Tracking Living (Or Recently Dead) African Pterosaurs

Posted by Chris Parker | December 17, 2009 0

by Chris Parker, Copyright 2009

Isaiah 30:6 (New King James Version)
The burden against the beasts of the South. Through a land of trouble and anguish, From which came the lioness and lion, The viper and fiery flying serpent….

One might think that the continent of Africa would be the repository of animal fossils of all types but the number of pterosaur fossils discovered there have been few and far between. I say this with the knowledge that many locations in modern day Africa have been the scene of pterosaur-like sightings.

In addition, the ancient art of Western Africa and the coast of Eastern Africa has featured a number of pterosaur like creatures -as we shall see.

In 2005, a particularly fine pterosaur fossil was discovered by paleontologists in the Sahara.

PHOTO 1, Top Left. Senufo. Medicine container/statue. Note the featherless head, the strong legs. This reptilian appearing creature has captured what appears to be a monkey in its beak.
PHOTO 2, RIGHT. The same piece compared with a model of the fossil African pterosaur discovered in the Sahara in 2005 on the left and another type of long-billed pterosaur shown on the right for comparison.

Click either photo to see an enlargement

Pterosaur Fossils in Africa
“Giant flying reptile lands on Chicago’s West Side
Paleontologists discover pterosaur fossils in the Sahara
© University of Chicago

A new species of pterosaur with a 16-foot wingspan has been discovered in the southern Sahara by a team led by University of Chicago paleontologist Paul Sereno.

“This find puts African pterosaurs on the map,” said Sereno, who is also an explorer-in-residence at the National Geographic Society.

Previous finds of these winged reptiles in Africa had been limited to individual bones or teeth. The 110-million-year-old fossils include most of one wing and several slender teeth from its over-sized jaws.

PHOTO 3,4 & 5 Senufo. The following three photographs feature an African mask which contrives to show two different types of pterosaurs, one upon another. The mask is shown entire in this intial photograph and then each of the two creatures are compared to pterosaur types (dimorphodon top, Campylognathoides and similar below) in separate photos. Click either photo to see an Enlargement.

“To find a wing composed of a string of paper-thin bones in a river deposit next to the sturdy bones of dinosaurs is a remarkable feat of preservation,” Sereno said. The bones and teeth were found in Cretaceous-age rocks in Niger that were deposited by ancient rivers…”

It might be instructive at this point to examine just what types of pterosaur fossils have been found on the continent of Africa especially because in a few paragraphs we will attempt to match several pieces of ancient art with certain known pterosaur types as potential identifications.

“Africa shows a great potential for pterosaur material due to the extensive outcrops in several areas. However, pterosaur remains have been found only in nine African countries (Kellner et al. 2007) and, prior to 1997, just postcranial material had been reported (Reck 1931, Galton 1980, Mader and Kellner 1999, Wellnhofer and Buffetaut 1999).

Recently new deposits were found with associated bones, including a partial wing from Lebanon (Dalla Vecchia et al. 2001) and a sequence of five cervical vertebrae from Morocco (Pereda-Super-biola et al. 2003). The red beds of Albian Cenomanian age from Morocco and Late Jurassic Tendaguru beds, located approximately 75 km northwest of Lindi, Tanzania (Maier 1997), are the most potential deposits in providing isolated remains up to now (Kellner and Mader 1997, Wellnhofer and Buffetaut 1999, Mader and Kellner 1999).

Regarding Tendaguru beds, four species were first established by the pioneer studies of Reck (1931): “Rhamphorhynchus” tendagurensis (based on radius and ulna), “Pterodactylus” maximus (based on a comparatively large ulna), “Pterodactylus” brancai (based on a tibiotarsus, fibula and the first phalanx of the wing finger), and “Pterodactylus” arningi (based on the first phalanx of the wing finger). Later, Galton (1980) reviewed the tibiotarsus from “Pterodactylus” brancai and reclassified it as “Dsungaripterus brancai” (Dsungaripteridae).

