Monday, February 21, 2011

Monster is Frigate Bird? Really Absurd!

In July of 2007, I wrote a short Living-Pterosaur Newsletter article about a Youtube video of a Frigate bird that was suggested as an image of a ropen of Papua New Guinea. I believed and still believe that this mistaken identification of a Frigate bird for a ropen is detrimental to serious living-pterosaur investigations. I have tried to make this point known: Those birds have very little resemblance to the ropen.

More recently, I noticed a post on Ghost Theory (August 13, 2010) that confirmed my concern, for the writer brings up both Wikipedia's "ropen" information and that Youtube video, and most of the commenters on that Ghost Theory post seemed to think that recognition of the Frigate bird on that video disproves, or discredits the idea, that a pterosaur-like ropen exists.

I'll examine one of those comments (by "PNG Wantok") after referencing another post:

Frigate Birds and Freak-Like Nerds
On the Ghost Theory blog, in the post “Caught on Video: Dinosaur or Common Bird?” Youtube videos of an obvious Frigate bird are displayed as if new evidence. It is neither new nor detrimental to objective evaluation of serious investigations of reports of living pterosaurs.
As to the comment by "PNG Wantok," I'll first explain his pen name: In Papua New Guinea (PNG) one of the three national languages is Tok Pisin; in that language, a common word is "wantok," which means something like "those who speak my language."

He says, "Knowing the hunting prowess of the Papuan people, if there was any animal out there they could shoot or trap, they would have by now and there would be plenty of bones available as evidence." But there are major problems with his reasoning that there is no such creature as a ropen.

Starting with "bones available as evidence," how are new species discovered deep in the interior of the island of New Guinea? (Keep in mind, this is one of the largest islands in the world, and one of the least explored areas in the world.) If I understand correctly, scientists do not first examine bones given them by natives and then search for the creatures, finding living ones; at least that has not been the pattern in recent years when new species of frogs and other small animals are discovered.

But a critical problem lies in the assumption that an animal like the ropen must be something the natives "could shoot or trap." Years of cryptozoological expeditions in Papua New Guinea have revealed much about this nocturnal creature and about the natives who talk about it: This creature is not hunted but feared, and some accounts involve humans being killed and carried away, not necessarily in that order.

And how would bones of ropens ever get into the hands of Western scientists if those creatures were both reclusive and uncommon? Even if natives in some remote village could get their hands on the bones, how would those bones come to the notice of Westerners? Many of those villagers have little or no contact with the outside world, and even if they did, how would they know which bones would be of special interest to outsiders?

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