Jumping Manta Ray Fish

On his blog Frontiers of Biology, Dale Drinnon recently suggested that “many” sightings of apparent pterosaurs were misidentifications of Manta ray fish that jump out of the sea and up into the air. But that conjecture quickly falls flat when we examine sighting details.

The Four Key Sightings in the Southwest Pacific

In the nonfiction Live Pterosaurs in Australia and in Papua New Guinea, four sightings are given special attention for both high credibility and low possibility of misidentification:

  1. Finschhafen “Pterodactyl” of 1944
  2. The Bougainville Creature (1971)
  3. The Lake Pung Ropen (about 1994)
  4. The Perth Creature (1997)

Hodgkinson Sighting in 1944

Duane Hodgkinson and his army buddy saw a huge flying creature during World War II, as they were hiking inland from Finschhafen, New Guinea. The main refutation for a Manta ray misidentification here may be this: The two soldiers were far inland, in a jungle clearing (never mind the detailed description Hodgkinson gave of the feet of the creature as it ran through the grass before getting into the air). Manta ray fish do not live far from the sea in jungle clearings.

Hennessy Sighting in 1971

Brian Hennessy was in a truck on a mountainous highway in the interior of Bougainville Island, New Guinea, when the strange creature flew overhead. Like the 1944 sighting, this one was far from the sea, with no possibility that a Manta ray fish could have been jumping over the truck.

Seven Boys by a Crater Lake

Gideon Koro and six of his teenager friends had hiked up to Lake Pung, on Umboi Island, around 1994. They had hardly had time to enjoy the view when the “ropen” flew over the surface of the lake, terrifying the seven boys. This crater lake has no major stream or other flowing water connecting it to the sea. Lake Pung is in the middle of Umboi Island, surrounded by mountain peaks. I tried hiking up to it in 2004, but failed to get up there. Those seven boys did not see a giant Manta ray fish jumping out of that lake. Just say “no.”

Married Couple Take a Walk . . . Into Cryptozoological History

In Perth, Australia, in December of 1997, a couple was taking a pleasant walk between two residential neighborhoods. They started watching something flying in the distance, high up in the sky, but it was approaching the couple. The closer it got, the more bewildered became the two eyewitnesses, for it had an apparent wingspan of thirty to fifty feet and a “lizard” appearance. To quote the husband (who worked in a scientific field), “Within a minute or so it had reached our position and was about 250 or 300 feet above us.” That was no Manta ray fish jumping out of the water and flying, for a minute or more, 250-300 feet above the  land.

“Don’t Get Strung Along by the Ropen Myth”

It’s not that the writer, Brian Switek, is technically wrong in all his proclamations in his blog post. . . . But Switek ridiculed in general: any potential report, anywhere, of any possible sighting of any living pterosaur. . . . failing to mention even one of the key sightings.

.looking up at the underside of a huge Manta ray fish underwater

Photo of a Manta ray fish under water


sketch of the two pterosaurs observed by Eskin Kuhn in Cuba

Sketch (by eyewitness E. Kuhn) of two “pterodactyls” flying above the land

Did Eskin Kuhn See Two Flying Manta Rays?

While stationed at the Guantanamo Bay military station, in 1971, U.S. Marine Eskin C. Kuhn witnessed the flight of two large flying creatures. Being a talented artist, he immediately sketched what he had observed. Were they two Manta ray fish jumping out of the sea? No, for several reasons.

Kuhn’s sketch shows details completely unlike any ray fish. Take the heads, which show a particular head crest, and the feet-like structures. The end of the tail, especially, is completely unlike the tail of a Manta ray fish.

The height of the two creatures could have been as little as forty feet, but that alone eliminates the possibility that they were a pair of Manta rays that had jumped out of the sea. In addition, the appearance of a tight formation of two flying creatures is completely different from what would be expected of Manta rays.

It was a clear day. Kuhn watched the two creatures fly away; he did not watch two fish fall back into the water. No fish were involved.

Manta Rays or Modern Pterosaurs?

A recent post by Dale Drinnon brought up an old suggestion that sightings of giant long-tailed pterosaurs may be misidentifications of large Manta rays (a type of fish) that leap out of the sea.

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