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Dinosaur Jungle   >   Dinosaur Facts   >   Living Dinosaurs?

Living Dinosaurs?

Archaeopteryx fossil:
Archaeopteryx fossil
Most scientists now believe that birds evolved from dinosaurs. If this is correct then birds are in fact an evolved type of dinosaur (see dinosaur family tree).

Taxonomy is the science of classifying living things. Taxonomists are still discussing whether birds ought to be placed in a single combined group ("class") together with the other dinosaurs, or ought to be classified separately. Part of the confusion arises because of historical usage of the words. When people say or write "dinosaur", they nearly always mean "non-avian dinosaur" (all dinosaurs except birds).

The "dinosauria" is sometimes used to refer to a combined class of both the birds and the non-avian dinosaurs.


Cryptozoology is the search for rumored or mythical animals, whose actual existence is uncertain (these animals are often known as "cryptids"). In some cases, the animals are claimed to be surviving dinosaurs or other prehistoric animals (such animals are technically known as "relicts"), in others, they are claimed to be as yet undiscovered species.

Mainstream scientists are often skeptical about many claims of the existence of cryptids and relicts, however one can not dismiss all such claims out of hand:
  • It should be remembered that the both the tuatara and horseshoe crabs are both relicts - the two known species of tuatara are last surviving members of the order Sphenodontia, and horseshoe crabs seems to be most closely related to Sea Scorpions ("Eurypterids"), which disappeared 248 million years ago in the Permian-Triassic extinction event).

  • The Coelacanth (a type of fish) was believed by scientists to have been extinct for at least 65 million years - until one was discovered in a fishing net in South Africa in 1938.

  • The Mountain Gorilla, the Megamouth Shark, and the Hoan Kiem Turtle, were all at one time or another dismissed as being legends (without supporting evidence for their existence) by mainstream science. Today, they are however all accepted as existing.
Of course, it's a huge to leap to go from saying that there have been in the past some creatures that were unknown to science, to jumping to the idea that dinosaurs are still living in some part of the Earth. On the whole, most dinosaurs are large (and therefore any living animals would be likely to have been found by now), the time since they were last known to be living is huge, and the evidence for their continued existence is not particularly strong (clear photographs or video are generally lacking) - but it does remain just possible that some dinosaurs could have survived somewhere on Earth.

Here are some of the cryptids which just might be living dinosaurs:
  • Mokele-Mbembe is perhaps the most famous cryptid claimed as a dinosaur. It is claimed to live in the Congo River basin in central Africa. Local legends describe the animal as about the size of small elephant, grey-brown in color, and preferring to live in deep rivers and swampland. Descriptions of the animal's appearance however vary widely - in some cases it has been described as resembling a small Sauropod dinosaur (similar in shape to an Apatosaurus, but smaller), in other cases as being similar to an iguana or monitor lizard, and in some cases as something more like a familiar large mammal, perhaps an elephant or rhinoceros (some local people also describe the creature as a spirit). There have been numerous expeditions to the area to hunt for the creature, particularly in the last 30 years or so, there is no definitive proof that the creature exists.

  • Emela-ntouka is an animal claimed to be known to the Pygmy tribes of central Africa. It is said to be size of a large elephant, gray-brown in color, with one horn, a rhinocerous-like body, and short stumpy legs. There has been speculation this animal may be a relict Ceroptisian dinosaur, perhaps Centrosaurus or Monoclonius. The Pygmies however do not believe that the animal has a neck frill, which would seem to rule out this theory. In any case, the idea of finding a living Ceratopsian dinosaur in central Africa seems unlikely on its face, because Ceratopsians are not believed to have lived in Africa (Ceratopsians lived in North America, Eastern Asia and possibly South America and Australia - see map below).

    Locations of Ceratopsian fossils:

    Locations of Ceratopsian fossils

  • Ngoubou is a cryptid that supposedly lives in Cameroon, has six horns, and is about the size of an ox. It has been suggested that this animal may be a relict Styracosaurus, but given that Styracosaurus was a Ceratopsian, and Ceratopsians are not believed to have lived in Africa (see map above), this seems rather unlikely.

  • Mbielu-Mbielu-Mbielu is a cryptid that supposedly lives in the Northern part of the Republic of Congo. It supposed to be a herbivore (plant-eater), living a semi-aquatic lifestyle, with "planks growing out of its back", and it has been suggested that it might be a Kentrosaurus. The evidence for this existence of this creature are some accounts from villagers local to the area which were recorded by the cryptozoologist Roy P. Mackal.

