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Monday, 23 April 2012

Cuban Pterosaurs?

Cuban Pterosaurs-Or Ivory-Billed Woodpeckers?

No-that isn't meant to be funny. I have a suggestion which may account for "Modern Pterosaur" reports eminating from Cuba in a large crested bird commonly thought to be extinct-but which in fact was not yet declared extinct in Cuba at the time.

Friday, May 6, 2011

[Quoting the sightings in question wholly and without modification, as per Fair Use allowance]

Another Pterosaur in Cuba

Until this year, Eskin Kuhn's sighting of two long-tailed pterosaurs in Cuba appeared to be a one-eyewitness encounter; perhaps those giant Rhamphorhynchoids were lost, flying over the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base by accident, being native to Central America, not Cuba. But two days ago I spoke by phone to Patty Carson: Eskin Kuhn is no longer alone in witnessing a long-tailed pterosaur at Guantanamo Bay.

Modern Pterosaur in Cuba
We were walking down near the boat yards, headed home. . . . We were walking from the boat yards toward home, but still closer to the boat yards, to where it was sandy underfoot, sparse scrub vegetation around four feet tall . . . We were walking through that scrub area, and suddenly it sat up, as if it had been eating something or resting. The head and upper part of its body, about a third of the wings at the joint (tips still held down) showed. . . . right in front of us about thirty feet away. All of us froze for about five seconds, then it leaned to its left and took off with a fwap fwap fwap sound . . . and flew to its left and disappeared behind trees and terrain.
Two Pterosaur Sightings in Cuba
Very recently another eyewitness, a lady living in California, has come forward, supporting the U.S. Marine’s testimony with her own sighting report. Patty Carson observed a single pterosaur, about six years before the sighting by Kuhn, but was disbelieved for decades and unaware that anyone else, other than the ones with her at the Guantanamo Bay installation in around 1965, had seen anything similar.
Pterosaurs at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
In our phone conversation, Patty explained to me that . . . the wings were like bat wings, in a way, but not at all transparent [ie, black]. She is sure of the structure at the end of the tail (what I call a “vein” or “flange”) and estimates the “diamond” was about five inches long and about three inches wide.
There appears to me to be no coincidence that both Patty Carson and Eskin Kuhn saw a long-tailed pterosaur at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in the middle of the twentieth century. Patty told me that the sketch drawn by Kuhn was very similar to what she had seen, especially the head and body. She did feel that the tail might have been drawn shorter and the wings larger, however.

 Now in this case we have the incarnation of some misapprehensions about Pterosaurs. Basically Pterosaurs came in two large groups, the earlier long-tailed and smaller ones related to Rhamphorhynchus and the tailleless group originating later  in the Mesozoic, replacing the long-tailed kinds and which grew much larger and persisted until the end of the Age of Reptiles. The tailless group included both the crested Pteranodon and the earlier Pterodactlus, and so can properly be called the Pterodactyls. No in ALL Ropen accounts is that they fail to make the distinction and they always report enormous long-tailed AND crested pterosaurs, mixing the traits of both types. The mixed-trait Pterosaurs do not exist in Paleontology but they DO occur commonly in popular cartoons such as The Flintstones in the 1960s. Therefore the asumption that such creatures ever existed as such in real life is born in a pre-conceived notion out of such representations as the Flintstones cartoon and born out of ignorance.

I do not make that statement lightly. These reports are not reporting accurate reflections of the anatomy of known fossil animals, they are reporting accurate portrayals of fantasies made up about the fossil animals.And therefore even if there were actual animals involved in the sightings, the descriptions are based on a preconceived fantasy version covering over whatever real characteristics there might have been in the original sightings, and this goes for any such sightings in either Cuba or in New Guinea. So the problem is coming as close as possible to an animal corresponding to the reported outline but in full knowledge it is not going to be what the witness thought it was and not exactly as it was reported as a consequence. there happens to be a separate reported Cryptid with a crest on the head, a bird, and in fact a Giant Hornbill, also reputedly growing to the same exact enormous size as the supposed Ropen (a 20 foot wingspan). And in Cuba there was another known giant bird with a pointed crest on the back of its head and known to sometimes fly together in mated pairs as in Erskin Kuhn's account. And that would be the Cuban ivory-billed woodpecker.
Pileated And IvoryBilled Woodpeckers

The Cuban Ivory-billed Woodpecker is now classified as a separate species from the North American kind and it was not considered to be extinct until perhaps 1990 (this is still disputed and the IUCN Red List merely calls it "Extremely Endangered") It was a large bird that could be newide and long in flighty broad wings and an extremely long tail. One resting in the top branches of four-foot-tall shrubbery might well give the impression of its being as large as a human and standing on the ground. A real Pteranodon's body is not nearly as large as a person's and its head is very much larger in proportion, both these points being noted on this blog earlier in reference to a similar crested bird seen perched in a tree on the US West Coast in much the same reported position. A real Pteranodon would never perch in that position; its hindquarters would be very much smaller than its forequarters.)

The woodpecker's long tail might look diamond-shaped in some views but really a better explanation is that one of the tail feathers was ruffled and bent out of shape! A bird with a feather out of place in its tail could also give the appearance of having a longer and thinner tail until the feather actually did fall out. In the case of the estimated ten-foot wingspan in Kuhn's sighting: he describes his sighting as from a view of the two birds in profile, not a position that he could accurately judge the full width of the wingspan. Since the ivorybilled woodpecker is already the size of a goodsized hawk, it is not that much of a stretch to suggest he mistook the birds for being the size of a large eagle, especially since he was startled and the sighting was brief. And because he was startled and the sighting was brief, there is less worry about the discrepancies in shape between the woodpeckers and the animals he drew: and we need not preoccupy ourselves worrying over the impressions either witness stated about the colour or reported featherlessness of the creatures they had witnessed [Or about the teeth in the jaws, another feature that would NOT apply to Pteranodon: Pteranodon's name means "Winged and toothless"]. In both cases the animal closest to the witness might be the female and hence the red head patch of the male would not be observed on the creature more obvious to the witness  In this case although the very distinct discrepancies ARE in the reports that way, the bottom line is still that the creatures in question would not be and could not be exactly as the witnesses state because they are not thinking of the real creatures but of a fantasy representation of the real creatures.

I am fully aware that this explanation will not satisfy proponants of the Living Pterosaur theory. I apologise for that part, but the fact remains that the sightings cannot be Pterosaurs going by the actual fossils that we have of such creatures. The reported anatomy is all wrong.


  1. Actually, at least for Ropens there is a distinction. There are the '"true" Ropens which have a tail but no crest and are seen near shore. These would be the flying mantas. Then there are the larger Duahs seen inland which have a long crest and would be a type of hornbill or crested bird.

  2. I would say so, yes: but in this case I thought I would simplify this posting and not worry about the technicalities. Although there is still good reason to say some "pterosaur" reports in the Caribbean are mantas, the Cuban reports in question are something else again, and that is what the subject of this blog was.
    Karl Shuker has made a distinction between Ropens and Duahs, following your distinction as you stated: but most of the internet sources throw all of the reports together and calls them "Ropens". This doesn't even begin to touch on the "Bioluminescent" reports which I feel are something else unrelated again.(and actually something not uncommon worldwide, the matter of "Ghost Lights")

    Best Wishes, Dale D.


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