Manta Ray Versus Pterodactyl

A recent blog post (Frontiers of Zoology) by the cryptozoology researcher Dale Drinnon proclaims that many reported sightings of apparent pterosaurs come from a big oceanic Manta ray fish jumping out of the water. One problem with that interpretation, for pterosaur sightings worldwide, lies just beneath the surface: The great majority of such flying-cryptids were not above any major body of water.

It’s not just that apparent pterosaurs are not often seen over a sea or an ocean—fresh-water stingrays live in some rivers—those “prehistoric” flying creatures are seen most frequently flying over land, and California has its fair share of sightings.

Lakewood Ropen

The sighting of an apparent pterosaur in Lakewood, California, on June 19, 2012, illustrates this problem with the Manta ray conjecture. The storm channel bordering the backyard where the long-tailed creature was observed—that channel rarely has more than an inch of water, except after rain, and there was no rain on June 19th.

But there’s more. The lady who witnessed the apparent Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaur, what she called a “dragon-pterodactyl,” did not see it leaping up out of the channel and then falling back down. She saw the creature perched above her head on a phone cable. The ropen then flew off and entered the canopy of a tree. That shoots down the flying-fish hypothesis.

Over the past ten years or so, a number of similar sightings have been reported for areas north of Lakewood, but the granddaddy of California ropen sightings may have been near the University of California at Irvine, in 2007.

San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary

From the nonfiction book Live Pterosaurs in America (third edition) we read:

In July of 2008, I received a phone call from a man who reported a very large flying creature, seen one year earlier, in Orange County, less than one mile north of the University of California at Irvine. He described the dark gray or black animal as 30 feet long, with 15-16 feet of that being a tail. He saw the creature fly “at low altitude,” in front of his car, over the road (Campus Drive), into the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary, in daylight.

We might doubt that size of a ropen in Orange County (I believe it), for the estimated size is astonishing. But similar creatures, huge flying creatures, have been reported flying over San Diego and near San Diego. And those apparent Rhamphornynchoids were also flying over land.

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Long-tailed pterosaur of Cuba (left) and photo of a Manta ray fish (right)

Sketch of the “Gitmo Pterosaur” of Cuba, compared with photo of a Manta ray fish

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Misidentified Manta Rays?

One of the problems with that suggestion is this: No example is given that meets the conditions related to a Manta ray fish jumping out of the water. [Apparently nobody has ever seen a leaping ray fish and called it “pterosaur” or “pterodactyl.”]

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