Pterosaurs: dragons of the air
The beautiful plastic models of dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures that adorn the shelves of schools and children’s playrooms are the culmination of years of scientific work. The story of each model begins with a journey of discovery when palaeontologists go into the field, armed with their geological hammers, to search for fossils. This is often in hot deserts or high mountains, where lots of rock is visible. Once fossils have been discovered, they are carefully excavated, wrapped in plaster jackets, and carefully transported to the laboratory.
In the lab, the plaster jackets are opened, and the delicate job of removing all the rock begins. Once the fossil is cleaned of rock, it is studied by scientists who compare it with other fossils in an attempt to identify it. And once it is identified, it is studied in even more detail to try to tease out its life history.
The following pages describe the stages in this long, but fascinating process of bringing to life the models displayed here. The team, Dave Martill, Bob Loveridge and Mark Witton of the University of Portsmouth, with the help of students and colleagues from around the world, are the first to reconstruct the life appearance of Quetzalcoatlus that reflects new discoveries about their ecology and mode of life.