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About Pterosaurs

Project Pterosaur Article Index

Pterosaurs: An Introduction

By Dr. Richard Paley

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This is an executive overview of pterosaur research that is being presented as part of Project Pterosaur, a joint venture of Fellowship University and the Fairlight Institute, whose goal is to mount an expedition to bring back living pterosaurs so that they may testify against Evolutionism and to the Lord's Creation. Please visit the Project Pterosaur page to learn more.

What Are Pterosaurs?


Pterosaurs, including the ancestors of pterodactyls (middle left) and rhamphorhynchi (middle right), lived peacefully with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. (Artistic reconstruction by Peggy Miller.)

Pterosaurs (ter’ə·sôrs) are flying reptiles with leathery or membranous wings attached to the sides of their bodies and supported by an elongated fourth digit on their forelimbs. They were created by the Lord on the fifth day of His Creation Week (Genesis 1:20-22) and were a constant presence in the skies over Eden, where they peacefully ate fruit and plants. After the Fall, many of their descendants degenerated to a carnivorous diet and became feared by man, although non-wicked specimens preserved on the Ark helped to temper this degenerative tendency after the Flood. Various Pterosaur kinds were common throughout Eurasia and Northern Africa up until the early Middle Ages and interacted extensively with Man. Today, although Evolutionists falsely insist that they are extinct, pterosaurs can still be found, hidden away in the unexplored wilds of our world.

There are two main baramins of pterosaurs: rhamphorhynchoid and pterodactyloid. Rhamphorhynchoid kinds are small to medium sized (usually no larger than a sea gull) with long tails, short heads and necks, and teeth. Pterodactyloid kinds are medium to very large (in fact, they include the largest flying animals that ever lived) with short tails, longer necks and limbs, often crested heads, and usually lack teeth. It's still debated whether these groups are monobaraminic or holobaraminic, and it is one of Project Pterosaur's science goals to answer this question (if we find specimens of both groups, we can determine baraminicity by using Intelligent Design Theory to measure their specified complexity and apply the Dembski-Shannon equation to extrapolate the amount of relative informational loss due to genetic degradation from their perfect Creation.)

Historical Evidences of Pterosaur/Man Contemporaneity


Remains of wicked pterodactyl found in Flood sediments. Note penitent stance preserved at moment of death.

Pterosaurs are today primarily known from fossil remains preserved in the Flood; but, this wasn't always so. Contrary to Evolutionistic philosophy, historical reports of pterosaurs are numerous, although these reports are not often recognized as such by modern researchers since the animals were never referred to as "pterosaurs" before that term was coined in the 19th Century, instead being given various other descriptive names. The most well-reported historical pterosaur was a member of the rhamphorhynchoid baramin indigenous to Arabia and Egypt, which was known to the Hebrews as a saraph (not to be confused with the Holy Seraphim) and in the KJV Bible as a "fiery flying serpent."

Knowledge of the saraph was not, however, limited to Judeo-Christian scholars. One of the most famous reports of this animal is from the pagan historian Herodotus, who, in his History, twice mentions Arabian "winged serpents," accurately describing them as being small, varied in color, producing a horrible screech, and having wings very closely resembling those of a bat. They were said to have guarded the Arabian frankincense trees, which made harvesting of that precious aromatic resin very difficult, requiring the use of protective ox hides and smoke to disperse the animals1. They also lived in the mountains near the city of Buto (where Herodotus saw their remains firsthand) and would every spring fly in great numbers towards Egypt, kept in check only by flocks of ibises which preyed upon them2. Arabian tradition held that, if not for ibis predation, the whole world would swarm with pterosaurs.


During the Exodus, Israelites within sight of Moses's brazen pterosaur-scaring device (pictured above) were safe, but many stragglers still perished from the persistent bites of the serpentine pterosaurs. (Artistic reconstruction by Peggy Miller.)

