Giant Bat or Pterosaur?

 Flying Fox fruit bat in flight

Too often have I encountered a generalization that is too convenient, an explanation not for any particular sighting of an apparent pterosaur in Papua New Guinea but for sightings in general: a misidentified Flying Fox fruit bat. The Hodgkinson sighting alone, perhaps the most important pterosaur sighting in history, repudiates the “giant bat” misidentification explanation. Note the following points, taken from my scientific paper “Reports of Living Pterosaurs in the Southwest Pacific,” with exact quoting:

  1. The creature ran to their left, taking six to ten steps to get airborne
  2. The wings never stopped flapping, at one to two seconds per flap, while it flew.
  3. He estimated the legs to be 3–4 ft (1–1.2 m) long.
  4. The top of the back was 5–6 ft (1.5–1.8 m) above the ground just before takeoff.
  5. the tail, he estimated it was “at least” 10–15 ft (3–4.6 m) long.
  6. He compared the wingspan to a Piper Tri-Pacer airplane (~29 ft or 9 m).
  7. The length of the head, not counting the appendage, was about 3–4 ft (1–1.2 m), similar to the length of the neck.
  8. An appendage protruding from the head, above the neck, was about half that length

Any one of the above eight points puts the Flying-Fox-misidentification into doubt. Three or more of the above points practically disproves the notion. All eight of the above points make that misidentification explanation ludicrous. There was no giant bat. It was something else.

Garth Guessman interviewed Duane Hodgkinson in 2005

Garth Guessman’s videotaped interview, in 2005, with the World War II veteran Duane Hodgkinson, made plain critical points about the encounter in a jungle clearing west of Finschhafen, New Guinea, in 1944.

No Hoax

A number of additional points show why a hoax explanation is also untenable, but that is beyond the present subject.

Sighting by Gideon Koro

From the same scientific paper “Reports of Living Pterosaurs in the Southwest Pacific,” is recorded what the native Gideon Koro and six other young men encountered at Lake Pung (Umboi Island, Papua New Guinea) around 1994:

According to Gideon Koro . . . a few minutes after they had arrived at the lake, “it came down.” I tried to ask about wingspan but at that point had to rely on an interpreter . . . and only later did I realize that he probably thought that I meant the length of one wing. In either case, his answer is astonishing: “seven meetuh” (seven meters). When I asked about the tail length, he pondered, seeming to recall and estimate; then he said, “seven meetuh.”Eyewitness Gideon Koro of Umboi Island, Papua New Guinea


Brief Comparison of Two Sightings

Although Hodgkinson’s tail-length estimate is only rough, it seems that the wingspan of that “pterodactyl” was about twice the tail length. Gideon’s estimates appear similar, when we accept the probability that he did not understand the English word “wingspan” (when he estimated the wing size, he was referring to the length of one wing). That is consistant with the reactions of those two groups of eyewitnesses. Hodgkinson and his army buddy were amazed at the flying creature that had a wingspan of almost 30 feet. Gideon Koro and his six teenaged friends were terrified at the flying creature that had a wingspan of over 40 feet.

Other differences may have played a part. In 1944, two armed adult soldiers saw a creature that was flying away from them. About half a century later, several unarmed boys saw a creature that had a reputation: The ropen of Umboi Island is a being that those islanders know to avoid.

Giant Bat

In Western cultures, the idea of universal pterosaur extinction is so deeply ingrained that eyewitnesses find it difficult to use that word, for it makes them feel unbelievable. “Pterodactyl” is the same. The description details make the distinction between bat and pterosaur, in the critical sightings.


front and back covers of "Live Pterosaurs in America" nonfiction book


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