Dactyl or Delirious Driver?

Automobile drivers can be distracted by many irrelevancies. Take, for example, a giant pterodactyl. I know that some skeptic can suggest drinking was the cause, but not everyone who drives a car has detailed delirium tremens hallucinations with giant Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaurs. In addition, even if one driver imagined a ‘dactyl or dinosaur bird flying in front of the windshield, such an imagination would never have an impact on other drivers, causing them to pull over to the side of the highway as the imaginative driver kept on driving normally.

Let’s take some driving examples from the second edition of the nonfiction cryptozoology book Live Pterosaurs in America.

South Carolina Sighting

Susan Wooten was driving . . . to the town of Florence, on a clear mid-afternoon in the fall of about 1989, following a girl who lived in her dorm . . . Where the road was surrounded by woods and swamps, Wooten saw something flying from her left, then passing in front of her, behind her friend’s car. “It swooped down over the highway and back up gracefully over the pines,” but its appearance was shocking: “It looked as big as any car . . . NO feathers, not like a huge crane or egret, but like a humongous bat.”

We’re not in Kansas Anymore

I had seen an extremely large bird that resembled a pterodactyl some years ago when [I was] driving to town from the family farm between Rush Center and Larned, Kansas. I could not believe my eyes as I immediately thought of a prehistoric bird when I saw it. It must have had a wing-span of 16-20 feet.

I never said too much to anyone about it because, of course, such a claim raises eyebrows. . . . It did not appear to have feathers. . . . I’ve never seen any bird in Kansas a fraction of that size or with the appearance of this bird. . . . [It] looked textbook pterodactyl.

Pterosaur Catching Sparrows in Ohio

I was driving across a bridge out to my friend’s house, when the damn thing nearly ran into the side of my car . . . so incredibly graceful. . . . it effortlessly flew over my car and that is when I stopped (in fear of having it hit my side window) and got out of my car to see it fly over the other side of the bridge. That is when I seen it swoop lower and start catching those sparrows. I think these [long-tailed creatures] are migratory, I’ve seen this thing on another occasion the following summer.

Another Pterosaur Sighting in Ohio

At 11:15 p.m., she was driving near Kenton, Ohio, on Route 309. With clear sky and a still-full moon, the landscape was brightly lit. A creature swooped down—an obvious “pterodactyl”—gliding gracefully over the hood of her car. She watched it fly into some dense underbrush of trees. Because of the brightness of the moon (several hours before the eclipse) and the nearness of the creature’s flight, she saw it clearly. OJ was impressed with that slow smooth flight, with no wing flapping. She told me, “It was very eerie . . . Sent shivers over me.”

Why do so many reports of live pterosaurs in the United States involve eyewitnesses who are driving? What takes most of our time when we are not at home or in some building? Much of our outdoor time involves driving. Even when we set aside time to be out in nature, much of our time involves driving to and from the wilderness area.

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South Carolina sighting by Wooten

Flying Creature With no Feathers

Amazing as it sounds, the flying creature that seemed to dive almost towards her car, passing just in front of her, was bigger than some of the cars on that country road.

On the Live Pterosaur blog, we read:

The strange creature flew gracefully over the highway, right in front of the car Susan Wooten was driving to Florence, South Carolina. . . . ‘It looked as big as any car, and had NO feathers, not like a huge crane or egret. . . . it swooped down over the highway and back up gracefully over the pines.’

The blog post is “Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur in South Carolina

One critic of the Wooten sighting suggested a large pterosaur could not live in South Carolina because somebody would have found a nest by now. There are many problems with that reasoning. Let’s look at the problems with his reasoning.

  1. How does he know that nobody has found a pterosaur nest?
  2. Hoes does he know that a modern Rhamphorhynchoid would build a nest that would be recognized by common humans as being a pterosaur nest?
  3. What if the creatures are rare? How could we expect anyone to find a nest in a remote swamp in South Carolina?
  4. What if somebody found a pterosaur nest? What would the person do, report modern living pterosaurs to a local newspaper? The person might very well never be taken seriously.
  5. What if this pterosaur lays eggs in something other than a nest?

No, speculating about pterosaur nests does not disprove the existence of modern living pterosaurs.

Nocturnal Pterosaurs

When Susan Wooten’s sighting in South Carolina began receiving more attention, one critic proclaimed that a large modern pterosaur would be impossible so near the Atlantic coast of the United States, for thousands of beach-goers would have seen it. That critics seems to assume that any large pterosaur living in South Carolina would have shown up at the beach in daylight, causing news headlines; since he did not see any relevant news report, then no large pterosaur could live there.

How rarely critics consider the whole picture! The overall reports of living pterosaurs around the world suggest these creatures are mostly nocturnal. It’s not just the rarity of daylight sightings. Specific flight behavior at night suggests they are nocturnal.

Then why should they ever appear in daylight? Consider two dramatic daylight sightings in Papua New Guinea, where the nocturnal ropen is believed to fly with a bioluminescent glow at night. Both cases involve a large or giant “prehistoric” creature, with no sign of feathers, flying at low altitude. Both may have been Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaurs, awakened from sleep in daylight and frightened into flying away from potential danger.

In 1971, in daylight, on Bougainville Island, Brian Hennessy saw something he will never forget. In his own words, “. . . our truck had stopped on our downward journey from the top of the range to the coast way below. . . . I can’t remember why our vehicle had stopped. Maybe we had to wait for another vehicle to pass us. . . . I saw a very unusual creature. Firstly, it was very big . . . a longish narrow tail . . .”

I asked Mr. Hennessy, “Was anything coming out the back of the head . . . a crest,  appendage, horn, or comb?” He replied, “It was like a horn.”

The two vehicles may have startled the creature from sleep. Many years earlier and many miles to the west was another sighting.

In 1944, in daylight, west of Finnschafen (mainland New Guinea), Duane Hodgkinson saw something he will never forget. At the edge of a clearing, he and his army buddy were gazing at some large ants, bigger than any ants in Ohio. Some animal, at first unseen, came running through the grass. Something then flew up from the far side of the clearing, apparently startled by the running animal. Hodgkinson soon realized that it was not a bird, for it was too big and it had a long appendage coming out the back of the head. He then concluded that it was a “pterodactyl.” At about the time it flew away, a wild pig came running past.

I am convinced that both Hennessy and Hodgkinson saw Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaurs (on Umboi Island, the animal is called “ropen“). The 1944 sighting seems to have involved a large ropen awakened from sleep by a wild pig.

But the ropen is rarely seen in daylight, by Umboi natives. It is said to catch its food at night, on reefs that surround the island. Its described behavior resembles that of the kor, which islanders to the north say catches fish at night. Deep in the mainland of Papua New Guinea a large flying creature is said to fly at night: the indava. These three native names may refer to the same type of animal, for all accounts include a glow that flies at night. Of course intrinsic bioluminescence would not make it impossible for a creature to come out in daylight; it only makes a daylight appearance rare.

See also Pterosaur in South Carolina and also Hennessy Pterosaur

Consider reading more about nocturnal pterosaurs: Cliff Paiva report