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Jonathan Ragu and

Jonah Jim compared

Live Pterosaur




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Jonathan Ragu and Jonah

Jim (both of Umboi Island) each saw a big glowing pterosaur-like creature flying overhead. Each islander identified what he saw  with  a  silhouette sketch of a Sordes Pilosus, a Rhamphorhynchoid (long-tailed) pterosaur.

Late in 2004, the Americans Garth Guessman and David Woetzel arrived on the coast of northern Umboi Island, Papua New Guinea. They began interviewing natives who had seen a ropen, but, in contrast to previous explorers, Guessman and Woetzel used formal survey forms; in addition, a set of silhouettes was used to determine the likelihood of misidentifications: Outline-sketches of birds, bats, and pterosaurs gave eyewitnesses a broad choice.


One of the islanders interviewed was Jonathan Ragu, of Mararamu Village. In July of 2004, at about 7:30 or 8:00 p.m., with a clear sky, a ropen flew towards the ocean, northwest, towards Tolokiwa Island. It was flying fast, at tree-top level. Ragu showed his estimate of the nose-to-tail length, and Guessman measured 11 feet. When he was shown the silhouettes, Ragu chose the Sordes Pilosus (a Rhamphorhynchoid or long-tailed pterosaur).


A week or two later, Guessman and Woetzel met Jonah Jim, who had, a few weeks earlier, been interviewed by Jonathan Whitcomb (another expedition). In the book Searching for Ropens, Whitcomb’s conclusion, from detailed analysis of Jonah Jim’s survey form, is that the estimated nose-to-tail length of the ropen seen by Jonah Jim, in 2001, was 5.5 meters (probably not the same ropen seen by Ragu). But an important part of the survey involved the silhouettes: Jonah Jim, like Jonathan Ragu, chose the Sordes Pilosus.


What is the probability that both of the natives would carelessly guess the Sordes Pilosus, when the eyewitnesses were shown 34 silhouettes? But there’s more to the Sordes Pilosus choice: In previous expeditions, interviewers learned from other natives that the ropen has fur or hair. The significance? The Latin “pilosus” means “hairy.”

When two eyewitness testi-monies  agree  on  several points, the credibility of the most  natural  or  direct interpretation of those points is strengthened. Accumu-lating evidence strengthens the case.

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