Ashland, Oregon, pterosaur exhibit

I recognized some of the models
in this traveling pterosaur exhibit (Fig. 1). They came from Triebold Paleontology, but originated at David Peters Studio. Unfortunately, I’m not keen on the poses the exhibitors gave these pterosaurs. Ironically they are sprawling, like lizards, but no one, but yours truly has adopted the lepidosaur origin of pterosaurs hypothesis.

FIgure 1. Pterosaur exhibit

Here’s the way
Pterodaustro should be posed (Fig. 2). It’s a wader, built for walking knee deep into still shallow waters to dip that long filter-toothed mandible — yet able, in a moment to leap into the air and take flight. Still the hind limbs are sprawling.

Figure 2. Pterodaustro sculpture

Here’s the way
Jeholopterus should be posed (Fig. 3), digitigrade with the shoulders directly over the toes.  The long finger claws of this vampire pterosaur were ideal for latching onto and in to, dinosaur skin. And this is the correct skull. Triebold, tossed out the correct skull and placed the more popular, but invalid, Bennett anurognathid skull (the one that mistook the mandibles for sclerotic (eyeball) rings.

Model of Jeholopterus, the famous vampire pterosaur.

Figure 2. Model of Jeholopterus, the famous vampire pterosaur.

Here’s the way
Dimorphodon would run around on the ground – digitigrade (proximal phalanges elevated, too), shoulders over the toes, pedal digit 5 retroverted. Nothing clumsy or awkward about this basal pterosaur! It was fast, agile and keeping those large finger claws sharp for clinging to tree trunks.


Figure x. Dimorphodon skeleton.

Figure x. Dimorphodon skeleton. The tail, not found with the rest of the skeleton, making this a chimaera, is too long.

Here’s the text of the online article:
“Long before Tyrannosaurus rex, the world was filled with pterosaurs — bizarre-looking flying reptiles, some as huge as a fighter jet, who ate everything, terrorizing the Mesozoic Age for 160 million years until they, like the dinosaurs, were killed off by a big asteroid.

“That little-known world, our window into which has been vastly expanded by science in the last few decades, has been recreated in a stunning new ScienceWorks Hands-On Museum exhibit that invites you, at one point, to virtually think, feel and fly like a pterosaur by flexing your arms and body.

“Entirely created by the Ashland’s museum staff and volunteers, it was built for under $250,000, a modest amount among museums these days, especially when they saw a San Francisco museum did their pterosaur exhibit for 30 times that, says Steve Utt, co-creator and president of ScienceWorks board of directors.

“Costs for ScienceWorks can be recouped by leasing it out, he says.

“A self-described “Silicon Valley escapee” eight years ago, Utt did all the seemingly magical if not miraculous software and video that plops you right in the middle of the pterosaur’s world, which started 228 million years ago and seems a lot stranger than any science fiction movie.

“Pterosaurs (pronounced “terra-soars”) have replaced the once terrible tyrannosaurus rex, hero of Jurassic Park, as an object of fascination because, says ScienceWorks exhibit director Leo Palombo, “there have been so many discoveries, so much we didn’t know about 10 or 15 years ago, and that’s what you see here — flying reptiles. They are not dinosaurs, not birds. Some had hair, not feathers — so many amazing sizes and shapes.”

“They all used to be called pterodactyls, but that word is outmoded now and applies only to a small subcategory. Displays at ScienceWorks seek to show the immense, newly-discovered range of body types, sizes, combs (those wild shapes on top of their heads), as well as their body architecture, which can only be described as an extremely inventive chapter of evolution.

“Displays explain that pterosaurs in general had long, pointy heads, usually with teeth, could fly up to 70 mph and would gather food by scooping it from water, land or air. They are not like bats, though they have skin-like wings, and these were made possible by the evolution of the fourth finger to hold a wing.

“Many of the exhibits teach you what various species did, how and where they did it — and then you turn around and there’s a video of a familiar beach on the Oregon coast with a couple of pterosaurs soaring in among the breakers, then alighting on our big beach rocks, where they sit and peck and preen. It’s just, simply, hard to believe this ever happened in what’s now Oregon, let alone that we have an accurate, scientific depiction of it.

“Len Eisenberg of ScienceWorks’ science advisory board stands at the most popular interactive pterosaur “ride,” urging participants to arch their heads back and wave their arms, as sensors pick up all these cues. There’s a learning curve and most who try it get chomped by a giant-jawed mososaur (sic) when they crash in the water. You get points for various foods you kill — squid, fish or ammonite. A sign shows the best score of the day, a 20, and you, usually have zero. It takes several times in a long line to get up to the skill of the pterosaur.

“This display and the science around pterosaurs is interesting because we’ve found lots more fossils and footprints in the last decade,” says Eisenberg, “all of which explain how they lived and got food.”

“Another interactive ride shows a seeming x-ray of your flapping human thorax, set beside the ancient creature and giving us a window on how much muscle and thin, fragile, lightweight bone had to be brought into play for it to fly.

“The stunning centerpiece of the new exhibit is the lifesize, 16-foot tall wood model of Quetzalcoatlus, the largest known flying creature of all time, which exhibit technician Rachel Benbrook and others fashioned using Turbo CAD and Adobe Illustrator.

“The public reception to this exhibit has been overwhelmingly positive and,” she says, “many people, seriously, have been blown away. That’s what we want — to inspire and encourage science education to the next level.”
— John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at”


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