33-foot wingspans. Technicolor crests. Fuzzy coats. Neither bird nor dinosaur, pterosaurs existed in an exotic order all their own. Journey through the Mesozoic with the largest flying animals that ever lived.

For 150 million years, flying reptiles called pterosaurs ruled the skies. As the first vertebrates to fly under their own power, pterosaurs are evolutionary all-stars, with some sporting wingspans the size of small airplanes. This spring, keep your head in the clouds: the Pterosaurs exhibit is coming in for a landing at the California Academy of Sciences.

Until they went extinct 66 million years ago, more than 150 striking species of pterosaur circled the globe, leaving tantalizing traces of their existence on every continent. Paleontologists and pint-sized explorers alike will dig this exhibit’s treasure trove of newly discovered fossils and dynamic dioramas, while amateur aerobats of all ages will earn their wings piloting pterosaurs through virtual prehistoric landscapes.

This exhibit is now closed. 

A child flies like a pterosaur in the Flight Lab simulator inside the Pterosaurs exhibit


If reptiles can fly, so can you. Step back in time—and into thin air—as you pilot a virtual pterosaur through an exciting obstacle course of prehistoric proportions.

A fossilized pterosaur against a dramatic black background

Fascinating Fossils

Good pterosaur fossils are hard to find in the field, but prepare to hit pay dirt at the Academy. Examine a variety of fossil specimens from around the world, including a cast from an as-yet unknown species of giant pterosaur, along with the first known fossilized pterosaur egg.

A life size diorama depicts two giant pterosaurs flying over a prehistoric ocean

Diorama Drama

An action-packed Cretaceous seascape from present-day northeast Brazil awaits your exploration. Heads up: A colossal Thalassodromeus dive-bombs its dinner from above, while a predatory Cladocyclus fish rounds up a meal from below.

Tupandactylus illustration © AMNH

A Crest Above the Rest

From multicolored mohawks to dagger-shaped blades, pterosaurs truly had heads for flair. Investigate examples of these flamboyant crests and explore some of your own theories about the purposes they might have served.


Photo Credits

Clockwise from top:
Crest Gallery and Quetzalcoatlus humerus cast © AMNH/C. Chesek​
Thalassodromeus skull cast © AMNH/C. Chesek
​Pterosaur and Golden Gate Bridge photo illustration © AMNH/Getty Images
Fly Like a Pterosaur Exhibit © AMNH/D. Finnin
Dark Wing Fossil Cast © AMNH/D. Finnin
Tupandactylus illustration © AMNH
​Cretaceous Sea Diorama © AMNH/R. Mickens


Share This

Experience the wonder

Visit an aquarium, planetarium, rainforest, and natural history museum—all under one living roof.

Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs is organized by the American Museum of Natural History, New York (www.amnh.org).

Generously supported at the Academy by

JetBlue logo