Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Long Tails of Rhamphorhynchoid Pterosaurs

"Pterodactyl" seen by the artist at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 1971

How common is a long tail on a modern pterosaur! Of the 128 more-credible sighting reports compiled at the end of 2012, 41% reported a long tail. That's a lot, considering some eyewitnesses concentrate on the head or wings and don't remember for sure if there was a long tail. Also significant is how few report the absence of a long tail: only 2%. That makes a 20-to-1 ratio in favor of long tails.

The Rhamphorhynchoidea is one of two suborders of pterosaurs, known by paleontologists from fossils. The other is the Pterodactyloidea, which generally had shorter tails and a different head orientation. But in reality both types are known not just from fossils but from human eyewitnesses.

Sketch by another eyewitness: Irving, Texas

Sighting in Irving, Texas

A boy encountered a long-tailed pterosaur many years ago:
This was in the 1970's . . . during good warm weather. . . . It was before middle of day. I was outside playing. I heard loud screeching sounds. I looked up and seen something flying up very high. . . . It was flying in circles. Just like a hawk or buzzard would do when they catch those
high winds migrating. . . .  It was like a large winged bird, long beak and long tail. It would turn its head some when flying.
Some months passed. I was outside around side of the house playing. This was in the evening getting dark. I seen the strangest thing flying. I thought it was a bat. But it was much bigger. It was flying fast and crazy like all over the place. I just froze to watch it fly. It was really close to me. It was hard to get a good look at when flying.
. . . this thing landed in this tree resting on a branch. It was up on other side of tree limbs. I was trying to get a look at it but not spook it. It had its back to me. I was watching it trying to figure out what it was. It stretched out its wings. That when I got a look at it. It had claw hands on top of wings. It was very scary looking. . . . It did not have any feathers.
Many eyewitness, in many areas of the world, have also reported long-tailed pterosaurs.

Tail Vane Orientation

A few eyewitnesses, although very few, report how the tail flange is oriented. They consistently report it is parallel to the ground, at least during take-off. Those sightings were in Cuba, Georgia, and California, although the Georgia sighting did not involve observations of a take-off.


Pterosaur Tail Vane or Flange
◾diamond (many sightings, including Michigan, 2007)
◾lemon shape (Indiana, about 2006)
◾sail (Texas, about 1982)
◾spade (Kentucky, 2008 and North Carolina in 2013)
◾spike (New Mexico, 1993)
◾triangle-shaped (California, 2007 and 2012)
Pterosaur Tail Vane Orientation
How is the Rhamphorhynchoid tail vane oriented, horizontally or vertically? According to at least a couple of key eyewitnesses, it is horizontal. Patty Carson was sure of this in the “dinosaur” or “pterodactyl” she had observed in Cuba in 1965 . . .
Tale of the Pterosaur Tail
Contrary to what some paleontologists believe, the orientation of the tail vane, in the “basal” pterosaurs, now appears to be horizontal. Two eyewitnesses, both living in California, have made this clear: Patty Carson, of Riverside; and an anonymous eyewitness living in Lakewood. Each had her own clear daylight sighting of a living pterosaur at close range.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Pterosaurs or Ropens in Griffith Park

Two drivers in Los Angeles have reported one or more apparent pterosaurs, both sightings on the eastern side of Griffith Park, south of the zoo. Both eyewitnesses reported their sightings to me by email and I checked out their credibility. To the best of my knowledge, these two ladies have high honesty-credibility; I found nothing in my brief investigation that would suggest otherwise.

The first sighting was of three "dragons" that were gliding south over the I-5 freeway, a little southeast of the Los Angeles Zoo, close to the Colorado Street bridge, at about 6:10 a.m., on March 3, 2013, parallel to the Los Angeles River. (The eyewitness wants to be anonymous in publications, although I know her name.) She saw that the flying creatures had tails with "triangular points" and that they were "long and thin with a bigger point at the tip."

The lady was sure that the creatures were not birds. She could not examine them long enough to be sure that they had no sign or appearance of feathers, however. I sent her a page of silhouettes of birds, bats, and pterosaurs. She chose #13, which is the Sordes Pilosus, a "basal" pterosaur.

Survey form of 35 images of bats, birds, and pterosaurs


Image #13, Sordes Pilosus (a long-tailed Rhamphorhynchoid type)

The anonymous eyewitness of the "three dragons" told me, "I would say #13 except their heads were bigger." This is the same image chosen by two eyewitnesses on Umboi Island, Papua New Guinea, many years ago.

