Thursday, April 8, 2010

Scruffy pterosaurs by scruffy people

As regular readers of the Pterosaur.Net blog will know (erm… assuming we have any), I work at the University of Portsmouth cobbling together models of giant pterosaurs out of bits of styrofoam, metal, fake fur and anything else that happens to be lying around. We’re supported by the Royal Society because, this coming June, we’re headlining their London Summer Science Festival. Being on a grander scale than anything the RS has pulled off before, our pterosaur models are booked to be displayed on the world-famous Southbank, right outside Royal Festival Hall and visible to thousands of people. The BBC have taken an interest in this and decided to record the progress on our project in a series of films: the first can be found here, the second here and, yesterday, the third was posted here.

Hosted by yours truly in the most forlorn looking vest seen this side of a Die Hard movie, it discusses the finer details of our pterosaur models: eyes, fur, colour and all that jazz. Also featured are Bob Loveridge, resident UoP Eyeman and chief techie-chap, and some of my slaves/groupies – sorry, student volunteers (Luke Hauser and Chris Callaghan) who’re working on their own contributions to the project. You can also spy a full-size Thalassodromeus bust in the background of one shot, but what you can’t see is it’s dual sided nature. Bored with making perfect pterosaurs over and over again and knowing full well that some pterosaur fossils show all sorts of interesting pathologies (Bennett 2003), I decided to render our Thalassodromeus rather visually-imparied in it's left eye, a consequence of a dirty-big scar across its eye and a cataract. Check him out: if anyone ever made a Bond film set in the Mesozoic, this thing would definitely be a baddie.

Dinner the baby titanosaur, momentarily freed from the azhdarchid jaws that normally hold him, acts as scale: he's about 1.2 m long. He's also been overhauled in recent weeks: he's no longer green, has fewer obvious joins and has undergone facial reconstruction surgery. He still has the same fantastic fashion sense, however and, apparently, a taste for chocolate (adjacent photo by Sarah Brown). Those wondering how sauropods grew so big so fast, take note.


  • Bennett, S. C. 2003. A survey of pathologies in large pterodactyloid pterosaurs. Palaeontology, 46, 195-196.


  1. You do have one or two regular readers. Liked the post on the ground bound pterosaurs.

  2. Well I'm a first time regular reader... Reading the blog on a laptop is challenging, the font is so light/thin and though the background sky blue hue is nice, the contrast isn't very strong. A suggestion - tweak it a bit. All else, nice work!


  3. As a regular reader of SV-POW!, the "Stinkin' sauropods" category tickles me.

  4. Mark, you look so tough in that video. Like a break-dancing street-fighter. It would have been great if you'd suddenly socked someone in the jaw.

    Your pterosaurs look nice, too. Any plans for a home after the festival?

  5. Yes, it's no secret that, come the weekend, our workshop becomes a Fight Club. The students and I battle it out with paintbrushes, plasterboard scrapers and big bits of styrofoam, all to the tunes of West Side Story.

    The pterosaurs may be going to Rotterdam after London, but it's not been confirmed yet. I'll probably have very little control over it: the models legally belong to the university and my contract with them finishes in July. They will have a problem finding somewhere to store them, that's for sure: I'm working on our 10 m span flying model at the moment and it's huge.