Monday, September 26, 2011

Do Pterosaur Fossils Found in the DFW Area Explain Thunderbird Sightings Today? Not Likely...

A Rockwall, Texas roofing contractor named Gary Byrd made a very significant fossil discovery earlier this year. According to an article posted on the Science Daily website, Byrd discovered what are likely bones from the wing of a pterosaur. Specifically, the bones likely belong to a flying reptile dubbed Pteranodon. Pterandodon was a fairly typical type of pterosaur that had broad leathery wings and a slim torso and likely fits the picture most of us envision when we picture a “pterodactyl” with a bony crest.

This particular specimen would have died roughly 89 million years ago. This would make it the oldest Pteranodon specimen ever found found in North America by 1-2 million years and the second oldest example of a pteranodontid in the world. The find is special due to the rarity of pterosaur fossils.

Timothy S. Myers, a paleontologist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, said, “Any pterosaur material is fairly rare to find unless you have exceptional preservation conditions. They are frail, fragile bones, and they require rapid burial to be well preserved.” Myers added that the find of multiple bones, all from the creature’s left wing, is unusual. He pointed out that typical finds are of only one bone or a piece of one bone.

Pteranodon was a type of pterosaur that lived during the age of the dinosaurs in the late Triassic Period. Early pterosaurs had thin sharp teeth but later the toothed variety disappeared and the toothless forms, like Pteranodon, took their place. The pterosaurs were mainly fish eaters who flew above what is now Texas during a time when a large ancient sea bisected the North American continent from the Arctic to the Gulf of Mexico. Pteranodon was large, with a wingspan of 12-13 feet, but far from the biggest pterosaur that ever lived. It likely subsisted almost entirely on fish and may have floated on ocean thermals for days at a time in search of prey.

The DFW area has actually yielded a wealth of pterosaur fossils. Remains of both the toothless and toothed varieties have been found in the area. In particular, the remains of a toothed type of pterosaur called Aetodactylus halli, which lived approximately 95 million years ago, was found in the area and also positively identified by Myers.

“This new specimen adds a lot more information about pterosaurs in North America,” Myers said. “It helps constrain the timing of the transition from the toothed to toothless because there’s only a few million years separating this specimen and Aetodactylus.”

The fact that pterosaurs once did soar about what would become the Lone Star State has, once again, led some to ask if they could still exist and, if so, be candidates to explain the sightings of giant flying creatures or “thunderbirds” that filter in mainly from South and West Texas. Is it possible? Could a small population of pterosaurs, maybe even Pteranodon itself, have survived to this day? As has been covered here before, some reports seem to point to this possibility. Following is an excerpt from a post I did on thunderbirds back in November of 2010 titled Texas Pterosaurs:

“In 1976 two San Benito, Texas police officers, Arturo Padilla and Homer Galvan, reported seeing what was to become known as the "Texas Big Bird". While that might invoke images of the Sesame Street character to most people, rest assured, the creature seen by these officers fit the description of a pterosaur...

...In February of the same year, it was reported that several school teachers were "dive-bombed" by a creature matching the description of a pterosaur on their way to work. They reported the creature's wingspan to be at least 12 feet in length.”

What has also been pointed out on this site is that the chances of there being living pterosaurs of any kind left in Texas is very, very slim. TBRC Chairman Alton Higgins, spurred by reported sightings of living pterosaurs off the coast of New Guinea, pointed out that what the researchers were likely seeing were frigatebirds. Alton, in an article titled Pterosaurs and Thunderbirds, also pointed out that, while mainly seafaring by nature, frigatebirds do, on occasion, venture far inland and could be candidates for Texas pterosaurs. An excerpt from Alton’s piece reads as follows:

“All in all, the typical Texan would not be expected to see a frigatebird (Fregata magnificens) in his or her lifetime and would be even less likely to know what they were seeing. The fact that these impressive birds, with their singular appearance, range rarely and unexpectedly into unfamiliar domains could account for some of the reports from baffled witnesses who mistakenly relate their sightings to extinct and mysterious creatures.”

