Misidentification Possibilities in General

On March 11, 2011, in Sighting in Papua New Guinea, by Jonathan Whitcomb

Besides the possibility of Frigate Bird misidentification, what else do critics suggest? Perhaps the oldest misidentification suggestion, for reports of living pterosaurs in Papua New Guinea, has been “Flying Fox fruit bat.” It seems to satisfy reports of large featherless flying creatures in the southwest Pacific, but there are problems with “misidentified bat.”

Fruit Bats or Pterosaurs?

Look at the details in eyewitness accounts, for details often shoot down the misidentified-fruit-bat conjecture. A long tail mocks that interpretation, as does fish-eating and hanging right-side-up on a tree trunk. A giant size may also shoot down the Flying Fox, especially when the wingspan is estimated at over twenty feet. In addition, that long horn at the back of the head—that indicates a non-fruit-bat, for that bat has nothing like that pterosaur-like appendage.

Duane Hodgkinson, on the mainland of New Guinea in 1944, and his army buddy saw a giant flying creature take off into the air. Why “giant?” For one thing, Hodgkinson estimated the length of the tail to be “at least ten or fifteen feet.” (The Flying Fox fruit bat has almost no tail.) In addition, the wingspan appeared to be close to thirty feet, far too large to be any bat. It now appears obvious that this World War II veteran had witnessed the rare daylight-flight of a giant ropen.

Misidentified Tail

Some critics suggest that descriptions of a long tail come from a bird’s feet, held back while flying. Consider details in the eyewitness testimonies. Hodgkinson first saw his “pterodactyl” when it was running to get airborne. The feet of a bird cannot appear to be running and held back straight at the same time.

Another problem with “misidentified tail” is this: Many eyewitnesses are sure about the lack of any feathers on what they saw. Birds have feathers, even those birds that may appear to have a long tail when their feet are held back in flight.

And what about overall size? One eyewitness described the length of the flying creature he saw: close to the width of the road on which he was driving. His estimate was probably not far wrong, for the creature was flying low as it crossed that road. I later measured that road myself: close to thirty feet. No bird has feet long enough to make its total length anywhere near thirty feet.

Misidentified Bird

One or two critics, at least, have suggested that eyewitnesses exaggerate size because of fear or surprise. A couple of problems jump out at me there. For one, why would a bird cause anyone to be surprised or fearful enough to think that they had seen a “pterodactyl?” In Hodgkinson’s case, he first thought that he was watching a bird, for it was flapping its wings. Only later, after he had considered the details on that flying creature and its extraordinary size, did Hodgkinson think “pterodactyl.”

Some eyewitnesses have no fear, for the flying creature is far away, at least when they first notice it. Obviously fear does not cause any misidentification when there is no fear.

Some Youtube viewers may have taken a Frigate bird for a ropen, but that is irrelevant to the many sightings of flying creatures that are obviously not Frigate birds. For those who still may doubt, consider these characteristics of the ropen and its behavior: glowing brightly at night, carrying away the recently-buried body of an adult human, appearing in clear daylight with a wingspan of at least twenty-two feet, carrying giant clams up into the interior of Umboi Island (clam shells over fifty pounds). The ropen is no misidentified Frigate bird.

Misidentified Mechanical Model

Some critics suggest a mechanical model caused an eyewitness to believe in a living pterosaur. Under scrutiny, this breaks down. How could Hodgkinson have seen a model pterodactyl in that remote jungle wilderness in 1944? And how could that model, flying years later but in that same area, pick up an adult human and carry the victim away to be eaten?

For recent sightings of pterosaurs, in the United States, how do model pterodactyls fly without any sound and behave like living giant pterosaurs? Why do so many eyewitnesses mention the graceful flights? Those characteristics need to be addressed, not dismissed or ignored. And why, when some eyewitnesses have shown no fear, do critics fear the obvious: modern living pterosaurs?

Overall Desciptions

When several thing each suggest a living Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur, suggestions of a misidentified bird, bat, or model evaporate. The problem is not that all eyewitnesses misidentify a non-pterosaur: Critics misidentify pterosaur sightings for anything and everything else that they can imagine.

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  2. […] Fruit Bats or Pterosaurs Look at the details in eyewitness accounts, for details often shoot down the misidentified-fruit-bat conjecture. A long tail mocks that interpretation, as does fish-eating and hanging right-side-up on a tree trunk. A giant size may also shoot down the Flying Fox [misidentification conjecture], especially when the wingspan is estimated at over twenty feet. In addition, that long horn at the back of the head—that indicates a non-fruit-bat, for that bat has nothing like that pterosaur-like appendage. […]