Although Herodotus is often considered an unreliable source, even by pagan standards, his description does fit physical evidences and other historical accounts (including ones by Aristotle3 and Cicero4) showing that knowledge of pterosaurs was not uncommon in the past, even among the ignorant pagans5.

More reliably, Herodotus's description is corroborated by the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, who relates a brilliant stratagem involving baskets of ibises that Moses -- while serving as a general in the Egyptian army during the war with the Ethiopians -- employed to deal with attacking pterosaurs, "some of which ascend out of the ground unseen, and also fly in the air, and so come upon men at unawares, and do them a mischief."6 The danger of these creatures is evident when Moses -- later leading his people out of Egypt -- was unable to use the protection of ibises, resulting in the Jews being tormented by pterosaur attacks throughout the 40 year Exodus. The attacks were brought under control only after the Lord instructed Moses to create a pterosaur effigy on a pole to scare them off (Numbers 21:6-9, Deuteronomy 8:15).

This leads us to the most authoritative historical source on pterosaurs: the Bible7. The creatures are mentioned or alluded to many times throughout the Old and New Testaments. The Lord even offers them as a type to Himself: "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up" (John 3:14).

Other notable references are made by Isaiah, during whose time pterosaurs were worshipped (and possibly tamed8) by the Egyptian pharaohs. Isaiah mentions them twice to symbolize Egypt:

"Rejoice not thou, whole Palestina, because the rod of him that smote thee is broken: for out of the cockatrice, and his fruit shall be a fiery flying serpent." (Isaiah 14:29)

"The burden of the beasts of the south: into the land of trouble and anguish, from whence come the young and old lion, the viper and fiery flying serpent, they will carry their riches upon the shoulders of young asses, and their treasures upon the bunches of camels, to a people that shall not profit them." (Isaiah 30:6)

For more on Scriptual accounts of pterosaurs, see:

Although the Middle East offers us the most well-documented historical accounts of man/pterosaur interaction, other parts of the world record them as well. In Europe and Asia, pterosaurs were commonly depicted as stylized winged dragons (other, non-winged dragons were presumably dinosaurs or plesiosaurs), which were both feared and respected by kings and emperors. Furthermore, in rural Europe and Africa, some of the more degraded, nocturnal species that took to drinking blood formed the basis of vampire legends (when on land, their general appearance is not entirely unhuman, especially when seen in the dim light of the moon, and their folded wings could easily be mistaken for a cape -- at least until their dramatic, bat-like transformation upon taking off.)

As we can see, pterosaurs -- far from being extinct for millions of years as the Evolutionists claim -- left an undeniably mark on human history. And, more importantly for Project Pterosaur, they continue to do so today.

Extant Pterosaurs

The saraph pterosaurs of the Middle East, whose populations historically reached plague proportions, appear today to be all but, if not actually, extinct, as modern sightings of them are unheard of. Perhaps the Egyptian fondness for ibises lead to a population boom that decimated the pterosaur numbers. Or maybe the frankincense trade disrupted their breeding grounds. Whatever the case, pterosaurs of different varieties are still known to exist in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, with relatively recent reports from the Americas.

Living pterosaurs are known by a wide variety of different local names, which may represent the same or different kinds (research for Project Pterosaur will try to bring some sense to modern pterosaur taxonomy and baraminology). Here is a chart of some of the better known local pterosaur names:

