Are Pterosaur Wings Leathery?

On August 16, 2011, in sighting in North America, by Jonathan Whitcomb

Darren Naish, an outspoken critic of the concept of a modern living pterosaur, has written that “it is also completely inaccurate to imagine pterosaur wings as leathery, given that leather is a very heavy, relatively incompliant material.” It seems that Naish has seriously confused two concepts here: the physical properties of leather and the general outward appearance when compared with the appearance of feathers.

When an eyewitness tries to describe a pterosaur-like flying creature (non-extinct, in spite of Naish’s protestations), why would he or she use the word “leathery?” A creature flying through the air gives no opportunity for any eyewitness to examine the covering, dissecting the skin and measuring the thickness to compare it with leather; neither does that flying creature land next to the eyewitness, offering its body to be flexed for comparison with the skin-flexibility of a cow. The eyewitness who sees a living pterosaur at close enough range would notice a skin that was very unlike feathers, so “leathery” would be a good general description, in that context. This simple concept seems to have escaped Naish.

“Leathery” in Live Pterosaurs in America

In the second edition of my book about apparent-pterosaur sightings in the United States (the third edition is coming soon), on page thirty-four, I mentioned a sighting in Texas, between Pasadena and Houston. Ken Gerhard was the interviewer.

RG and his friend, in the late afternoon of a clear day, were startled by a flying creature less than 150 feet away. For about fifteen seconds, they watched it fly, about fifty feet high, before it disappeared into some trees. The general appearance was “leathery” and it had a pointed beak and head appendage. The total length, about five feet, included about two feet of tail, the end of which had a “flange or sail.”

Also on page thirty-four, an eyewitness described a flying creature seen in Texas.

“I saw a featherless flying animal with a wingspan of about 4 1/2 to 5 feet and a long tail with a diamond type shape at the tip of it. No hair or feathers anywhere, just leathery reptile type skin. I have a well established knowledge of animals, especially reptiles, so I can easily tell what animal something is and what it isn’t.”

Other examples could be given, but they would be in the same context: Eyewitnesses are simply looking for a word that fits the non-feathery appearance of a strange flying creature, and “leathery” is one common word that seems to fit.

Any paleontologist (including Darren Naish) who attempts to use the weight and flexibility of actual leather to discredit a sighting of an apparent pterosaur (when the covering of that flying creature is described as “leathery”) is using faulty reasoning. A scientific examination of leather on a laboratory table is a world apart from an eyewitness description of an apparent pterosaur seen at some distance. In fact, even the two words, “leather” and “leathery,” have two different meanings.

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Modern-Pterosaur Critics

On October 8, 2010, in philosophy, Sighting in Papua New Guinea, by Jonathan Whitcomb

Before quoting critics of modern-pterosaur investigations, I would like to characterize some of those criticisms, acknowledging that this is just my own general characterization, and that it does not apply to all critics. (Below, I’ve taken liberties with an old scriptural text.)

Say the critics: “A modern pterosaur!? A living pterosaur!? We’ve got extinction; we’ve got fossils, and there cannot be any more pterosaur.” But those who believe in the Bible say, “How foolish! They shall have their fossils, and many fossils came from discoverers, old encounters that scientists had with fossils. Are critics thankful to those who make discoveries? What do the critics mean? Do they remember the work of old scientists, and their diligence in bringing those fossils to us?”

“Oh critics, have you remembered the old scientists, Newton and Galileo? No. You have condemned the religious beliefs they had and hated their Bible. But those who believe in the Bible have not forgotten the old scientists.”

“How foolish to say, ‘we have got fossils, and we need no live pterosaurs.’ Have you obtained pterosaur fossils except from those who make observations? Don’t you know that paleontologists are not the only ones who make observations?

Indeed, eyewitnesses of apparent living pterosaurs deserve our attention. Along with that, sightings of such flying creatures are not trumped by dogmatic assertions of professors, for no human has witnessed any extinction of any species of pterosaur, let alone all species.