I have to say that I agree with Alton Higgins and feel it is highly unlikely any pterosaurs have survived into modern times. I stated several possible explanations for pterosaur sightings back in the Texas Pterosaurs post in 2010. I’ll not rehash all that now. I will add that the fact that pterosaurs were mainly fish-eaters makes it even more unlikely that they would be seen in the arid deserts of South and West Texas even if they had somehow survived to the present day.

So, in my opinion, even though Texas was once home to many of these creatures, pterosaurs are not particularly good candidates for the thunderbirds seen on occasion by people in Texas and the southwest. This in no way dampens my enthusiasm for the fossil find of Gary Byrd. It is a significant find and, as Timothy S. Myers of SMU pointed out, it will help further our knowledge of these ancient flying reptiles.

It just doesn’t further our knowledge of what the thunderbirds people continue to report might be.

Source: Southern Methodist University. "Rare 89-million-year-old flying reptile fossil from Texas may be world's oldest pteranodon." ScienceDaily, 1 Mar. 2011. Web. 26 Sep. 2011.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Way Behind...

I just wanted to post a note and let all of you who have contacted me in one way or another over the last couple of weeks that I haven't forgotten you.

This has always been a crazy time of year for me and this year is no exception. Things have been nuts. I'm going to try my best to catch up on my correspondence this weekend. Please be patient if you've contacted me as I'm not ignoring you. I'm just way behind.

My best...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Copulation Calls in Chimpanzees and the Possible Sasquatch Connection

I ran across an interesting abstract on the website of the International Journal of Primatology recently. The abstract, written by Simon William Townsend, Tobias Deschner, and Klaus Zuberbuhler, is entitled Copulation Calls in Female Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) Convey Identity but Do Not Accurately Reflect Fertility. Not the most exciting title in the world but an interesting abstract, nonetheless.

The abstract centers around the copulation calls of female chimpanzees. Copulation calls, it is pointed out, are a relatively common feature of female primate behavior. It is generally thought that these calls are an advertisement of female receptivity and also serve to incite male-to-male competition for the affections of said receptive female. Most of the research on primate copulation calls has focused on various small monkey species and not on any of the great apes. This particular study sought to remedy that situation and the results were interesting.

The authors point out that the little previous research that focused on chimpanzee copulation calls suggests estrous females call to avoid monopolization by a single male and to minimize competition from other females. For their study, the authors examined the acoustic structure of the calls of six adult female chimpanzees. In total they recorded and studied 71 separate copulation call bouts from these six individuals living in the Budongo Forest of Uganda. The researchers failed to find any acoustic differences in the calls given by the female chimpanzees based on whether or not they were made during fertile or non-fertile periods. However, what they did find were repeated encoded identity cues of each calling female. The authors constructed a couple of different hypothesis based on the data analyzed but the final line of the abstract is what interested me the most. It reads, “Owing to the low visibility conditions associated with chimpanzees natural forest habitat and their dispersed social system, providing identity cues may be of particular biological relevance for these nonhuman primates.”

Being who I am, after reading this abstract, I began to ponder on how this information might relate to North America’s great ape. People have long reported screams, howls, grunts, and growls from some of the most inaccessible and isolated areas of the country that they cannot attribute to any known species. These inhospitable areas where the sasquatch is reportedly seen and heard from time to time could easily be described as having low visibility conditions due to incredibly dense foliage, not unlike the habitat of the chimpanzees observed by the authors of this study. It would seem logical to assume that in order to communicate with other members of the species across this thickly wooded habitat the sasquatch would have had to develop a variety of vocalizations or calls similar to those used by chimpanzees.

The most famous call attributed to the sasquatch is usually called the Ohio howl. The Ohio howl was recorded in Columbiana County, Ohio back in 1994 by Matt Moneymaker and Jamie Watson. The call originated from an area not too far from the Ohio River. You can hear the Ohio howl by clicking here. It is true that it cannot be absolutely proven that a sasquatch is the howler in this clip. What is true is that I’ve heard this very same howl on several occasions in the deep woods of East Texas. Whatever was howling in Ohio seems to have kin in Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas. A variety of other strange calls, screams, grunts, growls, whistles, whoops, and mumblings have been recorded that seem to defy conventional explanation. The BFRO website has a nice library featuring a variety of these calls. I would encourage you to visit the site and take a listen. It is very interesting.