LocationNameDetails
Zambia,
Central Africa
Kongamato
("Overwhelmer of boats")
Rhamphorhynchoid
Wingspan: 4-7 ft.
Found in swamps, waterways
Details vary, possibly multiple kinds
Ghana
(Ashanti territory)
Sasabonsam
(Asasabonsam,
Asanbonsam)
Pterodactyloid
Wingspan: up to 20 ft.
Fruit eating
Kidnaps travelers
Cameroon,
Southeastern Nigeria
Olitiau
("The Forked One")
Rhamphorhynchoid
Size of an eagle
Found in mountainous regions
Papua New Guinea
(Rambunzo island,
Bismarck Archipelago)
Ropen
("Demon flyer")
Rhamphorhynchoid
Wingspan: 3-4 ft.
Nocturnal, lives in caves
Partially bioluminescent underparts
Taste for decaying human flesh
Papua New Guinea
(main island)
Duah
("Demon flyer")
Pterodactyloid
Wingspan: 25+ ft.
Partially bioluminescent underparts
Long beak and head crest
Indonesia
(Moluccan Islands)
Orang-Bati
("Winged men")
Rhamphorhynchoid
Height: 4-5 ft.
Lives in caves of Mount Kairatu
Said to abduct infants
North AmericaThunderbird Pterodactyloid
Largest flying animal
MesoamericaQuetzalcoatl Pterodactyloid
Falsely worshiped as a god

Misidentifications:

Because of the superficial similarity to bats, some pterosaurs classifications are in dispute. For instance, the orang-bati is sometimes listed as an unknown kind of giant bat. I feel that this classification is in error: The creature's reputed habit of abducting infants is closer in behavior to that of pterosaurs than of bats, and the proximity of the Moluccan Islands to the known pterosaur habitat of New Guinea -- plus the fact that any New Guinean pterosaurs would have had to have traversed the islands on their migration path from the resting place of the Ark in the Middle East -- makes it very likely that pterosaurs would be found there. Unlike the orang-bati, the ahool of Java is almost certainly chiropteran in nature, although it is often mentioned along with known pterosaurs. Cryptozoologist Ivan T. Sanderson believes the ahool is related to the African kongamato, both of which he feels are microchiropteran bats (see the Africa section below for how he might be partially correct in this assessment).

Another famous misclassification is that of the Puerto Rican chupacabra ("goat sucker," after its fondness for attacking the flocks of local shepherds), which some researchers hold is a type of pterosaur. However, I am of the firm opinion that it is in fact a velociraptor. My reasons are as follows: the level of violence attributed to it is well beyond that reported of known degenerated pterosaurs (who seem more keen on carrion than living goats), but not unlike the reports of velociraptors found around Mt. Ararat9; it was never originally reported to be able to fly and it was only relatively recently that witnesses started to attribute wings to it (along with a plethora of other unusual attributes, suggesting fearful imaginations run wild); and historically, there have only been reports of megapterodactyloids in the Americas, making its sudden appearance rather odd. Whatever the case, more Creation Science research needs to be done in Puerto Rico.

Pterosaurs of Africa:

Africa is a continent shadowed in secrets. Many creatures passed through its lands while on the way to their divinely planned homes after being left off the Ark. So it's not surprising to learn that representatives of baramins known only from the Flood remains of their wicked relatives -- baramins that Evolutionists insist are long extinct -- can still be found here. This, of course, includes pterosaurs.

The most famous living pterosaur in Africa is the kongamato ("overwhelmer of boats"), which was first brought to civilized attention by explorer Frank H. Melland. His description of it, taken from local reports in what is now Zambia, best matches the rhamphorhynchoid baramin, having a relatively small wingspan and a tooth-filled beak. We know for certain that it was indeed a pterosaur because when he showed tribesmen pterosaur drawings, they "immediately and unhesitatingly picked it out and identified it as a kongamato."10

Unfortunately, there is confusion associated with the kongamato. The name has come to be used as a general term for any flying cryptid in the Central African region, and consequently there may be a number of different pterosaur kinds (both pterodactyloid and rhamphorhynchoid) or even unknown kinds of giant bats that are going by the name in popular literature and native folklore. There is also the possibility of great variation within a kind resulting from genetic entropy, as some kongamato reports suggest the existence of pygmy pterodactyls suffering from a form of degenerative diminishing, not unlike the effects that have shrunk both the Pygmy tribes and the apatosaur of the Congo. More ethnographic work needs to be done to disentangle the various reports and assign proper names and classifications.

