Is Jonathan Whitcomb a Paleontologist?

I have never suggested that I, Jonathan Whitcomb, am a paleontologist, although I surely know more about pterosaur fossils than the average person on the street. I am an expert on reports of apparent living pterosaurs, commonly called pterodactyls by the eyewitnesses. In other words, I am a cryptozoologist.

I’ve received emails from eyewitnesses from four continents plus islands in the Pacific, emails about flying creatures that resemble “primitive” or “prehistoric” animals more than any bird or bat. On occasion I am able to talk with an eyewitness by phone or by face-to-face interview. One critical point here, unappreciated by some paleontologists, is that those eyewitnesses come from various countries and have different backgrounds and beliefs, including differing religious beliefs. Why is that critical? Significant similarities in the descriptions include featherless appearances, a cone-like appendage at the back of the head, and a long tail, sometimes described with a “diamond” at tail-end.

What about the fossil experts, in particular those paleontologists who ridicule the possibility of living pterosaurs? They know about individual creatures that have died, those few rare individuals that left evidence of their existence in fossils. I believe that’s what paleontology is about. So how much do those few critics know about eyewitness reports? Very little, it seems. Some like to generalize and imagine misidentifications of common birds and bats; rarely does a paleontologist even acknowledge a particular sighting, a real encounter with some flying creature.

Jonathan Whitcomb in a mini-documentaryJonathan David Whitcomb, cryptozoologist

Expeditions in Papua New Guinea

One paleontologist has visited Papua New Guinea once, to my knowledge, on an expedition supposedly for discovering a modern pterosaur. That was the television-show expedition production of Monsterquest, the episode showing several westerners, and many natives, on the island of New Britain. Consider what is written in the nonfiction book Searching for Ropens and Finding God (fourth edition, by Whitcomb) regarding that paleontologist:

Consider the words of a paleontologist who participated in an expedition for Monsterquest. He explained his opinion, why a pterosaur is not likely still living: “It flies; they would have been seen by lots of people.” Well, if only 1% of the encounters gave some kind of impression of a pterosaur or dragon appearance, that’s 70,000 persons: “lots of people” indeed, in my opinion.

I extol the participation of my friend and associate Garth Guessman, in his part in the Monsterquest expedition; he believes in the reality of living pterosaurs in Papua New Guinea and elsewhere, as I do. But that paleontologist hardly seems like an ideal person to take on a search for an extant pterosaur.

Here are some of the Americans who have sincerely searched for the ropen (apparent long-tailed pterosaur) in Papua New Guinea:

  • Garth Guessman
  • David Woetzel
  • Jonathan Whitcomb
  • Paul Nation
  • Nathanael Nation
  • Carl Baugh

Woetzel and Guessman met many natives on Umboi IslandTwo associates of Whitcomb: David Woetzel (left) and Garth Guessman (bottom), on Umboi Island, Papua New Guinea, 2004

More about paleontologists

Consider the following from Searching for Ropens and Finding God:

. . . but paleontologists, those thought to be the greatest experts on pterosaur fossils—they consider it almost impossible for one of those species to be alive, and the key point is “almost.” I have learned that critical detail from communicating with a few paleontologists and from reading what a few of them think about reports of modern pterosaurs.

I have also seen the results of a survey of biology professors from some of the largest universities in the western United States. Of the few that responded to the questionnaire, the probability of a species of living pterosaur was put at 0% to 5%, with an average of 1.5%. Half of those professors who responded believed it was very unlikely but possible.

In other words, not all paleontologists and biology professors are completely convinced that all species of pterosaurs much have become extinct. That is far from what some critics and skeptics have said in deriding the work of those of us who still hope for a wonderful scientific discovery. Please keep up your hope in a discovery.




Expert in modern “pterodactyl”

The title is “Jonathan Whitcomb: Pterodactyl Expert,” although the one that appears guilty of libel spells it . . . I don’t mean to imply that everything on this forum thread is without merit. But all commentators except the one initiating the discussion appear to me to practice bulverism rather than comment on any specific sentence that I have written.

Whitcomb, Woetzel, Guessman, and Nation in PNG

Does a live pterodactyl fly over villages of some  southwest Pacific islands? Many testimonies  suggest nocturnal long-tailed creatures (called  “Rhamphorhynchoids” by some) having names  like “ropen” and “duwas” (Don’t confuse with  “duah,” a Western mistake), live in coastal areas  of the mainland of Papua New Guinea, as well  as on the islands of Umboi and Manus.

Jonathan Whitcomb interviewed on Monster-X Radio

I was delighted with the two hour interview I had with the two hosts of the Monster X Radio online broadcast: “Johnny Bigfoot” and Shane Corson. We did not get into any details about the Marfa Lights of Texas, but we did discuss the bioluminescent-pterosaur concept, and Susan Wooten mentioned her experiences watching the Bingham Lights of South Carolina.

Books by Jonathan D. Whitcomb

Live Pterosaurs in America and also Searching for Ropens and Finding God


4th edition, front cover: Searching for Ropens and Finding God

Nonfiction cryptozoology/inspirational book

Ropen book in its fourth edition


Can Pterosaurs Perch on Tree Branches?

According to the standard models that include the assumption of unlimited common ancestry, the short tailed-pterosaurs lived on earth more recently than the long-tailed variety, at least in general. Until recently, paleontologists had thought that pterosaurs could not perch, like many of our modern birds can sit on small tree branches, for the foot or toes of pterosaurs lacked the needed opposing-digit for it. But the pterosaur expert David Peters has shown us that the Rhamphorhynchoidea type (long-tails) did indeed have opposing digits, but the curved fifth toe is used differently than the toe grasping of modern birds.


