The “Imaginary Pterosaur” Artist, Helder da Rocha and his peek into Rio Ptero 2013

Helder da Rocha builds pterosaurs. Lots of them!
And you can read all about them at his blog, The Imaginary Pterosaur at

Helder da Rocha, sculptor of the Imaginary Pterosaur  and its blog.

Figure 1. Helder da Rocha, a wonderful pterosaur sculptor and blogger.

In his own words
“Helder da Rocha is a nomadic computer scientist, traveller, writer, actor, musician and visual artist who lives (most of the time) in São Paulo, Brazil. Some of his other works can be found in this Flickr gallery or in his personal website. He can be contacted via email (helder dot darocha at gmail dot com) or Facebook.

South America in the Early Cretaceous
The home of many of the most spectacular pterosaurs of all time is Brazil and da Rocha is right where he needs to be to access these wonders of the Early Cretaceous. Brazil was also home for the third pterosaur symposium, Rio Ptero 2013.

Rio Ptero 2013 Exhibitor
Da Rocha was an exhibitor at Rio Ptero 2013 and provided many wonderful photos (Fig. 2) of the symposium at his blogsite. There’s even a YouTube video of the event. Well worth seeing! Here are several of da Rocha’s pterosaur skeleton sculptures, centerpieces for the Rio Pterosaur art show.

Figure 2. Pterosaur bone sculptures by Hector da Rocha as centerpieces for Rio Ptero 2013.

Figure 2. Pterosaur bone sculptures by Helder da Rocha as centerpieces for Rio Ptero 2013.

Da Rocha also exhibited at the First Brazilian Dinosaur Symposium with more images of his work here.

Beginning with Guidraco
Inspired by the skull-only pterosaur Guidraco (Fig. 3), da Rocha set out to imagine the rest of it. Hence the title of his blog. He did pretty well. Here is his first blog post dated March 2012.

Da Rocha takes his readers through the process of building Guidraco and later, other large pterosaurs. Here (fig. 3) is the skull carved from foam at an early stage of construction.

 Guidraco sculpture by Helder da Rocha at an early stage of construction.

Figure 3. Guidraco sculpture by Helder da Rocha at an early stage of construction.

Step-by-step instruction
I applaud da Rocha’s talents and efforts at creating full scale pterosaur skeletons. If you want to learn how he does it, he tells you, step-by-step in his blog.

Minor issues
I can’t agree with the way da Rocha puts a few of the bones together (for instance, he mounted Tupuxuara doing a forelimb leap with medial hands facing posteriorly, and the pteroids should be on the proximal carpals, not emerging from the preaxial carpals, fig. 4). Apparently others also had issues with his pterosaurs poses. Da Rocha reports, “I would like to thank Christopher Bennett, Darren Naish, Nathan Carroll, Ashley Poust, David Unwin and Felipe Pinheiro for pointing out inaccuracies in the assembly, which I was able to fix.” 

Be careful, Helder.
I only know a few of those names. Some of those experts have promoted a raft of falsifiable hypotheses in the past, all documented at The world of pterosaurs is filled with opinions based on evidence and other opinions that ignore the evidence, which is why the PterosaurHeresies blog has been created — to separate one from the other.

Tupuxuara by Helder da Rocha in a controversial forelimb launch pose with medial hands facing posteriorly.

Figure 4. Tupuxuara by Helder da Rocha in a controversial forelimb launch pose with medial hands facing posteriorly.

Helder Da Rocha is a young man with talent,
drive and decades of creative production ahead of him. I see him as a future leader in the world of pterosaurs. His foam sculpture techniques appear to create accurate work that is lighter, cheaper and faster to create than traditional sculpture techniques.

Helder da Rocha’s Imaginary pterosaur blogsite

2 thoughts on “The “Imaginary Pterosaur” Artist, Helder da Rocha and his peek into Rio Ptero 2013

  1. Wow. What a cool post :) Thank you very much David for your comments about my work.

    Making these models accurately is still a challenge for me. Copying the bones as I see them in the photos is the easy part, but knowing how to assemble the creature correctly is still an issue, since my knowledge of vertebrate anatomy is still very basic. I have a long way to go before making contributions to any discussion about pterosaur anatomy, specially if it involves controversial topics (although I do have to make choices, and I know that the accuracy of the skeletons will depend on them). Anyway, I keep the bones unassembled and usually just assemble the skeleton when on display, so I will still have some opportunities to learn some more and fix things before one of them stays permanently on display somewhere :)

    As for the pteroid bone. I assembled it like this (No carpals in ICMF 1502 so I used Anhanguera’s (unfused) carpals from Kellner & Tomida 2000, which did not include any pre-axial carpal, so I ‘invented’ one and attached the pteroid to it through a sesamoid.) I connected the preaxial carpal to the distal syncarpal it according to diagrams and descriptions in several articles (Bennett 2007 & others – I still have to organize the references I used).

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