How do oceanic Manta rays relate to modern pterosaurs? They don’t, really, but a lack of clear thinking might almost make it seem like a relationship exists, at least according to the writings of Dale Drinnon.
On the blog Frontiers of Zoology, in the March 3, 2011 post, “Ropens, Pterosaurian Sightings And Manta Rays,” he says, “It is a quite consistent feature that the sightings take place along the shoreline or on islands, or actually out at sea and seen from boats or airplanes, and ordinarily for only a few seconds.” He immediately gives two examples: the sightings of Duane Hodgkinson (1944) and Brian Hennessy (1971). But he soon changes the subject, leaving the assumption that those two sightings in Papua New Guinea may have come from misidentification of an oceanic Manta ray fish, which sometimes jumps out of the water before crashing back into the sea. But many problems jump out from this idea.
If Drinnon had searched more deeply, researching those two sightings and using more clear thinking, perhaps he would have left them out of his post. Hodgkinson and his army buddy, in 1944, were nowhere near the seashore, when they stopped in a small jungle clearing well inland from Finschhafen, New Guinea (now Papua New Guinea). The giant creature took off from the ground, soon flying over the trees. No Manta ray was involved.
When Brian Hennessy saw the large featherless flying creature on Bougainville Island, he was nowhere near the sea; he was up on a mountain road. In addition, the creature was described like a pterosaur, not like any kind of fish flying over a mountain. The head was described like that of a pterosaur with a head crest, not like any part of a Manta ray.
Dinnion changes the subject by insisting that eyewitnesses should not see anything like what has been reported for living pterosaurs. In other words, he has a particular opinion about what a modern pterosaur should look like and eyewitnesses describe something different. But, to play with Shakespeare’s words, there may be more things in heaven and earth, Drinnon, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
He says that the eyewitness descriptions are “exactly as represented in 1960s dinosaur movies and animated cartoons,” as if eyewitnesses have been improperly influenced by those things. But even if those cartoons do significantly resemble what eyewitnesses described, which I doubt, most sightings in Papua New Guinea are by natives who have never seen any cartoon. It seems to me that Mr. Dinnion has been improperly influenced by his own imagination. He should have done more research and used clear thinking, before assuming eyewitnesses of modern pterosaurs must all be wrong.
Kongamato of Africa (stingray is related to Manta ray)
. . . describes it as living along certain rivers, and very dangerous, often attacking small boats, and anybody who disturbed the creature. They are typically described as either red or black in color, with a wingspan of 4 to 7 feet. Members of the local Kaonde tribe identified it as similar to a pterodactyl after being shown a picture . . .
Let’s keep our imaginations in check (those trying to imagine some misidentification explanation for obvious pterosaurs), even if it means allowing for the possibility of an officially undiscovered flying creature, even a living pterosaur.