Living dinosaur

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An artist's interpretation of the Mokele Mbembe, a cryptid supposed to live in the swamps of Lake Tele, Congo.

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 palaeontology[edit]

Main article: Paleocene dinosaurs

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 became 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.[1] 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.[1][2]

In general biology[edit]

Main article: Origin of birds
Archaeopteryx lithographica, a transitional fossil between dinosaurs and modern birds.

In biology, "living dinosaurs" are modern birds,[3] 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.[4] More specifically, they are members of Maniraptora, a group of theropods that includes dromaeosaurs and oviraptorids, among others.[5][6]

In cryptozoology[edit]

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.[7]

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.[citation needed]

Cryptids alleged to resemble dinosaurs[edit]

The Ishtar Gate in Babylon with illustrations of the Sirrush embedded into it. Sirrush is claimed to be an interpretation of a living dinosaur.
  • Arica Monster - Usually spotted by motorists in the deserts in Arica, Chile. It was described resembling a dromaeosaurid or ornithomimid.
  • 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.[8]
  • 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.[7]
  • 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 or Uintathere.
  • 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. In 1918, he proposed that Iguanodon (a dinosaur with birdlike hindfeet) was the closest match to the sirrush.

"Archaeological" evidence[edit]

Cryptozoologists and creationists often support the existence of living dinosaurs via archaeological evidences.[9] 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.[10] 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 depict the Burrunjor.

Many skeptics just dismiss these claims as being ancient people's interpretations when they found dinosaur fossils. (See: Dragon bones)


There are several hoaxes regarding living dinosaurs, the Ica Stones and the Kasai Rex being good examples.


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, 66 million years ago,[11][12][13][14] or, at most, a few hundred thousand years after, in the early Paleocene.[1][15] There is no evidence that any non-avian dinosaurs survived beyond the Cretaceous,[13][16] 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,[1][15] evolutionary scientists have not supported the existence of living dinosaurs.[17] 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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Fassett, JE, Lucas, SG, Zielinski, RA, and Budahn, JR (2001). "Compelling new evidence for Paleocene dinosaurs in the Ojo Alamo Sandstone, San Juan Basin, New Mexico and Colorado, USA". Catastrophic events and mass extinctions, Lunar and Planetary Contribution 1053: 45–46. Retrieved 2007-05-18. 
  2. ^ Sloan, R. E., Rigby, K,. Van Valen, L. M., Gabriel, Diane (1986). "Gradual dinosaur extinction and simultaneous ungulate radiation in the Hell Creek formation". Science 232 (4750): 629–633. Bibcode:1986Sci...232..629S. doi:10.1126/science.232.4750.629. PMID 17781415. Retrieved 2007-05-18. 
  3. ^ Norell, Mark; Mick Ellison (2005). Unearthing the Dragon: The Great Feathered Dinosaur Discovery. New York: Pi Press. ISBN 0-13-186266-9. 
  4. ^ Prum, Richard O. Prum (2008). "Who's Your Daddy". Science 322 (5909): 1799–1800. doi:10.1126/science.1168808. PMID 19095929. 
  5. ^ Paul, Gregory S. (2002). "Looking for the True Bird Ancestor". Dinosaurs of the Air: The Evolution and Loss of Flight in Dinosaurs and Birds. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 171–224. ISBN 0-8018-6763-0. 
  6. ^ Xing Xu, Hailu You, Kai Du and Fenglu Han (28 July 2011). "An Archaeopteryx-like theropod from China and the origin of Avialae". Nature 475 (7357): 465–470. doi:10.1038/nature10288. PMID 21796204. 
  7. ^ a b Mackal, Roy (1987). A Living Dinosaur?: In Search of Mokele-Mbembe. United States of America: Brill Archive. pp. 3–6 [4]. ISBN 9789004085435. 
  8. ^ Eberhart, George (2002). A Guide to Cryptozoology Mysterious Creatures Volume 1 A-M. ABC-CLIO. p. 28. 
  9. ^ "Dinosaurs in Archaeology". Forbidden History. Restoring Genesis. Retrieved July 27, 2013. 
  10. ^ "Job 40:15-24, The Behemoth". Retrieved July 27, 2013. 
  11. ^ Glut, Donald F. (1997). Dinosaurs: The Encyclopedia. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co. p. 40. ISBN 0-89950-917-7. 
  12. ^ Sullivan, Robert M. (2003). "No Paleocene Dinosaurs in the San Juan Basin, New Mexico". Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs 35 (5): 15. Retrieved 2010-08-21. 
  13. ^ a b Fastovsky, David E.; Sheehan, Peter M. (2005). "The Extinction of the Dinosaurs in North America". GSA Today 15 (3): 11. doi:10.1130/1052-5173(2005)015<4:TEOTDI>2.0.CO;2. Retrieved 2010-08-21. 
  14. ^ Fastovsky, David E.; Sheehan, Peter M. (2005). "Reply to Comment on 'The Extinction of the Dinosaurs in North America'". GSA Today 15: 11. doi:10.1130/1052-5173(2005)015<11:TEOTDR>2.0.CO;2. Retrieved 2010-08-21. 
  15. ^ a b Sloan, Robert E.; Rigby, Keith; Van Valen, Leigh M.; Gabriel, Diane (1986). "Gradual Dinosaur Extinction and Simultaneous Ungulate Radiation in the Hell Creek Formation". Science 232 (4750): 629–633. Bibcode:1986Sci...232..629S. doi:10.1126/science.232.4750.629. PMID 17781415. 
  16. ^ Lucas, Spencer G. (2000). Dinosaurs: The Textbook (3rd ed.). Boston: McGraw-Hill. p. 237. ISBN 0-07-303642-0. 
  17. ^ Holtz, Thomas R., Jr. (2007). Dinosaurs: The Most Complete, Up-to-Date Encyclopedia for Dinosaur Lovers of All Ages. New York: Random House. pp. 363–364. ISBN 978-0-375-82419-7. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Eberhart, George M. (2002). Mysterious Creatures: A Guide To Cryptozoology. ABC-CLIO, Inc. ISBN 1-57607-283-5.
  • Ham, Ken (2000) Dinosaurs of Eden: A Biblical Journey Through Time. Master Books. ISBN 0-89051-340-6
  • Hapgood, Charles (2000) Mystery in Acambaro: Did Dinosaurs Survive Until Recently?. Adventures Unlimited Press. ISBN 0-932813-76-3
  • Shuker, Karl P. N. (1995) In Search of Prehistoric Survivors, Blandford, ISBN 0-7137-2469-2