If there ever were an animal that could represent most human fantasies about powerful, fearsome, terrific, fantastic creatures, that would be the pterosaur. Though the popular media has led many people think that pterosaurs are were flying dinosaurs, in reality, while they did fly, they are were considered as flying reptiles from a different group. The word pterosaur comes from the Greek words for wing, pteron, and for lizard, sauros. A visit to the American Natural History Museum in New York, one of the finest museums in the world, is perhaps the best way to get an idea of what these animals were like. There, numerous reconstructions and some original specimens still in rock slabs are displayed on the walls, and reconstructions of others are hanging from the ceiling in spectacular poses. The visitor is impressed with the large beaks and the wingspan of some gigantic adult specimens, which rival with the size of an F-16 plane, whereas others are as very small.
Some species of pterosaurs had long necks and, when standing on the ground, could reach the height of a giraffe. Their wings were large and at least some species could use them as “extra feet” with which to walk or stand on the ground. Some of them had pointy teeth and others were toothless. Many pterosaurs had elaborate crests on the heads, which were made up of keratin and hence did not usually fossilize, though in some specimens these left an impression in the sediment in which they are preserved. Despite their fearsome appearance their skeletons were very fragile, and relatively few have been found as fossils, most of them incomplete.
The first reference to a pterosaur is an 18th century description and lithograph made by the historian and naturalist Cosimo A. Collini. He was reporting on a fossil specimen found in the Jurassic Solnhofen limestone quarry at Eichstätt, north of Munich, Germany. Collini asserted that the specimen was not a bird or a bat, but he could not interpret the nature of the creature. It was the zoologist George Cuvier (1769-1832) who realized that the Eichstätt fossil was a reptile. His taxonomic classification was based on the Collini’s description because Cuvier had not seen the fossil. Cuvier saw that the fossil had long bones in the forelimbs that were equivalent to phalanges of a hand, in which a membrane should be attached, though it had not been preserved. Fifty years later, another fossil from the Solnhofen limestone was found with impressions of the wing membrane, confirming Cuvier’s hypothesis. He then wrote a more detailed description and gave the specimen the name Pterodactylus in a treatise published in 1809. In the first half of the 19th century other specimens were discovered in Germany and other countries, often as partial skeletons. Naturalists gave various interpretations of these new specimens showing a variety of skull and and other skeletal morphologies and sizes. Most naturalists then and now agreed that the specimens were reptiles, though they disagreed on particular details.
Pterosaurs bear many of the features of birds, including air-filled hollow bones, a keeled breastbone for the attachments of flight muscles, and other avian traits. As opposed to birds, pterosaur wings did not consist of feathers, but a complex leathery membrane composed of skin strengthened by closely spaced fibers called actinofibrils, which formed three layers in the wing. It seems that pterosaurs show what paleontologists call mosaic characters, i.e., characters that do not show a linear, gradual evolution from an type of animal to another but a mixture of characters out of evolutionary sequence. The occurrence of such mixture of traits created confusion to many naturalists that examined the specimens, to the point that even the renowned Harry Govier Seeley (1839-1909), senior geologist at King’s College of London, said that they “must be regarded in certain aspects as an intermediate step between reptiles and aves.” This interpretation, of course, presupposes that organisms, including fossils, are the result of evolution through time.
However, evolution theory presents numerous problems in explaining the origin of life, the origin of the different phyla, the transitions between the different groups of animals and plants and the sudden appearance of morphological traits in the fossil record. Pterosaurs, with their combination of morphological traits, are not an exception to the troubles of the theory of evolution. Moreover, the general theory of evolution postulates a gradual appearance of species from a common ancestor, with multiple intermediate forms allegedly showing the transition. However, the fossil record shows a sudden appearance of the pterosaurs in upper Triassic strata, without known ancestors or morphological intermediates with other alleged pre-existing reptilian forms. Thus, the long-age evolution theory does not really explain the origin of the pterosaurs. Does the short-age creation model provide a good explanation for the origin of the pterosaurs?
First, we must say that the Bible does not talk about the pterosaurs. That term was not even around at the time the Bible was written. However, the Bible does not preclude their existence either. The pterosaurs, dinosaurs (with feathers or not) and other extinct creatures might have been created by God during the six-day creation,; perhaps pterosaurs were created on day five when God populated the skies with flying creatures. Most likely the pterosaurs went extinct during the Noachian Flood since there is no compelling record of them in human literature, history, or archaeology. However, we don’t really know what happened to them.
