Sometimes an eyewitness will say “giant bat.” We need not assume the flying creature was literally a bat. In Western cultures, the idea of universal pterosaur extinction is so deeply ingrained that eyewitnesses find it difficult to use that word, for it makes them feel unbelievable. “Pterodactyl” is the same. The description details make the distinction between bat and pterosaur, in the critical sightings.
Let’s consider large bats and compare them with modern living pterosaurs.
The bones in the wings of the above bat eliminate a pterosaur interpretation. They radiate from the finger-claw on the leading edge of the wing. The apparent lack of a tail eliminates a bat interpretation for most of the clear daylight sightings that have been reported to me. Bats do not have long tails, whether or not they are “giant bats” (Flying Foxes) or other species.
The illustration above shows more detail in this anatomy of the bat. But eyewitnesses might never get such a clear view of a flying creature that refuses to pause for an examination, so let’s look at photos.
Even when a mother Flying Fox carries a baby during flight, nothing will look like a long tail: not the two feet, not the baby, not anything. The idea that this fruit bat has caused sighting reports of “pterodactyls” in Papua New Guinea now appears ludicrous. I don’t recall even one sighting report that turned out to have been this kind of misidentification.
Why do some skeptics continue to cry “flying fox misidentification” when actual ropen sightings are of long-tailed flying creatures? Part of their problem is this: They continuously fail to consider actual sighting reports. They prefer to mention their imagined typical sighting, not real sightings. Some would call that approach a “straw man argument.”
Let’s examine some of the details from Duane Hodgkinson’s report.
Could he have seen a giant fruit bat and consciously or unconsciously have exaggerated its size and features? This conjecture quickly breaks down, for too many major differences jump out at us.
No exaggeration of any structure on a Flying Fox could make a tail “at least” ten or fifteen feet long, as reported by Hodgkinson. And even if he had seen a giant bat, with a wingspan of six feet, and thought it was twelve feet, this is still much smaller than the wingspan of a Piper Tri-Pacer airplane (about 29 feet).
In addition, the legs of the “pterodactyl,” that he observed running through that jungle clearing in 1944, he estimated to be three to four feet long. On the other hand, the length of the legs of even the largest Flying Fox fruit bat cannot be measured in feet, barely even in inches. And nobody who sees even the largest fruit bat would say that its neck was about three or four feet long; that bat neck appears almost nonexistent.
If you have seen something flying at night, not like a bird but too big to be a bat, please contact Jonathan Whitcomb to report details about your sighting.
The pterosaur is known by several names in the United States: “dinosaur bird,” “flying dinosaur,” and perhaps the most popular “pterodactyl.”