ANN ARBOR - A life-size model of a prehistoric pterosaur now hangs in the five-story west atrium in the University of Michigan's new Biological Science Building.
The model of the Quetzalcoatlus northropi pterosaur, the largest known flying animal to ever live, was installed this week ahead of the reopening of the Museum of Natural History next spring.
A relative of dinosaurs and crocodiles, pterosaurs lived about 67 million years ago, shortly before an asteroid collided with Earth and wiped out most living species on the planet, including pterosaurs.
Quetzalcoatlus pterosaurs are members of the Azhdarchidae group, categorized as animals with small bodies, long necks, large wings and big heads.
"Museum visitors are sure to be impressed by this full-size life reconstruction of a pterosaur the size of a small airplane," museum paleontologist Michael Cherney said in a statement. "Fossils like this fuel our fascination with nature and evolution and give us perspective and context for understanding life on Earth.
"Quetzalcoatlus does a really good job of making it clear that life on our planet has changed a lot over time. Its preposterous size and proportions are like something out of fantasy or science fiction. Yet there's also something very familiar about it. In fact, its extreme body has the same skeletal structure as animals living today."
The 700-pound model has a steel interior with a hand-painted fiberglass cast.
The Quetzalcoatlus northropi originated in Texas, though many of its close relatives have been discovered around the world, including in Jordan.
The U-M Museum of Natural History will reopen to the public in April.
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