Surviving Dinosaurs and Kin
by Matthew J. Eaton and Willie Shughart
The case for the survival of dinosaurs into the present day goes beyond the labeling of certain cryptids as dinosaurs. There are many who support claims of living dinosaurs with historical evidence, that is to say, ancient reports and artistic depictions of what seem to represent dinosaurs living in the Holocene epoch. This would certainly be a great support for the existence of modern-day dinosaurs, and certainly ancient peoples, not even knowing of the existence of dinosaurs and certainly not knowing what they looked like the way we do today, could not have fraudulently claimed their survival. But do these ancient accounts really depict dinosaurs, or are they something entirely different?
It has been suggested time and again that Dragons, those terrifying reptiles portrayed in numerous medieval stories, may have been surviving dinosaurs. But, how likely is it that Dinosaurs could have been as abundant as the various dragons featured in the epic tales? Before we can even begin to consider such a notion we must first look at certain dragons and their suggested dinosaurian counterparts. Also, for this section I will only be discussing the western dragons, thus no oriental dragons will be inspected as there is no known creature that ever existed which could explain them.
Of the three types of dragons, Serpent, Semi-dragons, and Classical dragons, Serpent dragons are the easiest to logically explain. Depending on their terrestrial origin, either land or sea, Serpent dragons could have been a number of things, none of which are saurian in origin. For the land-based Serpent dragons it is highly likely they were simply large snakes, such as pythons or boas, brought back from Asia and Africa from the Crusades or from trade. Since the peasants of that era rarely ventured more then a few miles from their home villages they'd be easily frightened of an unfamiliar large snake. Additionally, snakes were associated with Satan at this time. Add this to already extremely religious times and any snake, familiar or unfamiliar, would be considered evil and/or dangerous. As for the Serpent dragons of the sea they could have either been misidentifications of unfamiliar animals, genuine serpent sightings, or possibly sightings of the serpentine whale, the Zeuglodon.
Wyverns and Lindorms make up the grouping known as Semi-dragons, called so due to the fact they have serpentine bodies but possess wings, a set of legs, or both. Some researchers point out the similar features of Wyverns and members of the Pterosauria family. Both do possess a set of wings as well as a pair of legs, but the similarity ends there. While the Wyvern's wings are shown as being an independent appendage (they have no arms) located atop the back, Pterosaurs and other flying reptiles’ wings are an extension of their arms (as are the wings of bats and birds). Due to the fact that beyond the general features of having two legs and wings, descriptions of individual Wyverns in stories vary greatly, it's likely they are nothing more then travelers stories of heroic deeds passed from town to town. It's also possible that the Wyvern could be based on traveler's tales of the Ostrich, as their appearance is actually very Wyvern-like.
(Editors Note: Lindorms were not mentioned here as a full-length article devoted to them entirely is currently being written)
The best known of the three types of Dragons are the Classical dragons, the four-legged, fire-breathing, winged death machines that plagued the Medieval landscape. While some of the stories were certainly sprung from an inventive imagination, others have a very real explanation. The majority of Classical dragons aren't hulking behemoths that could swallow a knight whole, they are actually portrayed as being rather small, in some cases no large then a large monitor lizard. It's because of this fact that like the Serpent dragons, Classical dragons could be no more than large lizards and crocodiles brought to Europe for various reasons, only to escape and “plague” an area. Perhaps they were brought only to be killed by a “brave” knight as a way to increase his power in an area; of course this is only speculation. For the most part there are no real notable witnesses of the past to suggest Dragons were no more then foreign animals that were unrecognizable to traveling Europeans.
Not to be left out from the rest of the world, Australia's Aborigines have their own reports of hulking reptiles roaming the land down under. Tribes from the Lake Alexandrina, South Australia tell of a Dreamtime beast that is taller then the trees. The description of the creature, a large bipedal creature with short, useless forearms, may paint a picture of a theropod for some, but one would be unwise to pass judgment so quickly. The folklore of the creature never mentions any more then one of them at any given time, suggesting they were rare animals, the story originated when the last individual was living, or they are simply another Dreamtime creature that has no basis in reality. We must remember that in the Aboriginal Dreamtime, or creation myths, the world was inhabited by mystical monsters, fairies, and other magical beings that are unprecedented in modern times.
Aboriginal cave art shows a number of dinosaur-like creatures, the majority of which are either sauropod-like or theropod-like. While there are no reports of any of these creatures in modern times, the cave art would mean that dinosaurs could have survived into prehistoric times. However, experts point out that monitor lizards will run on their hind legs from time to time. Since large monitors are known to have existed in Australia with the Aborigines it's thought they could simply be displaying this behavior in their cave art. As for the sauropod-like animals the oral and art traditions of the same creatures seem to contradict one another. While they are shown as rather sauropod-like in the cave art they are described as being large snakes when the stories are told. Due to this fact it's difficult to come to a reasonable conclusion when regarding the sauropod-like creatures.
The Acámbaro Figures and the Ica Stones: Ancient Artwork of Living Dinosaurs?
