Saturday, December 10, 2011

Names for Live Pterosaurs

From natives of Papua New Guinea to Westerners like Americans, Europeans, and Australians, we find that apparent living pterosaurs have many names.

Demon Flyer 
On Umboi Island, at least some of the villagers have a different perspective on the concept of spiritual beings, at least different from many Americans. An intelligent being need not be either 100% spirit or 100% physical. The ropen of Umboi, according to Darius (who recited native traditions to the American explorer Paul Nation, in 2002), is like a spirit but also like a man. It flies around at night and sometimes comes down from a mountain to hunt game animals. To many islanders, this being may appear to be both spiritual (flying) and human (hunting animals for food).
In addition, natives may have a more complex concept of spirits than most Westerners have. A spirit, to them, need not be either 100% good or 100% bad. In that sense, at least, “demon flyer” seems a poor translation for a word that probably does not have a purely negative connotation for them.
Duane Hodgkinson . . . in 1944 was stationed near Finschhafen, in what was then called New Guinea. After he and his buddy walked into a clearing, they were amazed as a large creature flew up into the air. The men soon realized that it was no bird that started to circle the clearing. It had a tail “at least ten to fifteen feet long,” (book Searching for Ropens, 2007) and a long appendage at the back of its head: apparently, a live pterosaur.
The nocturnal flying creatures that he described to me [around northern islands of Papua New Guinea]–I believe they are ropens–were common and were dangerous to local fishermen previous to the early 1940′s, when their numbers declined. In these northern islands, the creature is called “kor.”

The word "pterodactyl" is often used by Americans when they really mean "pterosaur."