Paleontologist pterosaur expert David Peters explains how some of those flying creatures could perch on tree branches like birds

From the writings of David Peters:

Pterosaurs [some types] could perch on horizontal branches — although not quite like birds. As in birds, the anterior toes were located below the center of balance in flight, the shoulder glenoid, so a bipedal configuration was possible without shifting or lifting the torso.


Griffith Park Pterosaurs and Perching

Wellnhofer illustrates the curved fifth toe of a long-tailed pterosaur, but without explaining the function of that curve, at least not on page 56 of his book. David Peters, another expert, does explain how this toe can help pterosaurs [of some species] perch on a tree branch.


Pterosaur Seen in Lakewood, California

I saw this huge dragon pteradactal [sic] looking thing. I scared it because when he saw me he jumped off the telephone wires and when he opened his huge wings they sounded like heavy fabric . . . I watched him fly across to a large tree and go inside . . .


front and back covers of the nonfiction book "Live Pterosaurs in America" (by Jonathan David Whitcomb) - in cryptozoology genre

“Pterodactyl” book Live Pterosaurs in America, third edition

From the Introduction of this nonfiction book

This book might make a few Americans uneasy to walk alone at night; my intention, however, is not to frighten but to enlighten as many readers as possible to know about live-pterosaur investigations. Those who’ve been shocked at the sight of a flying creature that “should” be extinct—those eyewitnesses . . . need no longer be afraid that everyone will think them crazy, and no longer need they feel alone. Those of us who’ve listened to the American eyewitnesses . . . we now believe. So, if you will, consider the experiences of these ordinary persons (I’ve interviewed most of them myself) and accept whatever enlightenment you may.

From Chapter Two: California Sightings

I realize that somebody may suggest the eyewitness saw only a model pterosaur; mechanical “pterodactyls” are common. Several details rule out this explanation. The size of the creature was estimated by its appearance when it flew over the road at low altitude; I doubt that he saw a 30-foot-long model. In addition, it was flying from a fenced-off marshy area off-limits to the general public; I doubt that any model-pterodactyl enthusiast would choose that marsh for launching a giant model.


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; in particular, the 1856 Illustrated London News article seems to have no suppport (verification from eyewitnesses) of which I am aware, so I believe Naish is correct in dismissing that newspaper account. But critical eyewitness sightings are absent from his blog post, and to those who have closely followed living-pterosaur investigations this neglect is obvious.

Let’s consider here only his statement “If a group of organisms are absent from the fossil record for tens of millions of years, and if there is no evidence indicating their survival across or beyond that time, they should be assumed to be extinct.” Let’s look at the condition he mentions: “if . . . no evidence indicating their survival.” Circular reasoning is involved here, but it is not very simple, so consider the following in its entirety.

Like other paleontologists, Naish follows the standard assumption of extinction of general types that include pterosaurs. He, like others of whom I am aware, has reacted against living-pterosaur investigations and publications with dogmatic adherence to the extinction assumption. Like Glen Kuban (another paleontologist), he has written at length about questionable sighting reports of apparent-or-presumed pterosaurs, doing so with obvious intent to discourage hope that any of those species may be still living. The circular reasoning comes about by double-assumptions: universal extinctions of all pterosaur species plus universal unreliability of eyewitness reports of living pterosaurs. Here is the first part of the circular reasoning:

Pterosaurs are extinct because no human has seen one <-> A report that a human has seen one must be wrong, for they are extinct.

I realize that Naish and Kuban might object to the simplistic nature of the first half of that first part, so let’s consider the second part of the circular reasoning.

Before proceeding, remember the origin of the assumption of pterosaur extinction. The first fossils were puzzling to the discoverers and to biologists of the time. None of them seemed to have any experience with living creatures like those that left pterosaur fossils. Their lack of knowledge of living creatures with similar shapes caused them to conclude that those fossils represented extinct creatures. During the ninteenth century, more researchers began examining pterosaur fossils; none of those researchers, apparently, had any experience with any living organism that had much resemblance to those fossils. By the end of that century, the idea of extinction of all species of pterosaurs had become entrenched in biology teachings. Remember the point: Extinction was assumed because of a lack of eyewitness sightings known to those early discoverers and researchers of fossils.

Standard twentieth-century dating of strata with pterosaur fossils is based on that assumption of previous centuries, the extinction-assumption that was established and entrenched for over a century. This brings up the second part of circular reasoning:

A stratum is ancient because it contains a pterosaur fossil <-> Pterosaur fossils are ancient because they are found in ancient strata.

I realize that Naish and Kuban might object to the simplistic nature of the first half of the above circularity, so let’s consider how a newly discovered pterosaur fossil would be dated today, based upon standard procedures accepted by Naish and Kuban. Imagine we dig up a hillside with those two paleontologists. We discover a pterosaur fossil. There are two possibilities: That strata was already dated or it has not yet been dated. If it has not yet been dated, it will be assessed by standard paleontologists at an ancient age because of what we just found. What if it has already be dated? Standard procedure (the assumption of pterosaur extinctions) will cause strata dated as young to be reassessed as ancient. Therefore any recently-fossilized pterosaur will be incorrectly-dated as ancient.

The apparent strength of the universal-extinction-of-pterosaurs idea comes from large numbers of supporters of the assumption. It comes not from logic or reason or objective scientific inquiry.