Second Eyewitness Near Griffith Park

Ten weeks after the March 3rd sighting, on May 13th, Devin Rhodriquez was driving in a northbound lane of the same freeway, except about 1.5 miles to the south. She saw a "pterosaur" that had a head crest and an appearance very unlike any bird. As in the earlier sighting, it was gliding over the I-5 Freeway near the eastern side of Griffith Park and near the Los Angeles River. She was so focused on the head that she did not notice the presence or absence of a tail.


Dragons in Los Angeles and Birds in the Imagination
The two sightings near Griffith Park are strange in themselves, for it looks like they are from the same kind of flying creatures, even though descriptions vary. They may also relate to other sightings in Southern California, including the Lakewood sighting of 2012.

Pterosaurs East of Griffith Park
Two pterosaur sightings in Los Angeles, in 2013, have caused a stir, being ten weeks apart and the second one being just a mile and a half south of the first one. Both eyewitnesses are young adult females, and both passed a brief credibility check; misidentifications also appear unlikely.

Griffith Park Pterosaur Sightings
It now seems obvious that these apparent ropens do return to the same places, at least on occasion. The sightings continue to be mostly in daylight, when humans can see much better. I am still convinced that these modern pterosaurs are nocturnal, rarely coming out in daylight. But there are enough of the creatures (and plenty of humans) to make impressive appearances when they make rare flights in daylight.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Michael Newton's "Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology"

How fortunate I was, earlier this month, to find in a public library the Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology - A Global Guide to Hidden Animals and Their Pursuers. With a list price of $75, it seems appropriate as a library reference, and probably published for that market, for few cryptozoology readers can afford to buy it.

Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology by Michael Newton (published early 2005)

The Ropen in this Cryptozoology Book

What nonfiction cryptozoology book compares in breadth with Michael Newton's encyclopedia? Cryptozoology A to Z, by Loren Coleman and Jerome Clark, has about 100 cryptids, but Newton's has 2744 names of cryptids or entries, in a book with 648 pages. Regarding the ropen of Papua New Guinea, however, the Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology was published in January of 2005, too early to benefit from two critical ropen expeditions in 2004 and several more since then. Newton's book reflects earlier weaknesses in reporting and misunderstandings about the glowing nocturnal cryptid of Papua New Guinea.

Quote #1: [According to information given to William Gibbons] . . . "natives of the region
actually recognized two flying cryptids. The first---identified by Gibbons as the 'true' Ropen, is apparently restricted to Rambutyo (or Rambunzo), a small island off the east coast of Papua New Guinea; and to Umzoi [read 'Umboi']."

Answer #1: Gibbons was probably limited by his sources of information in the late 20th century. Many of the reports of large nocturnal flying creatures (in Papua New Guinea) whose descriptions suggest pterosaurs---those can be explained as sightings of one species or closely related type. Large flying creatures are not restricted to any particular island (or two) where many other islands are within flying distance.

Quote #2: "Witnesses describe the animal as reptilian, with a 3-to-4-foot wingspan . . ."

Answer #2: Most eyewitnesses of these flying creatures in Papua New Guinea are natives, probably without any word for the English "reptile." Between a native's description and Gibbon's report, somebody, perhaps a missionary, may have interpreted something as suggesting a reptilian feature or features, but this may be third-hand information. Regarding "3-to-4-foot" wingspan, many sighting reports involve much larger wingspan estimates, not as likely from a different species as from older individual creatures that have had time to grow larger.

Quote #3: "A much larger species of Ropen---properly called Duah . . ."

Answer #3: Some species of animals continue to grow as they mature, differing from common species of birds which have a particular maximum size; it seems that the ropen is one of those that keeps growing with age. Regarding the "Duah," there is probably no such name, in Papua New Guinea, for any flying animal; the proper name is "duwas."

Quote #4: "The Duah/Ropen reportedly boasts a 20-foot wingspan and a bony crest on its head, thus becoming a dead-ringer for Pteranodon."

Answer #4: Nothing of the kind, although I had that belief when I first started preparing for my 2004 expedition. The ropen has a long tail, very long, with a Rhamphorhynchoid-like flange at the end of that tail. The long tail with a "diamond" at the end knocks down the Pterodactyloid conjecture.


Cryptozoology book Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology - A Global Guide
“Duah” is probably a distortion from some Westerner who heard the word “duwas” and thought of “duah” as the singular; it is not. The only real word I know (in the southwest Pacific) that is close to “duah” is the Tok Pisin word for “door.” To the best of my knowledge, there is no animal, real or unreal, that in a local PNG language is called “duah.”

