Thursday, 3 December 2009

Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaurs sightings 35 years later

A report 35 years later of a prehistoric bird sighting:

LONG BEACH, Calif./EWORLDWIRE/June 8, 2007 - A psychologist at a university in Central China asserts that he saw, in 1971, a prehistoric-looking creature flying in Papua New Guinea. Brian Hennessy of the Chongqing University of Medical Sciences described the creature as black or dark brown with a "longish narrow tail" and a beak that was "indistinguishable from the head." In the daylight of an early morning on Bougainville Island, on a dirt road that led down to the coast, Hennessy heard a slow "flapping" and looked up to see a "very big" creature with a "horn" at the back of its head. There was "not a feather in sight." After thirty-five years, in the summer of 2006, a friend of Hennessy referred him to the American, Jonathan Whitcomb, author of the book "Searching for Ropens," who interviewed him. The eyewitness account was added to the second edition of the book, which was published on May 30, 2007. Until 2006, Hennessy had been unaware of cryptozoological expeditions related to what he had seen. (Whitcomb's book tells how, in the 1990's, a few Americans began investigating, in Papua New Guinea, creatures described like living pterosaurs, commonly called, by Americans, "pterodactyls.") Hennessy was also unaware that many natives have names for giant flying creatures: One of those names is "ropen."
The American author noticed similarities between Hennessy's description and that of a creature reported 500 miles to the west, near Finschhafen, Papua New Guinea, twenty-seven years earlier. In 1944, Duane Hodgkinson, now living in Montana, saw a giant "prehistoric" creature flying over a clearing where he and another soldier were standing. Whitcomb had interviewed Hodgkinson in 2004 and realized, two years later, that both the American veteran and the psychologist had seen a dark flying creature with a long tail but no sign of feathers. Both men used the word "prehistoric." In 2006, Whitcomb showed Hennessy a series of sketches for determining the shape of the head, including the beak and the head appendage. (A similar questionnaire had been given to Hodgkinson two years earlier.) Whitcomb then drew a sketch based on Hennessy's answers, and concluded that Hennessy had seen, in 1971, the same type of creature that Hodgkinson had seen in 1944.

Jonathan Whitcomb, the author of Searching for Ropens, and Live Pterosaurs in America, interviewed Hennessy by email in 2006 and made up a composite sketch of the head from the descriptions. Whitcomb said it was very similar to a composite sketch from another interview two years earlier with Duane Hodgkinson who described a "pterodactyl." Hodgkinson talked about the size of the creature he saw saying it was similar in size to that of a "Piper Tri-Pacer airplane" .In the second edition of the book Searching for Ropens, Brian Hennessy was quoted as saying : “It was so unusual. I actually heard it before I saw it. A slow flap . . . flap . . flapping sound. The air was still, and our truck had stopped on our downward journey from the top of the range to the coast way below . . . it was very big (wingspan at least two metres, probably more . . . possibly much, much more). It was black or dark brown. I had never seen anything like it before. . . . I recall seeing this creature with a longish narrow tail . . . the head was disproportionately large compared to the body [no feathers in sight]."

Both the 1944 and 1971 sightings were in daylight and Whitcomb's book asserts that Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaurs live in Papua New Guinea and that they are larger than the normally discovered Rhamphorhynchoid fossils.

Although I don’t dispute the men saw something , I am not sure that it could the Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaurs that Whitcomb asserts it is. The world has changed so much that creatures would have had to evolve and would not look exactly the same as the fossil record. Plus bear in mind we can only guess a lot of the time what creatures looked like from fossils. Very few complete skeletons are found and often no tissue so colour and texture is often guesswork. There may be an unknown species of giant bat as some assert or it may be some evolved creature from the past but I doubt it would look exactly like a prehistoric creature after these millions of years. The world has been colder and polluted and the prey that this predator eats would have changed considerably . Prey changes to avoid predator and the predator than has to change. Maybe some more recent sightings will surface that will answer the conundrum.

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