Discovery of a 19th Century Living Pterosaur

By the living-pterosaur author Jonathan Whitcomb

In January of 2017, the physicist Clifford Paiva and I talked by phone and agreed that the photograph now called “Ptp” has an authentic image of a modern pterosaur. We then began deeply examining the photo, mostly independently but comparing our findings from time to time. Additional discoveries confirmed our initial conviction: Not only is the photo quite old, probably recorded before about 1870, but the animal shown is a real pterosaur.

Civil-War era photograph of a large modern pterosaur

The following is a partial list of resources, recent online publications on this wonderful discovery of a modern pterosaur (pages and posts published in 2017, mostly from February through mid-May).

Living Pterosaurs and the 1944 Sighting

Much of this blog post is about the sighting of a large ropen on the mainland of what is now Papua New Guinea, an encounter two American soldiers had with a living pterosaur in a jungle clearing in 1944.

It also has a section titled “Confirmation Bias and a Photograph of a Modern Pterosaur.” Here’s part of that section:

For many years, the critic had an image of Ptp on his online page. He declared that it was a hoax from a television show. I communicated with the critic, earlier this year (2017), and revealed to him his mistake: Two photographs are somewhat similar, but the other one came from a TV show, not the photograph he displayed.


Glen Kuban’s “Living Pterosaurs”

Much of this is a brief response to a critic of living-pterosaur investigations, including problems that skeptic has with confirmation bias and belief perseverance. It also mentions another skeptic, Dale Drinnon, who is reported to have had a problem with confirmation bias.

Yet a portion of this blog post gives details on “the old photograph that is now called ‘Ptp’.” It mentions that the photo is supported by two scientists.

Is it a Hoax, the Civil War Pterosaur Photo?

This includes the exciting discovery of a prop under the beak of the beak of the apparent Pteranodon, which is evidence that the photograph was taken before about the year 1870. The physicist Clifford Paiva, of central California, made that discovery in 2017.

That is direct evidence that the photograph was taken before about 1870, for one soldier’s shoe is resting on that beak, and people needed to be kept motionless during many seconds of exposure.

Pterosaur Hoax or Genuine?

It gives four evidences that the photograph Ptp is old, eight details that show the animal was a pterosaur, four points that disprove or at least mostly nullify the conjecture that Photoshop was used in making a hoax, and three responses to skeptics who say that Photoshop was involved.

The Civil War Pterosaur Photo in Context

This begins with a sighting report from a former police officer, William Lashomb, who witnessed an apparent pterosaur flying over a river in New York state: “A featherless light-greenish-gray creature was flying downstream, at first 15-20 feet above the surface of the Grass River but soon diving down to just a few feet above it, passing the officer.”

That sighting, around the summer of 2004, demonstrate that modern extant pterosaurs did not live just up until the 19th century, when one of them appears to have been shot by apparent Civil War soldiers. These flying creatures are still flying.

This post has two important details that fit together:

  1. The folded (inverted) wings of the animal point to it being a pterosaur
  2. A prop under the beak points to the photograph being taken before about 1870

In other words, how did those soldiers, in the 19th century, know enough about pterosaur anatomy to construct a model of one, a model that had inverted wings? The answer is simple: They never made a model but were simply posing beside a real animal.

Real Pterodactyl in a Civil War Photo

What’s the real point of the Ptp photograph? Consider the following:

  1. Two scientists have shown that this is a real animal . .
  2. It looks like a Pteranodon, according to some opinions
  3. The Photoshop-hoax conjecture has been shot down . . .
  4. Criticisms of the . . . six soldiers have been answered
  5. Eyewitnesses, in the 20th and 21st centuries, have seen similar pterosaurs alive

It mentions that for many years skeptics have pointed out the lack of clear photographic evidence for a modern pterosaur. We now have that evidence.

“Monster” in a Civil War Photograph

The frightening appearance of that head on that winged animal—that can bring to your mind the word monster.

This deals with confirmation bias and one case of a lack of such bias regarding the photograph called Ptp. It includes my (Jonathan Whitcomb’s) experience over many years and about how my opinions have changed regarding that photo.

Research on Extant Pterosaurs

This appears to briefly deal with how modern pterosaurs may relate to evolution, yet it mainly involves evidences for the authenticity of the Ptp photograph. It mentions the problem of confusing Ptp with the Haxan Films Feakylinks TV-show hoax photo.

Photographie d’un ptérosaure moderne

In the French language, the two photos are compared (Freakylinks hoax and the genuine Ptp photograph). But this is mainly about the older one, the genuine Ptp.

A Civil War Monster Photograph

What a gruesome head! I don’t recall when I first saw the monster photo, perhaps as long ago as 1968, but that long beak and head appendage made me uneasy. I saw nothing wrong with the six soldiers, but those wings reminded me of a canoe. I wondered if American Civil War soldiers had cut a canoe in half to make a fake winged monster. Yet a creepy sensation never completely left me: It was the memory of that head.


copyright 2017 Jonathan Whitcomb


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About Jonathan Whitcomb

Nonfiction cryptozoology author
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