A more specific African pterosaur, which may be related to the original kongamato described by Melland, is the olitiau of Cameroon and Southeastern Nigeria. This rhamphorhynchoid kind was first reported scientifically by Ivan T. Sanderson in 1932 while on an expedition into the Assumbo Mountains in the Cameroons for the British Museum. Sanderson was attacked by the creature -- which he described as "a black thing the size of an eagle" -- by the side of a river after having shot and killed a fruit bat. Some have suggested that the creature was itself a bat. However, the only similarities to the native fruit bat were the creature's "dracula-like wings." The size, color, and homicidal disposition was not at all like the kind of bat Sanderson killed, which are brownish in color and not known to attack humans. Therefore, the most reasonable conclusion is that it was a pterosaur which feeds on fruit bats.

In Ghana is found an interesting pterosaur called the sasabonsam by the Ashanti natives. According to the Ashanti, the sasabonsam will roost in the branches of tall trees and snatch passersby. They also claim that the creatures are in league with sorcerers. Little is know about this creature outside of native folklore, which is prone to exaggeration and contradiction. For instance, the creature is described as about man sized with short, stubby arms, but has been reputed to have a wingspan of up to 20 feet. It is also often given iron teeth, although it's size and lack of tail suggests an un-toothed pterodactyloid. Much like the kongamato, the sasabonsam may be a conflation of representatives from multiple baramins, combined with some Ashanti imagination. More research is definitely needed.

Sites with further information about African pterosaurs:

Pterosaurs of Asia:

Pterosaur reports are rare in continental Asia. However, at least two kinds are known to exist on mysterious New Guinea and other surrounding islands: the ropen and the duah.

The ropen is a nocturnal rhamphorhynchoid that lives in caves on Rambunzo island and throughout the Bismarck Archipelago. It feeds on carrion and has even been known to attack funeral gatherings in search of decaying human flesh. The duah is a type of pterodactyl -- most likely the descendant of the pteranodon -- with a long head crest and an impressive 25 foot wingspan. Although the natives fear their attacks, duah appear to eat only fish.

The most remarkable thing about the ropen and duah is that they both exhibit bioluminescent features on their underparts. Could this same bioluminescent glow have been exhibited by the saraph of the Bible, giving them their "fiery" appellation? whatever the case, the Explanatory Filter tells us that the original pterosaurs of Eden must have shared this trait, as it is too specifically complex to have resulted from genetic entropy, and thus must have been originally created by God. This could mean that the pterosaurs of New Guinea represent the least degraded representatives of their ancestors from Eden.

(Research into these two New Guinean pterosaurs has been primarily conducted by Dr. Carl E. Baugh of the Creation Evidences Museum, who has already mounted expeditions to New Guinea and who is seeking funding to mount another one in order to bring back live specimens. His work is separate from Project Pterosaur.)

Sites about Asian pterosaurs:

Pterosaurs of the Americas:

The Americas have been home to what may be the largest and most spectacular flying beast that ever lived: the Thunderbird. Although many Indian reports of thunderbirds include details, like feathers, that are more avian than pterosaurian, this may be the result of natives -- who have long since forgotten Adam's true names for animals and are thus a bit confused about taxonomy -- conflating the rarely seen creatures with eagles and other more common large birds. In reality, the thunderbird was a pterodactyl of gigantic proportions and was probably covered in a fine, variously colored fur, which accounts for attributions of feathers and color patterns.

Photo: Union soldiers and a thunderbird
Union soldiers posing with a thunderbird they shot down, c. 1860s.

The name "Thunderbird" is what it is called by the Indians of the American Southwest, however the creatures ranged throughout North America with regional variations in both name and forms. It was known as the Piasa ("man eating bird") to the Illini Indians of Illinois and as the Wakinyan11 to the Dakota Indians. In Mexico, Aztec Pagans worshiped a hoary variety of the pterodactyl they called Quetzalcoatl ("bird serpent"). To the Secular scientific community, the animal is known as Quetzalcoatlus, named in honor of the false religion of those human-sacrificing Aztecs by a Secular scientist, Douglas Lawson, who in 1972 found Diluvian thunderbird remains in Texas sediments.