The paleontologist Darren Naish has said, “Fossil evidence demonstrates overwhelmingly that pterosaurs did not survive beyond the end of the Cretaceous.” He fails to realize that no group of fossils can overwhelmingly demonstrate the extinction of any species in any time frame, let alone all species of a general type. That is not what fossils can prove, even if paleontologists were able to recover all fossils that were ever formed. But we have only a small sampling of fossils, and they represent only a tiny fraction of the organisms that have lived on this earth. All the fossils in all the museums and universities in the world cannot prove even the extinction of one species, even if the dating methods were always objective, (they are not).

Naish has also said, “sightings of pterosaur-like animals that have been reported appear to be a combination of hoaxes and misidentification of large birds and bats.” But why does he seem to always avoid those critical sighting reports that clearly demonstrate the existence of modern living pterosaurs, the sightings by Brian Hennessy and Duane Hodgkinson, for example? Why does he say nothing about the two expedition of 2004 (to Umboi Island, Papua New Guinea), the Whitcomb expedition and the Woetzel expedition? They involved many professionally conducted interviews with many eyewitnesses.

Does Naish expect everybody to believe that the flying creature seen by Hodgkinson was a fruit bat (mainland of New Guinea, 1944)? The American World War II veteran estimated the tail to be “at least” ten to fifteen feet long. Does Naish believe that it was actually a flying fox bat with a tail one inch long?

A red flag jumps up at me when I see generalizations that involve a number of explanations. Naish mentions three explanations ( hoax, bird-misidentification, bat-misidentification), but gives not even one detail about even one published sighting report. If there were any real problem with any sighting report that I have published in a book (two books I have written: Searching for Ropens; Live Pterosaurs in America), why has Naish failed to mention even one of those reports?

If I may modify Isaiah 8:20:

To the law of fair reasoning and to the testimony of eyewitnesses of living pterosaurs: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

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What’s New With Living Pterosaurs?

On July 27, 2010, in sighting in North America, by Jonathan Whitcomb

Let’s consider some recent blogs and other web pages relevant to living pterosaurs research and investigations.

Life, Not Extinction, Is What Fossils Mostly Reveal

The paleontologist Darren Naish commented on the blog posting “Fossils are evidence of life, not extinction.” He supports the standard models that include universal extinctions of general types of organisms, namely pterosaurs. His lengthy web page “Pterosaurs alive in, like, the modern day!” bebunks many questionable older reports, and I believe some of his opinions have merit . . . But critical eyewitness sightings are absent from his blog post, and to those who have closely followed living-pterosaur investigations this neglect is obvious.

Flying Dinosaurs

Called by some Americans “flying dinosaurs,” pterosaurs, in modern times, appear to be at least somewhat rare, for they are rarely reported by eyewitnesses. . . .  the rarity of reports of eyewitnesses is from the ridicule that many of them face after telling people what they saw; it is not generally from insanity or dishonesty. . . . The “flying dinosaur” of Papua New Guinea is often called “ropen.” It seems to be a Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur of immense size, far larger than any of the fossils of Rhamphorhynchoids . . .

Texas Pterosaur in 1995

. . . nobody forces any adult to disbelieve any story of a child. Several things have led me to believe that Aaron Tullock, as a child, saw a living pterosaur, regardless of American indoctrinations into universal extinctions, and I submit this account as credible. . . . “This thing flew over my head, about eight feet off the ground, and stopped and hovered in mid air. . . . flapping its featherless, bat-like wings, which were about four feet in span, maybe five. It had a tail about three feet long, with the . . . flange on the end . . . no head crest and no feathers at all . . .”

“Pterodactyl” Flies Over Military Ship

. . . a sailor on the U.S.S. Jouett (guided missle cruiser), CG-29. He told us about the night when he was surprised by an excited shipmate who summoned him out of his bunk. Many sailors had just witnessed a giant “pterodactyl” that had flown directly over the ship . . . If anyone has information on this, please send me an email . . .

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