Pterosaur Flight

I am convinced, after eight years of interviewing eyewitnesses and researching testimonies, that more than species of pterosaurs have survived extinction. Let’s consider, within the context of a variety of species, pterosaur flight in general.

Graceful Flight

I have noticed that some eyewitnesses have been fascinated by the graceful flight of the flying creatures they have observed. Eskin Kuhn described the flights of two “pterodactyls” as “very graceful, slow . . . yet they were flying and not merely gliding, like turkey vultures do here in Ohio.” Susan Wooten described her daytime sighting in South Carolina: “It swooped down over the highway and back up gracefully over the pines.”

An eyewitness of an “American Hammerhead Ropen” in Georgia told me of her impression of the flight (as I wrote in Live Pterosaurs in America): It reminded her “of some kind of ‘breast stroke.’ She was enthralled by the logic of that wing flapping, different from that of birds: Wings of birds appear to flap more up-and-down. She told me that the creatures she had seen appeared to grab the air and pull themselves through it.”

Getting Airborne

According to Duane Hodgkinson’s account of the 1944 sighting near Finschhafen, New Guinea, (recorded in the scientific paper “Reports of Living Pterosaurs in the Southwest Pacific”) “The creature ran to their left, taking six to ten steps to get airborne and ascended at an angle of about 30 degrees (similar to an airplane taking off).”

The paleobiologist Mark Witton and the paleontologist Michael Habib have come up with a hypothesis that some large Pterodactyloid pterosaurs became airborne by something like “pole vaulting.” I have seen an animation illustrating how it works; it looks to me more like catapulting, but it is an interesting idea. We need to remember that this refers to large Pterodactyloids, and Hodgkinson saw what we believe was a large Rhamphorhynchoid.

“Pole Vaulting” Pterosaur

Dr Mark Witton at Portsmouth University (United Kingdom) and Dr Michael Habib of Chatham University, Pennsylvania (United States) have taken an original look at some of the larger pterosaur fossils in regard to how the flying creatures, the heavier ones, got airborne. They believe that some pterosaurs used all four of their limbs to take off into the air.


sketch of the two pterosaurs observed by Eskin Kuhn in Cuba

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