There are still scattered reports throughout the Americas of people seeing giant pterodactyls from afar, however these are unreliable. The lack of recent verified sightings suggests that these creatures may have become extinct on our continent. The last two verified sightings were in the Nineteenth century: During the Civil War, Union soldiers shot down a relatively small example of the great beasts (see photo evidence above). Then in 1890, the Tombstone Epigraph in Arizona reported that two cowboys shot one down and dragged it's body back to town, where it was measured to have a 160 ft. wingspan. There have been no similarly notable reports involving physical evidence since. Perhaps the thunderbird's disappearance from our skies can be attributed to the introduction to the Americas of the rifle (or, ironically, the thunderstick in Indian jargon).

Sites about American pterosaurs:

Footnotes:

  1. « The History of Herodotus, Book III, 107-110.

  2. « Ibid., Book II, 75-76.

  3. « History of Animals, Book I, Chapter V

  4. « The Nature of the Gods, Book I, Section XXXVI.

  5. « See "The Rhamphorhynchoid Pterosaur Scaphognathus crassirostris: A 'Living Fossil' Until the 17th Century" by John Goertzen for more details on the historical records of saraph pterosaurs by Herodotus and others.

  6. « Antiquities of the Jews, Book II, Chapter X: "How Moses Made War With The Ethiopians"

  7. « For a more in-depth discussion of Biblical references to pterosaurs, see "Pterosaurs and the Bible" by John Goertzen. While an excellent exegesis, it is marred slightly by his erroneous supposition that pterosaurs are currently extinct, probably added to appease those readers still somewhat encumbered with an Evolutionistic world view.

  8. « Pterosaur mummies were reportedly discovered during the excavations of Tutankhamen's tomb in 1923. However, they went missing shortly afterwards, and eyewitnesses to the discovery met with suspicious deaths. Was it an Egyptian curse or an Evolutionist conspiracy?

  9. « Creation Science researcher Dr. Kirk Taber, in his account of his 1974 expedition to Mt. Ararat to search for remains of Noah's Ark, tells of an attack on his party by a velociraptor, whose bloody violence was so great that they barely escaped alive (his Turkish guides lost three arms, two feet, and a chunk of thigh, collectively). Dr. Taber theorized that the velociraptor's ancestors, who were peaceful, had remained in the area when they exited the Ark, some 4,000 years ago, and that the effects of millennia of genetic entropy had turned their progeny into monsters.

  10. « In Witchbound Africa: An Account of the Primitive Kaonde Tribe and Their Beliefs, 1923

  11. « It's interesting to note that the Dakota and Lakota Indians identify the Wakinyan as a prefigurement of Christ, much as Christ Himself offered the saraph as His type. From the Blue Cloud Abbey's Glossary of Dakota Words:

    WAKINYAN -- the Thunderer, the one who is the voice of God. The combination of two words WAKAN and EYA. HOLY and HE SPEAKS. He is the voice, the messenger, the teacher, the judge of the people. When he speaks there must a listening and a full obedience. If missionaries had first learned the Dakota language and had respected the connection between God and People, they would have seen the prefigure of Jesus in WAKINYAN. They might then have said, "You know Wakinyan? How wonderful! Tell us about Him. We know Him, too, and in our language we call Him Messiah, the one who teaches, heals, saves!!! He really came to earth, too. And we have His life on earth to tell you about."

    Here we see the importance of Project Pterosaur. How many other natives could we reach with the Saving Grace of Christ if only we had a better understanding of ethnographic pterosaurology? Benedictine monks are making breakthroughs in this field of missiological research and we need to catch up.

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