Video clips and computer-graphic animations give this companion to an exhibit at New York’s American Museum of Natural History plenty of lift.
Along with a short video in which the co-curators and another expert highlight the exhibition’s subject and themes, the app offers broad looks at pterosaurs’ physical characteristics—from unique skeletal features to the wide range of variations in various species’ teeth, heads and tails. The illustrators start with the fossil record, but in a mix of still and animated images they also flesh out the prehistoric fliers with fuzz or feathers, plus flamboyantly colored heads and crests. Viewers can compare computer-generated reconstructions of pterosaurs in flight with live action clips of modern birds and insects, see pterosaurs walk and feed, tap locations on a map to visit the sites of major discoveries and use sliders to “assemble” scattered fossil fragments or create a chart of body sizes. The presentation is largely visual, but captions and easily digestible explanatory passages fill in details. Furthermore, mini-essays offer glances at renowned fossil hunters Mary Anning and O.C. Marsh. Though more a patchwork of discrete sections than a cohesive whole, this up-to-the-moment survey still flies on its own. (Requires iOS 6 and above.) (timeline) (iPad informational app. 7-10)