The biblical record requires that significant biological changes must have occurred after the Fall of Adam and Eve. These are represented by the modifications in the life-habits of the snake, plants, and in the productivity of the soil (Genesis 3:14, 17-18). Changes also included diet, which for some animals and humans turned from a strict plant-based diet (Genesis 1:29-30, 2:16) to a carnivore or mixed diet, but this may have happened after the Flood (Genesis 9:3). How did that happened? Again, we don’t know, but we can speculate that God’s curse involved changes in the expression of genetic information (DNA) that led to physiological and morphological variations, including in the appearance of predators’ teeth, their behavior and other traits.
Some people assert that antediluvian humans were able to do some sort of genetic engineering and produced many different kinds of hybrid forms, including hominoids, feathered dinosaurs, amphibian-reptile intermediates, the ichthyosaurs, and the pterosaurs. Neither the Bible nor earth sciences provide any information that would require us to conclude that. However, modern science shows that hybridization of different species is not impossible, and the antediluvian people may have acquired the knowledge to accomplish it. It also is possible that hybridization happened without human intervention. In any case, in the present time we don’t have the scientific knowledge to explain how hybridization could have happened. And the Bible does not offer any explanation about this.
The hybridization idea is based on a statement by Ellen White, the Seventh-day Adventist prophet of the 19th century, who, using the word ‘amalgamation’ instead of ‘hybridization’, asserts that “Every species of animal which God had created were preserved in the ark. The confused species which God did not create, which were the result of amalgamation, were destroyed by the Flood.” It is interpreted here that there were species of animals that had not been created by God but the result of human experimentation (‘amalgamation’). Just what Ellen White meant by this claim has been the subject of much debate and speculation among Seventh-day Adventist theologians and scientists and this article does not intend a discussion of the topic. The pterosaurs and other creatures of the past do show mixture of traits from different groups of animals, and the explanation of its origin will require more research and better understanding of science and the inspired word. What is clear is that, given our current understanding of these fascinating creatures, they do not fit well into an evolutionary framework.
Raul Esperante, PhD
Geoscience Research Institute
 Collini, C. A. 1784. Sur quelques Zoolithes du Cabinaet d’Histoire naturelle de S.A.S.E Palatine et de Bavière, à Mannheim. Acta Academiae Theodoro-Palatinae Mannheim 5, pars physica: 58-1203
 Cuvier, G. 1801. Reptile Volant. Extrait d’un ouvrage etc. year 9:6; Paris
 Cuvier. G. 1809. Mémoire sur le squelette fossile d’un reptile volant des environs d’Aichstedt, que quelques naturalists ont pris pour un oiseau, et donc nous formons un genre de Sauriens, sous le nom de Petro-Dactyle. Annales du Museé d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris 13:424.
 For instance, Samuel Thomas v. Soemmering claimed in 1820 that they were large-size bats, Johann Georg Wagler reconstructed it in 1830 as a penguin-like marine animal, and Edward Newman depicted in 1843 as warm-blooded, hairy flying marsupials (see Wellnhoffer, P., 1991, transl. 1994. Enciclopedia de los Pterosaurios. Susaeta Ediciones, Madrid, 191 pp.
 Bennett, S.C., 2000. Pterosaur flight: The role of actinofibrils in wing function. Historical Biology, 14(4): 255-284.
 Seeley, H.G., 1901, 1967. Dragons of the Air. Dover Paperback, New York, p.211.
 Ichthyosaurs are marine reptiles that roughly have the shape of a dolphin. Many of them have been found, especially in the black shales of southern Germany. Evolutionists claim that the ichthyosaurs evolved from terrestrial reptiles that gradually moved to an aquatic environment, but that claim does not stand up to scientific examination. There is no sequence of intermediate forms linking them to any creature that was in the process of ‘going back to the water’. The oldest ichthyosaur fossils (according to evolutionary timescale) are one hundred percent ichthyosaurs.
 White, EG. 1870. Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 1, chapter 7.
 An informed discussion is found here http://www.whiteestate.org/issues/amalg.html, and here http://adventist-defense-league.blogspot.com/2007/09/did-egw-teach-amalgamation-of-man-with.html. An excellent discussion of the meaning of ‘amalgamation’ in EG White’s literature is Campbell MW, Standish TG. 2013. Amalgamation. In The Ellen G. White Encyclopedia. Fortin D and Moon J Eds. Review and Herald Publishing Association, Hagerstown, Maryland. pp 590-594.