San Francisco science museum dinosaur show: Fun kids activities


They were the largest flying animals that ever lived. With brilliant crests and wingspans the size of small airplanes, pterosaurs were neither dinosaur nor bird but an incredible order of their very own.

These aeronautical giants — the first back-boned animals to evolve powered flight, and the only vertebrates to develop this ability besides birds and bats — disappeared about 66 million years ago. But an intriguing exhibit at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park will give you an eye-opening look into their existence.

Pterosaurs: Flight in the Age of Dinosaurs” is on view through Jan. 7 and includes a full-size model of a 33-foot-wingspan Quetzalcoatlus northropi (the largest pterosaur species known to date), rare and newly discovered fossils, a mealtime seascape diorama and a flight simulator where budding paleontologists can pilot a virtual pterosaur and watch themselves glide over sea, volcano and other prehistoric landscapes.

Our 6-year-old grew frustrated during take-off, but once he watched how Dad (who went back for repeat turns) positioned his feet squarely on the motion-based sensors and rapidly flapped his wings for a smooth flight, he was soaring. Another tip: Once you’re airborne, hold your arms out in the T position and lean back a lot. That’s it, now you’re flying.

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