Living dinosaurs are dinosaurs that survived the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event. The term is used in several fields of science and pseudoscience, particularly paleontology, biology and cryptozoology.
In paleontology, a living dinosaur is one believed to have survived the K-Pg extinction event, 66 million years ago. The fossils of these "Paleocene dinosaurs", are found above the K-T Boundary Strata. Although almost all evidence indicates that non-avian dinosaurs all went extinct at the K-T boundary, there is some scattered evidence that some non-avian dinosaurs lived for a short period of time during the Paleocene epoch, supporting the claim that the event that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs was not sudden, but rather gradual. Several researchers have stated that some dinosaurs survived into the Paleocene and therefore the extinction of dinosaurs was gradual. Their arguments are based on the finding of dinosaur remains in the Hell Creek Formation up to 1.3 m (4.3 ft) above, therefore 40,000 years later than the K-T boundary.
In general biology
In biology, "living dinosaurs" are modern birds, the designation arising from the generally-accepted evolutionary lineage of birds as the only clade of dinosaurs to have survived the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event. More specifically, they are members of Maniraptora, a group of theropods that includes dromaeosaurs and oviraptorids, among others.
In cryptozoology, a "living dinosaur" is any legendary or folkloric creature that resembles the dinosaurs and is therefore, presumably, a dinosaur that has survived into modern times. Alleged living dinosaurs are typically based on interpretations of regional folklore, so their existence is considered by the scientific community to be doubtful and the stuff of legend. The evidence advanced so far in support of dinosaur survival consists of interpretations of a variety of alleged eyewitness sightings, legends, physical evidence (like footprints), and works of traditional art that supposedly depict dinosaurs.
Sightings of dinosaur-like creatures have come mostly from the dense swamplands in Congo, Cameroon, and Zambia, although there are occasional reports from the dense rain-forests of the Amazon and other parts of South America.
Cryptids alleged to resemble dinosaurs
- Arica Monster - Usually spotted by motorists in the deserts in Arica, Chile. It was described resembling a dromaeosaurid.
- Burrunjor - This is described as a giant lizard with a length of 30 feet or more with sightings in Northern New South Wales, Arnhem Land and Cape York Peninsula. Possible explanations are that it is a perentie, Australia's largest lizard, or a surviving megalania, another large lizard thought to be extinct.
- Emela Ntouka - The Emela-Ntouka is a creature present in folklores of the pygmies of Central Africa. Although generally described as an aquatic rhinoceros, the animal is usually interpreted as a ceratopsian.
- Mbielu-Mbielu-Mbielu - Claimed to be a living stegosaur.
- Mokele-mbembe - Mokele-mbembe is arguably the most popular "living dinosaur", because of numerous expeditions concerning it. It is reported to be a living sauropod. Reports mainly come from Lake Tele in Congo.
- Muhuru - The Muhuru bay monster is an alleged living thyreophoran living in the dense rainforests of Kenya.
- Nguma-monene - Nguma-monene is described an immense reptilian with a sail on its back, often interpreted as a living spinosaurid.
- Ngoubou - Ngoubou, allegedly a living Styracosaurus.
- Sirrush - The sirrush are draconic creatures portrayed in Babylonian art. German archeologist Robert Koldewey, who discovered the Ishtar Gate in 1902, seriously considered the notion that the sirrush was a portrayal of a real animal. He also noted that the sirrush is shown on the Ishtar Gate alongside real animals, the lion and the aurochs (rimi), leading him to speculate the sirrush was a creature the Babylonians were familiar with. However, in 1918, he proposed that Iguanodon (a dinosaur with birdlike hindfeet) was the closest match to the sirrush.
Cryptozoologists and creationists often support the existence of living dinosaurs via archaeological evidences. They claim that several archaeological artifacts, old writings and ancient folklores were based on the idea that man and dinosaurs lived (and had been living) beside each other.
As the aforementioned, one of the claimed evidence by creationists regarding the existence of living dinosaurs is description of the Behemoth in the Book of Job in the bible. They also claimed that several animals in legends were actually based on living dinosaurs, including dragons, tarrasques, gryphons, and sea serpents. Several cave paintings are also used to support this idea, most notably the cave paintings in Arnhem land supposed to depist the Burrunjor.
Many skeptics just dismiss these claims as being ancient people's interpretations when they found dinosaur fossils. (See: Dragon bones)
Living dinosaurs are often the subject of cryptozoological claims. However, paleontologists regard all non-avian dinosaurs as having gone extinct at the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event, 65.5 million years ago, or, at most, a few hundred thousand years after, in the early Paleocene. There is no evidence that any non-avian dinosaurs survived beyond the Cretaceous, and there are strong arguments against the survival of populations of large dinosaurs. With no fossil evidence supporting the existence of Cenozoic dinosaurs, save for the few controversial discoveries limited to the early Paleocene, evolutionary scientists have not supported the existence of living dinosaurs. Reports of living dinosaurs can be studied in terms of cryptozoology, mythology and/or sociology, as in the work of Adrienne Mayor on how various cultures have interpreted fossils.
Areas that are often claimed to have been stable since the Cretaceous have changed considerably in that time. At the end of the Cretaceous, Africa was significantly farther south than its current location and even small degrees of difference in location make for vastly different environments. The idea that dinosaurs (such as Mokèlé-mbèmbé) could have survived in the thick rainforests of the Congo, for instance, is not strictly supportable since the Congo rainforests did not exist in anything like their present form during the Cretaceous period. Similarly, many of Africa's major geological formations – the Great Rift Valley, for example – are much younger than the dinosaurs, having formed within the last 35 million years. The climate has also changed considerably in the last 20,000 years. Most of the Congo Basin was semi-arid and covered with a dry-savanna vegetation. The rainforests had retreated to the extreme east (the highlands of Kivu in eastern DRC, near the border with Uganda and Rwanda), extreme west (the coastal areas of Cameroon, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea) and possibly also as narrow strips along some of the remaining major rivers. Hence, the rainforest and swamp vegetation in which these animals are now claimed to be found simply wasn't there until the rainforests spread across the Congo Basin again toward the end of the last ice age and after, around 12,000 years ago.
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