The Acámbaro figures, named after the site of their 1944 discovery in Acámbaro, Mexico, are a huge collection of clay figurines, numbering at around 33,500. They depict strange animals, often shown predating on humans, and they are thought by many to represent surviving dinosaurs. The age of these figures is heavily debated. Some tests show that they are anywhere between two and ten thousand years old, while others suggest that they may be completely fraudulent. Claims of hoaxing are mostly ill-supported, and it does seem that these figures could very well be genuine, but a huge controversy still remains on the subject.
All of this aside, claims that they depict dinosaurs are almost completely unfounded. Only a select few of the hundreds of varying designs bear any resemblance to dinosaurs of any kind. Even in those that do vaguely resemble those ancient archosaurs, there are major anatomical differences. The rest are so entirely different from any known animal that has ever lived that those few figurines which seem to represent dinosaurs are probably mere coincidence. As evidences for the survival of dinosaurs goes, as weak as so many are, there are far better.
Another highly controversial bit of evidence for the modern survival of dinosaurs are the Ica Stones, found in Ica, Peru. They are stones engraved with images of what, unlike the Acámbaro figures, are unmistakably dinosaurs. On the other hand, other Ica Stones also depict advanced world maps far ahead of their time, and use of modern tools such as telescopes. They also depict physically impossible acts such as a human flying with a pterosaur as a steed– a pterosaur could never withstand that kind of weight. Furthermore, there is a great deal of evidence indicating that the Ica Stones are forgeries. While there are some discrepancies which seem to discredit this, and a few forgeries have been clearly distinguished from the ‘genuine’ ones, it would seem that in all probability the Ica Stones are an elaborate to rattle science’s cage.
After all, the odds of finding proof of prematurely advanced civilization as well as proof of dinosaurs surviving into recent times in a single cave (which, mysteriously, is left unnamed by owners and sellers of various Ica Stones, and may not even exist), are incredibly slim.
Sirrush: The “Dinosaur” of Babylon’s Ishtar Gate
The famed Ishtar Gate of Babylon, located in modern day Iraq, has been used, by some, as evidence suggesting the survival of dinosaurs into historical times. It's claimed that the dragon-like Sirrush, which is depicted numerous times, was a well-known animal to the ancient Babylonians since known animals, lions and oxen, are also depicted. The Sirrush is shown as having the head of a serpent, the body and forelegs of a lion, and the hind legs of a falcon. Some have even gone as far to state that perhaps the Babylonians based their drawings of sightings the supposed saurpod, Mokele-Mbembe (it's thought that perhaps the Babylonians quarried the stone used in the building of the Ishtar gate from central Africa, a hotbed for "living dinosaur" activity).
What fails to be mentioned time and again, in cryptozoological texts at least, is why the animals on the gate are there. Besides being decorations for the gate, they also represented chief gods sacred animals. In the case of the dragon Sirrush, it represents Marduk, the chief god of Babylon. Why such an easily referenced fact consistently fails to be mentioned is the real mystery.
Special Feature– Theories of Creationism: Why Dinosaurian Survival is Still Unlikely
To a creationist contemplating the possibilities of dinosaurian survival, the entire playing field is different when it comes to the lengths of time and stalled evolution which make up a big part of the argument against modern-day dinosaurs as they were in the Mesozoic. If dinosaurs were created as they were and lived a matter of thousands rather than millions of years ago, after all, why couldn’t they survive to the present?
However, while geologically speaking dinosaurian survival is a lot more likely from the creationist point of view, there are still a great deal of reasons against dinosaurian survival into the present day. For one thing, dinosaurs were the top life-forms of their time and there has been nothing ever to exist which could have presented a threat to them, with the possible exception of humankind. An asteroid impact sufficient to destroy the dinosaurs would more than likely have destroyed humans and various other animals alive today as well. Thus, unless early humans hunted them to endangerment (and the reverse seems far more likely considering the predatory capabilities of many dinosaurs), there would be little, if anything, to inhibit their numbers, and as research shows that dinosaurs were indeed quite numerous, if dinosaurs were to have survived to this day they would probably have survived in greater numbers than are even thought to be seen. Perhaps some pandemic of a disease ravaged their ranks, leaving only a few small, isolated populations. Even then, there are no known diseases which could have performed such an act. It has also been put forth that the biblical Great Flood destroyed the dinosaurs, and as that may be, it would leave no room for the survival of any of them.
Beyond that, all of the other evidences against the survival of dinosaurs today apply, in that every piece of evidence, visual or descriptive, seems to fit poorly with what is known about dinosaurs today.
Historical “evidence” for the survival of dinosaurs into the present day is dangerous conjecture at best, and the dinosaurs, it seems, are gone for good. But one thing that must be understood is that dinosaurs didn’t go extinct all at once, it happened over time and from many factors, such that their total demise is fairly certain. While at least one species, a hadrosaur, survived into the early days of the Cenozoic, it is greatly unlikely that any made it beyond that. So while the idea of those fantastic beasts surviving to the present day, while their own day seems not too far into the past, is an exciting one to ponder, it is unlikely that they, unlike so many other animals, survived the number of extinction periods that occurred between the end of the Mesozoic and the dawn of our own age, the Holocene. Of course there is always that possibility that one day a surviving dinosaur will turn up, or at least some historical evidence truly validated that might provide the insight that dinosaurs indeed survived into historic times. One can always speculate.