The American Museum of Natural History
(AMNH) is putting on a pterosaur exhibit: “Pterosaurs, Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs,” April 5 to January 4, 2015. Mark Norrell, curator and chair of the Paleontology Division and Alex Kellner of the Museu Nacional, Rio de Janiero (and a former AMNH staff member) oversee the exhibit. Here‘s the website.
Sadly the exhibit is behind the times.
Here (Fig. 1) is a sample of outdated art from their exhibit with corrections added.
When a museum opens a new exhibit
it should come with outstanding news. Unfortunately this is a celebration of the way pterosaurs have been misinterpreted with no happy ending.
The AMNH answers: What is a pterosaur?
From the AMNH website: “Neither birds nor bats, pterosaurs were reptiles, close cousins of dinosaurs who evolved on a separate branch of the reptile family tree. They were also the first animals after insects to evolve powered flight—not just leaping or gliding, but flapping their wings to generate lift and travel through the air. They evolved into dozens of species. Some were as large as an F-16 fighter jet, and others as small as a paper airplane. Scientists have long debated where pterosaurs fit on the evolutionary tree. The leading theory today is that pterosaurs, dinosaurs, and crocodiles are closely related and belong to a group known as archosaurs.”
Sadly we know the “leading theory” cannot be supported. The actual ancestors have been known since 2001, but ignored.
Scleromochlus a closest cousin?
The AMNH reported Scleromochlus (Fig. 3) was “one of the closest early cousins of pterosaurs,” ignoring the readily observable fact that the hands were vestiges and so was pedal digit 5, which is actually absent in Scleromochlus and its kin. Oddly, they gave it the skull of Longisquama (Fig. 4), an actual pterosaur cousin. Actually pterosaurs descend from fenestrasaurs like Cosesaurus, Sharovipteryx and Longisquama (Fig. 4).
The AMNH devotion to inaccuracy
also includes their version of Rhamphorhynchus (Fig. 6) with wings too short, feet too small and belly not deep enough.
someday museums will devote their displays to accurate renditions that actually teach the public something valid about pterosaurs. It’s embarrassing to see them hold on to such outmoded phylogenies and inaccurate representations.
If you think I’m wrong, please go see the specimens and repeat the analyses.That’s good Science. Repeatability.