An Explanation for Marfa Lights

I don’t often review a book chapter, but the mysterious ghost lights of Marfa, Texas, keep grabbing my attention. Chapter Six of the third edition of Live Pterosaurs in America explains the more mysterious of the various types of Marfa Lights. The scientist James Bunnell calls this type of mystery light “CE-III.” Let’s begin with quotes from Chapter Six.

But if the lights are made by ropen-like animals, why would they move like that? . . . ropens in Texas might be hunting bats, but how could dancing help them catch bats? Insects! Of course lights attract insects. After two ropens have glowed in one area long enough to concentrate insects, they separate for awhile to allow the bats to feel safe in catching those insects. Soon the ropens return to catch the bats.

. . . Mr. Bunnell the scientist has lived around Marfa, Texas, for much of his life. . . . he had assumed that somebody had already done the research and had explained what caused Marfa Lights . . . how surprising when he found that nobody had come up with a convincing explanation! (James Bunnell, apparently, knew nothing about ropens in New Guinea; he considered only Marfa Lights interpretations involving light-sources non-living. I communicated with him by emails, early in 2010.)

. . . On May 7th and 8th, 2003, extraordinary events were photographed [by James Bunnell). On the first night, lights appeared between 9:00 and 10:40. The first light was too brief for Bunnell to photograph, but two more appeared at about the same location. I was intrigued at Bunnell’s description of how those two lights behaved, for it seemed consistent with my hypothesis that Marfa Lights are made by flying predators with extreme bioluminescence, like the ropen of the southwest Pacific but used for a different purpose: to attract insects that attract the Big Brown Bat.

. . . According to Bunnell’s notes, sunset on May 7th was at 8:36 p.m.; there was no wind and the temperature was “about 70 degrees F.” I wonder: Could it have been warm enough at 10:40 p.m. for insects to be flying around? I believe so.

. . . the other two ropens, the ones streaking back to that location, were also driven by hunger . . .

. . . So why did the two lights of May 7th go out before reaching the original location? Think about it. Several bats are grabbing a few insects while also keeping track of a nearby dancing, glowing bat-eater. Is it really a free lunch? The other two bat-eaters, having turned off their glow, are streaking into that area at high speed, relying on the dancing bat-eater to hold the attention of the bats.

Speculation in the Explanation

Until somebody, James Bunnell or some other scientist perhaps, videotapes or photographs a flying predator chasing or catching a bat around Marfa, Texas, this flying-predator hypothesis is speculative. But it explains perfectly well much of the behavior of the CE-III flying lights that are commonly called “Marfa Lights.” The Pterosaur Eyewitness blog deserves quoting (Feb 2, 2012: “Marfa Lights Explanation”):

We need to consider the apparent intelligence in the movements of those CE-III Marfa Lights, for sometimes some things are exactly as they appear to be, in this case, intelligent. When residents of Marfa, Texas, . . . have observed the more mysterious flying lights . . . they recognize an intelligence in the “dances.” A light sometimes will split into two lights and the two will slowly separate . . . eventually turning back as they approach each other, like in a square dance. . . . Why do so many outsiders, scientists or not, assume that all those residents must be wrong when those local people ascribe intelligence to some of those lights (the ones Bunnell labels “CE-III”)? How we need common horse sense!

. . . The light splittings probably relate to a specific hunting technique. Bioluminescent flying predators attract insects with their glowing. They separate for a short while, allowing Big Brown Bats to go after those flying insects. The larger predators then reunite to try to catch bats, although they may not both remain glowing all the way back, for that would alert the bats.

Gitmo Pterosaur may be related to creatures around Marfa, Texas