Scientific Evidence for Modern Pterosaurs

On December 5, 2012, in Uncategorized, by Jonathan Whitcomb

Do we have anything scientific to back up eyewitness reports of modern pterosaurs? As of early December, 2012, I know of no body or photograph or video footage that would make a good scientific case, among scientists; but we do have much data gathered from the eyewitnesses, and some of that information can be analyzed for various purposes.

The following is from the most recent (late-2012) compilations of data, adding information from previous years to that of 2012 reports.

Wingspan Estimates

Most of the eyewitness reports include a numeric estimate of the wingspan. Before proceeding, we need to be aware of the possibility of a number of species of pterosaurs living in various parts of the world, extraordinary as that may seem to many Westerners.

Here is the raw data, for what it is worth—wingspan estimates in feet:

1.3, 2, 2, 2.5, 2.6, 3, 3.5, 4, 4, 4, 4, 5, 5, 5, 5, 6, 6, 6, 6, 7, 7, 8, 8, 8, 8, 8, 9, 9, 9, 9, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10.5, 11, 11, 12, 12, 12.5, 13, 13, 13, 13, 15, 16, 16, 17, 17, 17, 18, 20, 20, 20, 20, 20.5, 21, 21.5, 22, 24, 25, 25, 25, 25, 27, 29, 30, 30, 33, 33, 35, 35, 40, 46

But what do all those numbers mean? What can we learn? Perhaps the most important is that no hoaxes played any significant role in the sighting reports. Any major hoax involvement would have caused at least one obvious peak in wingspan estimates.

For example, many Americans think of “pterodactyls” as large or gigantic, similar to what we have seen in movies. That would cause a disproportional number of reports to include wingspans over fifteen feet, even greater than twenty-five feet, if many hoaxes were involved. But there is no such preponderance in the data.

What if hoaxers relied on fossil knowledge of Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaurs, the long-tailed ones (that type dominates the sighting reports)? They would then have given many wingspans less than eight feet, if many hoaxes were involved. But there is no such preponderance in the data.

But what else can we learn? Look at the extraordinary range of these wingspan estimates. Could a few species of various sizes cause such an even distribution? Not likely. But there is another explanation. Perhaps adults of all the modern living species have less wingspan variety than is shown in the data. The explanation is simple: Eyewitness error probably evens out the data; this is amplified by the various circumstances in the various sightings, conditions that cause various errors in estimations. I believe the combination of these estimation errors and the various species (of various sizes) may be enough to account for the evenness of this data. But smaller sizes of juvenile pterosaurs may play a part, too.


Newly Analyzed Data on Modern Pterosaurs

What’s the point of this featherlessness question? The overall results strongly support the concept that no hoaxes played any significant part in the sighting reports.

Live Pterosaurs in America

What do fossil hunters do when they begin to make an apparently important discovery? Is it strange that they would keep the location secret? Many of the expeditions of my associates have been extensively published, with many details coming out within days of the completion of an expedition.

Scientific Papers on Modern Pterosaurs

David Woetzel of New Hampshore and Jonathan Whitcomb of California may be the only writers who have published, in a peer-reviewed journal, scientific papers supporting the idea of modern living pterosaurs. Both of the American cryptozoologists explored Umboi Island, Papua New Guinea . . .

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