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

More on Manta Ray Misidentification

Modern Pterosaurs need not exist with precise characteristics predicted by any particular cryptozoologist and with no other characteristics. Neither must those flying creatures exist according to precise rules established by any particular paleontologist. Whatever animals now live on this planet, they live regardless of human dogmas about what they "should" be like. The key to knowing about what life is like is in human experience with those animals; that means eyewitness experience.

Manta Ray Fish Revisited

Mr. Dale Drinnon has again brought up the idea that sightings of live pterosaurs, "many" of them, come from misidentifications of Manta rays jumping out of the water. He usually gives no precise example from any precise sighting, but generalizes. Here are some of the problems with insisting on the jumping-Manta-ray conjecture:
  1. The example given by Drinnon, in his recent post, was a sighting in the Philippines. He said, "The Philippines sighting in specific lends itself to the Manta ray hypothesis most readily." But when he wrote that article he had very limited information on it. Critical details then came forward, which showed clearly that the sighting was not of a Manta ray fish jumping out of the water (two flying creatures over a city; claws between the wings; flapping frequency of once every three to four seconds, etc.)
  2. Modern pterosaurs need not be precisely the same as pterosaurs known from fossils. How many species of pterosaurs might have existed without leaving any fossils that have been discovered by paleontologists!
  3. If "many" sightings of modern pterosaurs are misidentifications of leaping Manta rays, why has Mr. Drinnon not given us many examples?
  4. Has Mr. Drinnon had a scientific paper published, in a peer-reviewed journal of science, on this subject? (Scientific papers supporting the existence of modern pterosaurs have been published.)
  5. How could any person see a Manta ray jump out of the water and come to believe it was an extant pterosaur? I have read nothing written by Mr. Drinnon that explains how such an incredible mistake could have taken place (generalities aside).
  6. He mentions the lack of a "fin" at the end of the tail, regarding the Philippines sighting, but he says nothing about the many descriptions of a Rhamphorhynchoid-like tail vane in many sightings from around the world. Why ignore that critical detail? Why mention its lack in one sighting while mentioning nothing about the many sightings when it is present?
Road to Discovery

When the first gorilla in Africa was officially acknowledged scientifically, was it because eyewitness descriptions matched what paleontologists told us should be still living? Did a fossil expert, in the nineteenth century, tell explorers in Africa that there must be a primate of certain characteristics, thus allowing explorers to find gorillas?

Why not examine eyewitness descriptions with an open mind? Why should pterosaurs be treated drastically different from other kinds of animals? Human experience should prevail in the progress of science. Dogmatically holding onto ones imagined images can stifle scientific progress, if enough people choose to ignore human experience in favor of mutually-imagined phantoms.

Manta Ray Interpretation of Live Pterosaurs
The misidentification of a Manta ray oceanic fish does not adequately explain any significant pterosaur sighting, not even one sighting that I have analyzed.

Pterosaurs are not Manta Rays
No offense to cryptozoologists who might want to believe in the following interpretation of Manta rays, but those fish are nothing like what eyewitnesses see when they report flying creatures they call “pterodacyls.”
Response to Dale Drinnon
Don't confuse two sources of knowledge. The limited knowledge we have of pterosaurs from fossils is not at all the same knowledge that we have from eyewitness reports of modern pterosaurs.

Friday, October 19, 2012

News Media and Live Pterosaurs

In the Western world, the major problem with reporting a sighting of a living pterosaur to the news media remains the same since the time of Darwin: What news reporter or editor would take seriously a report of an "ancient" creature that is still living?

The more common practice, at least over the past century or so, seems to have been for news professionals to either ignore an eyewitness account of a live pterosaur or to treat it with humor. But there have been some exceptions.

Antwerp, Ohio, Sightings

The Antwerp Bee-Argus community newspaper, a few years ago, reported a pterosaur sighting. The editor used my interview-findings to report what the anonymous eyewitness encountered in northwestern Ohio:
. . . something strange flying over the Maumee River in the summer of 2003; he described it like a pterosaur, according to a recently-published book, Live Pterosaurs in America. It was reported to be chasing sparrows as it flew over the Route 49 bridge near Antwerp, Ohio.

. . . The animal appeared to be ten feet long, including a long tail. Whitcomb asked [the eyewitness] about feathers, but he replied, "absolutely no feathers." But something else made it different from any bird: It had teeth.

