December 30, 2011

Wingspan Hoax Eliminated

Several factors eliminate a hoax or combination of hoaxes as an explanation for any significant portion of reported sightings of apparent pterosaurs. One is the analysis of eyewitness estimates for wingspan.

The following two graphs illustrate the difference between one type of hoax and the actual data from sighting reports. In the first, we see what would be expected if a random combination of wingspan estimates (at 80%) is combined with 20% of sightings being hoaxes of Rhamphorhynchoid pterosaurs, with hoaxers giving wingspan "estimates" less than seven feet, consistent with the fossils of long-tailed pterosaurs. In the second, we see what actually was reported in the sightings. Rhamphorhynchoid wingspan sizes were chosen, in this example, because long tails were reported so often (well over 75% of those sightings in which tails, or lack thereof, were observed).

In these two graphs, the difference between one column and the next is only two feet in wingspan estimate, a small difference when we consider that these are only rough estimates, some of which may have been made in difficult conditions (such as a rather distant flying creature being observed for a limited amount of time). This means that a difference, between two columns, of one verticle degree (number of reported sightings) has very little significance. Nevertheless, general directions of slope may be greatly significant. For example, in the first (hypothetical) graph, the difference between 4.25-6.25 and 6.25-8.25 is great, but notice the general difference between the first three columns on the far left and the for columns that follow. The steep fall to a low plateau is obvious. But in the second graph (from actual sighting reports), the peek near the far left is followed by a gradual slope to the right (into the larger wingspans). This actual sighting data supports the idea that a number of species, of various sizes, have been observed by eyewitnesses who have varying abilities in estimating wingspans.

To put it in a nutshell, the fifty-seven wingspan estimates show a fairly smooth curve downwards toward the giant wingspans, and it is far too shallow a curve to have come from hoaxers who would have tried to fool people into thinking that the hoaxers had seen long-tailed pterosaurs. The reason for that is that those Rhamphorhynchoids are commonly believed to have been smaller pterosaurs with wingspans generally less than seven feet. The statistics show something far different.

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