Pterosaur Hoax or Genuine?

By the modern-pterosaur nonfiction author Jonathan Whitcomb

The following two questions are obviously irrelevant to extant-pterosaur research:

  • Has anyone ever created any hoax?
  • Has anyone ever misidentified anything?

Less obvious but mostly irrelevant to my investigations are the following questions:

  • Has anyone ever created a hoax photo that looked like it had a modern pterosaur?
  • Has anyone ever seen a non-pterosaur but thought it was one?

I mention the first one here because some skeptics have published examples of hoaxes as if that is evidence that any photograph that would show an apparent modern pterosaur is also a hoax. Photographs that prove meteors fall out of the sky are not evidence that no airplane has ever experienced an onboard fire during a flight, no matter how much one of them, at night, could resemble the other.

We’ll not go into confirmation bias or belief perseverance here, for I’ve written extensively on that elsewhere. We’ll not cover misidentification possibilities here, but we’ll look at hoax potential in an old photograph of an apparent Pteranodon.

The apparent Civil-War-era photograph called “Ptp”

In January of 2017, the physicist Cliff Paiva and I agreed that the old photograph now called Ptp has a genuine image of a modern pterosaur. Since January, we have found additional evidence for its authenticity, which is what should be expected for something that is genuine rather than a hoax.


The old photograph Ptp has been declared genuine by two scientists

The old photograph has been confirmed with much evidence for authenticity


Do not confuse this photo with one that was made to imitate it. The Haxan Films Freakylinks TV-show hoax image is a completely different photo.

Partial list of evidences that the photograph is old

  1. A tree branch under the beak is used to keep the man’s shoe motionless
  2. Another prop is seen, apparently to support the left wing
  3. The equipment worn by the soldiers is too realistic for most Civil War reenactors
  4. People remember seeing this photograph in a book in the mid-20th century

Partial list of evidences that it is a modern pterosaur

  1. Both wings are folded in a way consistent with some pterosaurs (wing inversion)
  2. The wings have both apparent biological-general-symmetry and differences in detail
  3. The scientist Clifford Paiva has found apparent blood effusion areas on the animal
  4. The neck curve is consistent with what would be expected of some pterosaurs
  5. The neck shows apparent muscle structure
  6. Although the wings show some interesting structure, it has no feathers
  7. The shoulders have lit/shade details consistent with a real animal (not Photoshop)
  8. Some of the head has structures correlating with what is known about a Pteranodon

Partial list of evidences Photoshop was not used in placing soldier-images onto a photograph

  1. With five of the six men, there’s absolutely no reason to paste their images onto a background of trees. Digital image-manipulation software (like Photoshop) would not be used by a hoaxer to do that kind of pasting
  2. With the sixth soldier (in front of the animal) his shoe on the beak castes a shadow consistent with other shadows seen on the animal
  3. The lighting is consistent from one soldier to another (darkness of shirts, etc)
  4. Pixel-widths of belt buckles and buttons are consistent with apparent distance between soldier and camera, with the apparent front soldier actually closest to the camera

Partial responses to criticisms by skeptics regarding potential Photoshop use

  1. The soldier on the far left is probably holding onto the ramrod of his rifle
  2. Soldier on the far right does NOT have a “halo” (it’s the tree-branch background)
  3. The shirts of the soldiers SHOULD be darker than the sunlit background



Confirmation bias and a photo of a modern pterosaur

Wampp has said, “his own approach and arguments seem to entail large doses of [confirmation bias],” when referring to me, yet he gives no explanation or example of it. I will do so, although he may not like it, for it points in a completely different direction from what he tries to portray in bampp.


Live Pterodactyl

Live pterosaurs? Says who? Well, the eyewitnesses. Sightings have been reported by not only natives but by Australians and Americans; not only at night but in daylight; not only by those who believed they would see a live pterosaurs but by those just lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time . . .


About Jonathan Whitcomb

First page of the scientific paper“Reports of Living Pterosaurs in the Southwest Pacific” (in a peer-reviewed journal of science) . . .


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