. . . About 80% of the reports of apparent pterosaurs in the U.S. involve a description of a long tail. The book refers to this as one of three evidences of the honesty of the eyewitnesses in general . . .
Travel Section of the Press-Telegram, Long Beach, CA
On October 15 [2004], I returned to Long Beach after spending two weeks on Umboi Island in Papua New Guinea. . . . to investigate reports of a large, nocturnal flying creature that the local people call ropen. I came back with notes and video from interviewing about 17 eyewitnesses who claimed to have seen this elusive creature that is the subject of many island legends.

Houston Chronicle Covers Marfa Lights

Live Pterosaur Press Releases
Two large long-tailed flying creatures, apparent pterosaurs, caught the Marine’s attention. He later reported that they were “flying together at low altitude, perhaps 100 feet, very close in range from where I was standing, so that I had a perfectly clear view of them.”

Pterosaurs on Canadian Television
Canadian radio-television host Richard Syrett interviewed cryptozoologist Jonathan Whitcomb for an upcoming television episode . . .

"Pterodactyl" Hoax in France, 1800's
Much has been made of the obvious signs that this was only a hoax; I agree, it looks like a hoax.

San Fernando Valley, California, and Antwerp, Ohio

Under the heading of "Flying Dinosaurs," this refers to a few sightings in CA and OH.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

New Cryptozoology Book in Kindle Format

Earlier this month, I published my first digital (ebook) book in Kindle format: Live Pterosaurs in Australia and in Papua New Guinea. I was happy to see it ranked number one yesterday, among Amazon Kindle nonfiction books on cryptozoology.

Many cryptozoology ebooks are about cryptids in general, others about a particular cryptid in a particular U. S. state, others about Bigfoot. My new book may be the only one about sightings of live pterosaurs in the southwest Pacific.

I quote from the Introduction:
We must begin with the basics: What is a pterosaur? It's not really a type of dinosaur, although it's associated with them. The flying creature is called "pterodactyl" by many non-scientists; some Americans call those featherless fliers "dinosaur birds" or "prehistoric birds." . . .

In modern eyewitness reports, long-tailed pterosaurs outnumber short-tails, at least four-to-one. Standard models of extinction make this ratio appear strange, for the long-tailed variety were thought to have dwindled before the short-tailed pterosaurs became dominant, at least that's the theory. Nevertheless, the ratio is significant in modern sightings, appearing consistent regardless of the culture or beliefs or education of the eyewitness. . . .

About "prehistoric" creatures, consider all that you have read in textbooks, all that you have seen in documentaries, all that you have heard from teachers. How often was the possibility of a modern dinosaur or pterosaur mentioned? Never? Western indoctrination into universal extinctions---that subject may deserve a book of its own; we'll cover it only in part, mostly in the first chapter.

More About the New Pterosaur Book
Although much in the new book is similar to some of the eyewitness accounts in the older Searching for Ropens, other sightings are new and quite interesting to compare.


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Santa Fe Springs, California, Sightings

Please get in touch with me (Jonathan Whitcomb) if you have had a pterosaur sighting in Southern California (or anywhere else), whether or not it was in or near Santa Fe Springs.

Strange Long-Tailed Flying Creature, 2006

The eyewitness told me that he was on True Avenue, looking east towards the San Gabriel River and the 605 Freeway, when he saw the long-tailed "pterodactyl" flying in an irregular way, unlike any bird flight that the eyewitness had seen. At the end of the tail was a furry or hairy ball or similar structure; the distance prevented him from observing more details. The sighting was at night, but the "pterodactyl" was not too far away, maybe near Greenvale Avenue or between that street and the San Gabriel River.

In or near the city of Santa Fe Springs, California, (Los Angeles County) - sighting location

Santa Fe Springs Sighting of 2005
Early in 2005, I received a report of a "pterodactyl" in the Santa Fe Springs area. The creature was described as being about the size of a Cesna airplane. According to the report, "Its flapping caused a sound like a military chopper, only at a much slower pace."

There have been other sightings, over the years, in Los Angeles County.

Live Dragon in Los Angeles
In June of this year, in a peaceful residential neighborhood in Lakewood, northeast of Long Beach, a lady was shocked to see a featherless creature with a wingspan of at least six feet and a long tail. The end of that tail made the lady think it looked like a dragon, for it was triangular.

Third edition of Live Pterosaurs in America, by Jonathan David Whitcomb