Fallacy of the Flying Fox Explanation

For the Living Pterosaur Sightings



For decades, reports of “pterodactyls” in New Guinea (the country later renamed Papua New Guinea) were dismissed with the explanation that people were just observing Flying Foxes. In the early 21st Century, a web page by Glen Kuban was dedicated to repudiating the idea that ptero-saurs ever lived in human times; he suggested at least some of the sightings were of fruit bats.


The fruit bat known as “Flying Fox” is quite large for a bat; some species have wingspans as great as five feet. To visitors from America and Europe, these dog-faced bats are striking.


But how does this idea of bat-pterosaurs hold up to detailed analysis? When someone reports seeing a pterosaur flying in Papua New Guinea, can it simply be dismissed as a misidentification of a large Flying Fox bat? Consider the details.


Grave Robberies


The missionary Jim Blume, who has lived in Papua New Guinea for many years, has interviewed many natives who know of creatures whose descriptions suggest a pterosaur. Some natives report creatures robbing graves, stealing human bodies completely away from the grave site. American investigators have confirmed the reports of grave robberies (including the living-pterosaur investigators Paul Nation, Carl Baugh, and me). What is the point? Flying Foxes never rob graves.




The large flying creatures reported in Papua New Guinea are said to eat fish; fruit bats do not eat fish.


Large Carnivorous Flying Creatures


Some reports involve animals or humans being carried away by large flying creatures. Jim Blumes reports a number of cases on the mainland. Paul Nation learned that the “indavas” near an inland village used to carry away village animals or small children; this stopped after the villagers learned to make much noise when they heard the sound of the approaching creatures. But fruit bats never carry away animals or people.

Long Tails


The great majority of eyewitness sightings of apparent-pterosaurs (commonly called “ptero-dactyls”) include a description of long tails. An American World War II veteran, Mr. Duane Hodgkinson, described the tail of the “pterodactyl” that he saw: “at least ten to fifteen feet” long. A villager on Umboi Island, Gideon Koro, said the ropen’s tail was seven meters long. A professional psychologist,  Brian  Hennessy,  said  that  the creature that he saw had “a longish narrow tail.” An Australia couple also saw a creature with a long tail. None of these eyewitnesses saw any feathers; each of them reported a giant creature. Fruit bats do not have long tails.


Giant Creatures


Hodgkinson reported the wingspan of his creature to be about that of a Piper Tri-Pacer airplane: twenty-nine feet. Gideon Koro reported the wing size (of the creature he saw flying over a crater lake) to be seven meters (the interviewer later concluded that he meant the size of one wing). The Australian couple reported the wingspan of their creature to be between thirty and fifty feet. Even with size-exaggeration of eyewitnesses, these creatures are not Flying Foxes.


Flying over reefs


American living-pterosaur investigators (including Paul  Nation,  Jonathan  WhitcombGarth  Guessman, and David Woetzel) found that natives report that the creatures fly just above reefs (they usually eat sea food). Fruit bats have little reason to spend time over reefs.




Creatures with names like ropen, seklo-bali, and indava are said to glow brightly at night. Fruit bats do not glow.


Upright posture on tree trunks


The ropen of Umboi Island has been observed to hold itself upright on a tree trunk. This is quite different from the Flying Fox, which holds itself upside down from a branch.

By Jonathan Whitcomb, author of Searching for Ropens


Mr. Kuban seems to dismiss “anecdotal” reports of living ptero-saurs, but his web page avoids the details of the most credible and significant eyewitness testimonies. Some native eyewitnesses were interviewed by me (I’m a forensic videographer with experience in interviewing  techniques,  and  I  know  some  of  the  Tok  Pisin language); Guessman and Woetzel interviewed other natives who were shown dozens of silhouettes of birds, bats, and pterosaurs. Why did the natives pass up bat-silhouettes and choose pterosaur-silhouettes? What is “anecdotal” about these professionally-conducted interviews?


Mr. Kuban says, “. . . finding a living species of pterosaur would be a monumental discovery . . .” but his web page says nothing about the testimony of Duane Hodgkinson, the World War II veteran who is a certified flight instructor. It says nothing about the flange or “diamond” that is reported at the end of long tails. It says nothing about  the report  of ropen  tail-movement  (similar to Rhamphorhynchoid tail mechanics). It says nothing about fish-eating habits of ropens. His web page seems devoid of anything that might promote any hope that any pterosaur might live in the Southwest Pacific. Why dismiss years of labor, the costly labor of those who have struggled to uncover the truth about these recent reports in Papua New Guinea? We have struggled through difficult trails in a harsh tropical environment, searching for evidence and finding many credible eyewitnesses. For those who disbelieve in our conclusions, why seek to discredit years of work? Why not allow for the possibility that we are on the verge of a monumental discovery?


I realize that a number of questionable reports (suggesting pterosaurs live with humans) have received much publicity on various web pages; most of Mr. Kuban’s web page deals with these questionable reports. I also realize that he wrote his web page before Paul Nation’s November, 2006, expedition: Two indava lights were videotaped and the video footage was analyzed by a missile defense physicist. I also realize that only recently did a news release reveal that a professional psychologist (who works at a medical university) saw  a  very  big  creature (in Papua New Guinea) that he described as looking “prehistoric,” and with “not a feather in sight.” Nevertheless, I question how deeply Mr. Kuban has investigated the living-pterosaur phenomenon; it appears that he has ignored the most significant evidence.


Also, why should anyone believe in pterosaur extinction? There seems to be no scientific evidence to support the idea; Only standard-model philosophy declares that all species of ptero-saurs are extinct.


In my book, Searching for Ropens (second edition published in mid-2007), I’ve explained that the origin of the universal pterosaur extinction  idea  relates  to  the  lack  of  eyewitnesses  of  living pterosaurs in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries. Subsequent eyewitness testimonies now expose the weakness of dogmatic extinction declarations: Pterosaurs are still living.


Why cling to dogmatic multi-regurgitated extinction declarations? Why not allow for the possibility of a monumental discovery?


Jonathan Whitcomb

copyright, 2007