However, all those specimens are too fragmentary or incomplete for any determination at a species level, being regarded as nomina dubia by Unwin and Heinrich (1999). These authors also described a new taxon (Tendaguripterus recki) based on a short section of a mandibular symphysis.”….
On two pterosaur humeri from the Tendaguru beds (Upper Jurassic, Tanzania) Fabiana R. Costa; Alexander W.A. Kellner

PHOTO 6 & 7 Dan Tribe. “This piece is a Zoomorphic representation of a story or fable involving a crocodile, bird and a snake.” Note the cape-like wings and strong legs. Here we show the “bird figure” in comparison with certain pterosaurs (Photo 7). This “bird” has teeth–and birds do not have them. Click either photo to see an Enlargement.

“Ancient” Pterosaur Sightings

“Though dragons have completely dropped out of all modern works on natural history, they were still retained and regarded as quite orthodox until a little before the time of Cuvier;…For instance, Pigafetta, in a report of the kingdom of Congo (The Harleian Collections of Travels, vol. ii, 1745, p. 457.) ‘gathered out of the discourses of Mr. E. Lopes, a Portuguese,’ speaking of the province of Bemba, which he defines as ‘on the sea coast from the river Ambrize, until the river Coanza towards the south,’ says of serpents,

There are also certain other creatures which, being as big as rams, have wings like dragons, with long tails, and long chaps, and divers rows of teeth, and feed upon raw flesh. Their colour is blue and green, their skin painted like scales, and they have two feet but no more.

‘The Pagan Negroes used to worship them as gods, and to this day you may see divers of them that are kept for a marvel. And because they are very rare, the chief lords there curiously preserve them, and suffer the people to worship them, which tendeth greatly to their profits by reason of the gifts and oblations which the people offer unto them.’

And John Barbot, Agent-General of the Royal Company of Africa, in his description of the coasts of South Guinea, (Churchill, Collections of Voyages, 1746, p. 213.) says: ‘Some blacks assuring me that…there are winged serpents or dragons having a forked tail and a prodigious wide mouth, full of sharp teeth, extremely mischievous to mankind, and more particularly to small children.’” Gould, Charles, Mythical Monsters, 1886

PHOTO 8 Senufo, Senjen bird figures. Pteros on the wing? Photo 9. Senjen. More pteros on the wing. Note the reptilian character (central bony and raised skull ridge) and the teeth of these flying creatures in the Enlarged photo. Click either photo to see an Enlargement.

It should be noted that the two earlier books quoted, from 1745 and 1746, accurately describe pterosaurs many years before their “discovery” by science which first described them in 1784 and first suggested that they might fly in 1801.

“Modern” Pterosaur Sightings

Eyewitness continue up to present day all over Africa. One of the most well known of them is of creature known as the Kongamato.

“The Kongamato (“breaker of boats”) is a reported pterosaur-like creature from the border area of Zambia, Angola and Congo. Suggested identities include a modern-day Rhamphorhynchus, a misidentified bird (such as the very large and peculiar Saddle-billed Stork), or a giant bat.

Frank Melland, in his 1923 book In Witchbound Africa, describes it as living along certain rivers, and very dangerous, often attacking small boats. It was red, with a wingspan of 4 to 7 feet. Members of the local Kaonde tribe identified it as a pterodactyl after being shown a picture of one from Melland’s book collection.

In 1956 an engineer, J.P.F. Brown, allegedly saw the creature at Fort Rosebery near Lake Bangweulu in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). It was about 6:00 p.m. when he saw two creatures flying slowly and silently directly overhead. He observed that they looked prehistoric.

He estimated a wingspan of about 3 to 3 1/2 feet (1 meter) and a beak-to-tail length of about 4 1/2 feet (1.5 meters). It reportedly had a long thin tail, and a narrow head which he likened to an elongated snout of a dog.

