membranous wings. In bats, four of their five fingers spread across the membrane to support it.) Thus far, pterosaurs are not well-represented in the fossil record, with only a small number of species discovered, and mostly coming from regions with similar types of habitats. This first section also covers some of pterosaurs’ adaptations to flight: hollow bones that were light but strong, powerful hind limbs for launching into flight, airfoil-shaped wings which maximized lift.

Five additional sections highlight various species of pterosaurs:

  • “Big Head, Long Tail: Dimorphodon
  • “Covered in Fuzz: Jeholopterus
  • “Extreme Size: Pteranodon
  • “Dramatic Display: Tupuxuara
  • “Tons of Teeth: Pterodaustro

Each section opens with the featured pterosaur’s scientific name with its pronunciation and meaning; its era, region, wingspan, and diet; plus a simulation of its flight and a graphic showing its relative size to humans or modern-day birds. Subsequent pages in each section relate the story of the species’ discovery (often including a diagram or photo of the first discovered fossil in situ) and give an in-depth look at one of its characteristic features, such as how Dimorphodon‘s long tail may have helped it balance on the ground and in flight. Other pterosaur species with similar features are introduced as well.

Integrated into the sections are many well-chosen and high-quality images (dynamic illustrations, diagrams, and photos of fossils and dig sites), videos, animations, and maps.

pterosaurs size chart

Occasionally users even get a glimpse of the ANHM’s real-life premises. This includes a look at their 1940s-era mural of pterosaurs — alongside updated info and illustrations correcting the many inaccuracies of “what scientists thought about pterosaurs at that time.” Good on ya, ANHM!

Available for iPad (requires iOs 6.0 or later); free. Recommended for intermediate users and up. A free companion app, Pterosaurs: The Card Game, is also available.

Katie Bircher About Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, associate editor at The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons College. She served as chair of the 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committee. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.

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