Living dinosaurs are non-avian dinosaurs that survived the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event. The term is used in paleontology, biology and cryptozoology to refer to different creatures. In paleontology, all non-avian dinosaurs are believed to have gone extinct during the K-Pg extinction event, 66 million years ago, but there is some scattered evidence that some may have survived into the Paleocene epoch. These alleged creatures are referred to as living dinosaurs. In biology, the term is sometimes used to describe birds, which are the only living clade of dinosaurs today. In cryptozoology, where the term is often used, it refers to any legendary or folkloric creature that resembles the dinosaurs (such as the Loch Ness Monster), which cryptozoologists allege are dinosaurs that have survived into modern times. This notion is rejected in all modern scientific fields.
In paleontology, a living dinosaur is a dinosaur which is claimed to have survived the K-Pg extinction event, 66 million years ago, into the Paleocene epoch. 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. 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 arises from the 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, which cryptozoologists allege are dinosaurs that have survived into modern times. Despite these claims, all non-avian dinosaurs went extinct at the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event, 65 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.
Alleged living dinosaurs are typically based on interpretations of regional folklore, alleged eyewitness sightings, legends, unverified 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.
Some cryptozoologists and creationists claim that archaeological evidence supports the existence of living dinosaurs, and that several archaeological artifacts, old writings, cave paintings and ancient folklores were based on the idea that man and dinosaurs lived beside each other. However, archeologists, biologists, and other fields of science do not support this idea, and view the field of cryptozoology as pseudoscience.
Historians and archeologists generally view cave paintings as ancient people's reaction to finding fossils. Some of those fossils were used as Oracle bones by ancient cultures. The Ica Stones and the Kasai Rex are famous hoaxes involving supposed living dinosaurs.
With no fossil evidence supporting the existence of Cenozoic dinosaurs, save for the few controversial discoveries limited to the early Paleocene, paleontologists and 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 regarding the interpretations of ancient cultures when finding fossils.
Areas that cryptozoologists claim have been stable since the Cretaceous have changed considerably since 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 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.
Cryptids alleged to resemble dinosaurs
- 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 theropod dinosaur or 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. It is also claimed to be depicted in cave paintings in Arnhem Land.
- 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 stegosaur 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. Robert Koldewey advocated that the sirrush was a portrayal of a real animal. In 1918, he proposed that Iguanodon (a dinosaur with birdlike hindfeet) was the closest match to the sirrush.
- Behemoth - Described in the Book of Job
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