PHOTO 10 The auction house calls this creature a monster-and so it is. Here we’ve shown it in comparison to one of the tapejara crested pterosaurs. Note the reptilain character, the wing shape, the very unusual mouth treatment, the teeth? It is obviously some type of crested pterosaur. If you go back and look at Photo 8, it is appears that they represent the same type of pterosaur. Click either photo to see an Enlargement.

The following year, at a hospital at Fort Rosebery, a patient came in with a severe wound in his chest, claiming that a large bird had attacked him in the Bangweulu swamps. When asked to draw the bird, he allegedly drew a creature resembling a pterosaur. This drawing does not appear to have survived to the present.

It is curious to note that the area concerned is advertised as a prime birdwatching site, but this large, flying animal seems not to have been reported by any visiting birdwatchers.

There are reports of similar creatures (no details given) from Angola, Zimbabwe, Democratic Republic of Congo, Namibia, Tanzania and Kenya”…..wikipedia

Ancient African Art and the Senufo and Dan Peoples of West Africa

BONUS PHOTO Cheeky! Compare mouths of these two types of crested pteros. Flip pteros mouth on the right from vertical to horizontal in your mind’s eye…. Click either photo to see an Enlargement.

Ancient African artists have occasionally portrayed creatures very much like pterosaurs. As we look at these pieces of African art, keep in mind that there are many types of pterosaurs and that modern artists might have a less developed idea of what these creatures looked like than the ancient artists who might have actually seen them fly.

Birds do not have teeth. Many pterosaurs do have teeth and of course do not have feathers. The toes on the feet of many pterosaurs are “parallel” and thus their feet and footprints are more human like in shape than are those of the typical bird.

Pterosaurs are thought to have been reptilian rather than “bird like” and of course their wings are more “bat like” than like those of birds. Keep those items in mind as you examine these pieces.

PHOTO 11 Senufo mask. PHOTO 12 Compared with pterodactylus kochi. Click Here to Read That Article
Senufo Ivory Coast (Cote d’Ivoire) The Senufo are made up of a number of diverse subgroups who migrated into their current location from the north during the 15th and 16th centuries.

Unlike their neighbors to the north they have remained relatively sheltered from intrusive cultures including the Songhai and Hausa. Although they have certainly borrowed knowledge from their neighbors, they have not had to fear constant attacks and social upheaval.

All Senufo art is made by specialized artisans, which may diminish regional stylistic differences. Figures representing the ancestors are common, as are brass miniatures and small statues, which are used in divination. There are several types of masks used by the Poro society…..Art &Life in Africa

Dan Peoples Location: Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire. Dan sculptors mainly produce masks which deal with virtually every element in Dan society, including education, competition, war, peace, social regulation, and of course, entertainment. They also produce stylized wooden spoons and intricate game boards used for mancala, a common game of “count and capture”.

Ancient Nigerian Art

PHOTO 13: Antique art from Nigeria, from the book; “L’Oiseau Dans Ll’arte de Afrique L’Oues”, (Birds in the art of West Africa). PHOTO 14 The Nigerian piece compared with the fossil skulls of pterosaurs and with ancient drawing from Kalimantan.
“Nigeria’s art dates back a long time, over 2000 years by some archeological beliefs. The Nok Terracotta and the Igbo Ukwu are examples of some excavations that have been discovered by archeologists to indicate a highly developed artistic and technologically based civilization.

Some of the really old art found shows very much detail and very distinctive features suggesting technological skills way back when. The Nok art for instance, has many images made from iron-smelting. The Igbo artifacts show skills in bronze and copper utensils as well as sacred objects.

The Ife bronze heads are said to represent some of the past Ooni’s (rulers) of Ife.

The Benin have a lot of ancient artwork that has become famous over different parts of the world, and they can be seen in museums around the world. Most Benin art is made from bronze, though there is art made of other materials.”

See Also: Don’t Tell Him He’s Not a Chicken, We need the Eggs

Pteranodon on a Stick: Egyptian “Was” Scepter Creature No Mystery Without Darwinian History

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