It is possible that sasquatches are mainly solitary but, if so, they must come together from time to time if for not other reason than to mate. Could the strange simian-like howls reported for decades be copulation calls? What about the other strange noises attributed to the sasquatch? Do they convey cues to the identity of the caller? The great apes make a wide variety of noises that convey a great many different messages. Check out this library of chimpanzee vocalizations at the Jane Goodall Institute website for some examples of this. If one accepts the premise that the sasquatch could exist, then it is not unreasonable to assume it actually vocalizes at times like the other great apes. In fact, it would be far more surprising if they did not vocalize in some manner.

As mentioned above, sasquatches are considered to be mainly solitary by most due to the fact that sightings of multiple individuals are rarely reported by witnesses; however, recent experiences in the field have led me to believe that these animals might be more social than most people think. My observations, and those of my fellow TBRC members, seem to indicate that these animals may very well live in small groups. Whether these groups are true family units with a male, female, and offspring or in troupes or clans remains to be seen. While such claims are rare, small clans and family groups of sasquatches have been reported in the past. One need only to review the reports of Albert Ostman, Muchalat Harry, and Fred Beck as a reminder that such claims have occurred. If true, does living in small groups lend itself to more or less verbal communication?

I have been guilty of dismissing a lot of audio recordings featuring calls and other noises that were said to be bigfoot in origin. Recent experiences along with a growing understanding of great ape behaviors have me rethinking my conclusions on some of these recordings. I stand by my opinion that audio recordings alone will never be enough to prove the existence of the sasquatch but the wide array of noises and calls associated with this creature really don’t seem to be too different than those associated with the known great apes. Again, assuming the sasquatch to be a living species, it would be far more surprising if they did not vocalize in the some of the ways witnesses have described.

Are these strange calls, thought to be sasquatch in origin, copulation calls? Challenges to territorial interlopers? Do these calls contain cues to the identity of individuals? All questions with no answers at this point. Let’s hope we can get this species documented so that we can begin delving into these questions.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Texas Bigfoot Conference Approaching

The 11th annual Texas Bigfoot Conference is quickly approaching. The conference, put on by the Texas Bigfoot Research Conservancy, will be held Saturday, October 1, 2011 at the Caldwell Auditorium in Tyler, Texas. The conference will begin at 9:00 AM.

The conference will be a fantastic opportunity to hear scientific presentations on the subject of the sasquatch made by some of the most well-known experts in the field and meet TBRC investigators and members. The official press release for the event is below:

For Immediate Release September 12, 2011

The Texas Bigfoot Research Conservancy (TBRC), a nonprofit 501c(3) scientific research organization, is pleased to announce the speaker list for the 2011 Texas Bigfoot Conference. The conference will offer a superb line-up of speakers.

• Dr Ian Redmond – Tropical field biologist and conservationist. The TBRC is especially pleased this year to present Dr. Redmond, considered one the world’s foremost field biologists, as the keynote and banquet speaker. Dr. Redmond studied mountain gorillas for decades and was the protégé of the late Dian Fossey. Like the celebrated chimpanzee researcher Jane Goodall, Redmond is very open to the existence of an undocumented North American primate and his tremendous firsthand experience studying gorillas provides him with unique perspectives regarding the subject of sasquatch research.

• Dr. Jeff Meldrum – Associate Professor of Anatomy and Anthropology, Idaho State University, and affiliate curator for the Idaho Museum of Natural History. Meldrum is the author of the 2006 book Sasquatch: Legend Meets Science. He is widely considered as one of the world’s foremost authorities regarding possible sasquatch-related evidence, particularly related to footprints and foot morphology. He has discovered tracks and has experienced probable sasquatch encounters. His laboratory includes a large collection of sasquatch foot castings. Dr. Meldrum will discuss an extremely intriguing hair sample found by a hog hunter in the Piney Woods of East Texas.

• Chester Moore, Jr. – Author, Executive Editor of Texas Fish & Game, Outdoors Editor for the Port Arthur News and Orange Leader newspapers. Moore has a long-time interest in mysterious animals. He has appeared on Animal Planet, National Geographic, the Travel Channel and others discussing the subject. At the 2011 Texas Bigfoot Conference, Moore will present a lecture entitled “Black Panthers and Beyond: The Truth about Big Cats in Texas.” He has studied big cats since his youth and has had the opportunity to work with them both in the field and in captivity. Moore’s presentation will tackle how Texas is wild enough and large enough to provide sufficient habitat for unknown large wildlife and how Texas could be the key to unlocking the mystery of black cats and other mystery cats.

• Alton Higgins – Biology Professor, wildlife biologist, and Chairman of the Texas Bigfoot Research Conservancy. Ever since Higgins discovered large human-like tracks and scat in a very remote area in Washington, he has endeavored to explore the mystery of the sasquatch. He has spent the last decade investigating reported sightings and conducting field research as part of the TBRC. In 2002, he had his own sighting in a remote part of Oklahoma where he was investigating other reported sightings.

• Lyle Blackburn – Writer, author of the soon-to-be-released book, The Beast of Boggy Creek: True Story of the Fouke Monster; Blackburn is a frequent contributor and advisor to Rue Morgue magazine; TBRC Field Investigator. Growing up in Texas near the site of the cult-classic The Legend of Boggy Creek film, Blackburn has always been fascinated with the legends and reports of real “monsters.” He has intensely researched the subject in legend, fact, and fiction.

• Brian Brown – Owner of the digital market agency Ideapark, TBRC Marketing Director, TBRC Board of Directors, TBRC Field Investigator. Brown’s team was responsible for the TBRC’s outstanding website ( and the TBRC’s iPhone application. When Brown is not designing websites for Betty Crocker, Redwing Shoes, or the TBRC, he spends much of his time in remote places as a TBRC Investigator searching for the group’s elusive quarry. Brown will be giving a presentation on the TBRC’s seminal Operation Endurance, a two-month field study held in the summer of 2011.

• Willie Mendez – Education Specialist at the University of Texas at San Antonio’s Institute of Texan Cultures, a Smithsonian affiliate. Mendez was closely involved with the institute’s very successful Bigfoot in Texas? exhibition and speaker series, which ran during the summer of 2006. At this year’s conference, Mendez will share background information regarding the planning and implementation of the historic exposition and discuss some of the displays. This presentation should be a fascinating overview for anyone who was unable to make it to San Antonio for that 2006 project.

• Robert Swain – Cartoonist, author of the forthcoming book, Laughsquatch: Book One. Swain loves to kindly poke bigfoot and bigfoot researchers through his Laughsquatch cartoons. His engaging personality, insightful commentary, and gentle humor have made him a favorite at past conferences. Swain’s art can be seen at

The 2011 Texas Bigfoot Conference will be held in Tyler at the Caldwell Auditorium, 301 S. College Ave., October 1, 2011. There is also an evening banquet, held at the Discovery Science Place, 308 N. Broadway Ave at 7:30 PM. The banquet will spotlight the talents of singer/songwriter Lenny Green and a special presentation by Dr. Ian Redmond.

General admission is $25, with various upgrade packages available. Discounts are available for students, educators and active military with proper ID.

The TBRC is comprised of volunteer investigators, scientists and naturalists, actively engaged in activities designed to test the hypothesis that a very rare form of unknown primate—commonly referred to as bigfoot or the sasquatch—resides in very remote areas where there is abundant rainfall, dense forestation, and low human population densities. The TBRC is funded by membership dues, fundraisers, and the annual Texas Bigfoot Conference, in addition to donations and grants. The TBRC desires to enhance the credibility of bigfoot/sasquatch research and facilitate a greater degree of acceptance by the scientific community and other segments of society of the likelihood of a biological basis behind the sasquatch mystery.

You can register and buy tickets for this exciting event by visiting the TBRC website at and clicking on the conference banner. You can pay via credit card, PayPal, or check.

I would add that the presentation on the TBRC's Operation Endurance will be worth the price of admission. If you are interested in the subject of bigfoot, you will be kicking yourself if you miss this one.

I will be attending the event and would very much enjoy meeting and visiting with any readers of this site that will be there.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Wildfires Ravaging Texas

I have to apologize for not posting more of late. It seems that this happens about this time every year. I am a teacher and a coach and the beginning of school and the start of football season make for a very hectic time of year for me. Add the fact that I have two kids of my own who are heavily involved in school and church activities and you have one very busy Dad.

There have been other issues, however, that have kept me out of the field. The main reason has to do with the wildfires that are ravaging Texas. I have been forced to evaluate even my most basic outdoor activities due to the tinderbox that is the Lone Star State right now. I know how to get along in the woods without fire, I don’t smoke, and my activities do not lend themselves to accidentally starting fires. I worry far more about being caught out somewhere when a wildfire pops up and right now they are popping up everywhere.

The worst fire, by far, has been in Bastrop County. Bastrop, the County’s namesake, lies just 30 miles SE of the state capital of Austin. More than 1,500 homes have been destroyed by the Bastrop complex fire. It is easily the most devastating wildfire in Texas history. A friend of mine emailed the photos included in this post. All of the photos are of the Bastrop complex fire. As you can see, the flames sometimes reached heights exceeding 100 feet. It is an awesome and terrifying sight to be sure.

Last week a small fire erupted near my home. The fire department pounced on it quickly and only 20-25 acres burned. Still, the site of flames and smoke that close to your home is pretty sobering. Just today my parents came within an eyelash of having to evacuate their home near Salado, Texas. Approximately 500 acres have burned near Stillhouse Hollow Reservoir and only the direction of the wind spared the home of my parents. It is a very scary time right now.

The threat of wildfires is not limited to Central Texas. There is another fire raging in Upshur County in NE Texas. Nothing less than the Piney Woods of East Texas are at risk here. If we don’t get some rain soon…well, it is going to be really bad.

I have been able to keep up with my camera project in Bell County. I will provide details on what I’ve managed to photograph in another post shortly. In the meantime, please be careful out there and use extra caution when out in the field. The slightest spark could begin a chain reaction with devastating results.

Just ask the unfortunate folks down in Bastrop.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Vietnam Vet Recalls Encounter with "Rock Apes"

I received a very interesting response to a post I made back in November of 2010 called “The Rock Apes of Vietnam.” There really wasn’t much to the post at all as it was more of a recommendation to read an article by Loren Coleman over at Cryptomundo.

The response was in the form of a comment to the original post. Below is the comment:

“I was in Vietnam 1967-68 near a firebase called the Rock pile. One night we heard what we believed to be invaders coming through the minefield. A marine next to me said that they were rock apes and he then threw a rock in the direction of the intruders only to have it thrown back. He again threw it back but this time the rock got bigger and every time he threw the rock got bigger until it was almost bowling ball size. Quite the game. Due to darkness, we could not tell how many "apes" were there but later that night one managed to step on a mine. All accounts I have read as far as ape/humanistic look agrees with what I personally saw. It is not a myth.”

I shared this report with some of my fellow TBRC members. One of them shared the story below:

“A friend-of-a-friend of mine, XXXXX, is a Green Beret Nam-vet and claims to have had a near violent encounter with one of these rock apes. It occurred inside a hanger late one night and it climbed up onto a loft where he was sleeping. XXX was later a founding member of the remote viewing units in the late '70's. Kind of an interesting character, really. But he is deadly serious about his encounter in Vietnam.....”

If there are other Vietnam vets out there who have had experiences with these rock apes I would really like to hear about it. You can send me an email at or just leave a comment to this post.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Large Dark-Colored Cat Spotted in NW Fort Worth

Here is the latest report I've received from a reader who claims to have spotted a large dark-colored cat in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

"Big cat spotted tonight in NW Fort Worth at Eagle Mountain lake area, off Boat Club road and Eagle Ranch. Dark brown, size of a Lab. 50-60 yards behind house. Wife and son witnessed it too. Son thought it was a bobcat, but it was too big. Walked near a creek/ pond area."

According to the report, the sighting occurred just hours ago. It is too bad I'm three hours away.