  • Nguma-moneme is a cryptid that supposedly lives in the Republic of Congo. It has been described as a lizard with a serrated ridge on its back, and is supposed to be atleast 33 feet (10 meters) long. Sightings of the creature were made in 1961 and 1971, and there are also a number of earlier accounts which could possibly be the same animal.

Related Information & Resources

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Books about Mokele-Mbembe

Here are some books from Amazon.com:

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Mokele-Mbembe: Mystery Beast of the Congo Basin
By William J. Gibbons

Brand: Coachwhip Publications
Paperback (272 pages)

Mokele-Mbembe: Mystery Beast of the Congo Basin
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Product Description:
Explorer, cryptozoologist, and creationist Bill Gibbons has traveled to remote corners of the world in search of strange and unknown creatures. But Bill's heart is in Africa, where monstrous dinosaur-like creatures are still rumored to inhabit the vast swamps of the Congo Basin. In Mokele-Mbembe: Mystery Beast of the Congo Basin, Gibbons provides a fascinating insight into several expeditions that have ventured forth in search of suspected living dinosaurs, include several of his own. Here you will read about many amazing eyewitness testimonies and surprise encounters with these remarkable creatures. This book will take you on a journey into a true "lost world" of pygmy tribes, dense unforgiving jungles, hidden unexplored lakes, and rivers that run for hundreds of miles into a land that time has literally forgotten. No armchair explorer, Gibbons also details several other incredible creatures that by all accounts should have been extinct eons ago, yet are still encountered today by astonished eyewitnesses in the 21st century. Join Bill as he continues on his tireless quest in search of an animal that could well be the most important scientific discovery of this century!
By Mr. Jan E. Culbertson

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Paperback (66 pages)

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Since the beginning of time man has told stories and legends of strange creatures and monsters. These stories and legends are not unique to any one country or continent, they are universal throughout the world. But sometimes animals that were thought to be either folklore legends or extinct are discovered. The Mountain Gorilla was thought to be a myth until 1847, and the Okapi, a half zebra half antilope -like mammal was discovered within the last hundred years. Also the Coelacanth, a prehistoric fish, was thought to be extinct until 1938 when a woman caught one off the coast of Africa. In the United States we have Bigfoot; in Mexico they have the Chupacabra; in Canada the Ogopogo; in Tibet they have the Yeti; and in the West Indies the Loogaroo. In the Congo they have the Mokele-mbembe, a large dinosaur-like animal that inhabits the Congo River. This is the fictional story of an expedition that hopes to either capture or kill the Mokele-mbembe. Capturing or killing any large wild animal is dangerous but when the animal is a throwback to the Mesozoic Period, it is not only dangerous, it is insane!
A Living Dinosaur?: In Search of Mokele-Mbembe
By Roy P. MacKal

Brill Academic Pub
Hardcover (340 pages)

A Living Dinosaur?: In Search of Mokele-Mbembe
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Do strange, large land animals unknown to science exist in remote corners of the globe? Rumours, stories, and reports about queer beasts located in the deadly unexplored swamps of Central West Africa have surfaced periodically for over two hundred years. The Pygmies living in the area describe features which taken at face value are like a sauropod dinosaur. These reports have been taken seriously by Dr. Roy Mackal and provoked him to lead two expeditions to look for signs of the huge creatures referred to by some Africans as Mokele-nbembe. This book describes his expeditions into the Likouala region of the People's Republic of the Congo. They did not result in the capture or undoubted sighting of the Mokele-nbembe, but did not indicate that large unknown animals await discovery in this region, one of the largest biiopreserves in the world, still largely unexplored by westerners. In addition to the very full account of Mokele-nbembe, which Dr. Mackal believes could indeed be a kind of sauropod dinosaur, the book analyses reports of other still-known creatures inhabiting the Likouala swamps. These analyses are detailed, thorough, and provocative, leading us to conclude that there may, indeed, be several different members of the animal kingdom awaiting discovery in this vast and inhospitable region.
Mokele-Mbembe: Fact or Fiction? (Creature Scene Investigation)
By Rick Emmer

Brand: Chelsea House Pub (L)
Library Binding (104 pages)

Mokele-Mbembe: Fact or Fiction? (Creature Scene Investigation)
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According to local legend, a modern-day African dinosaur called Mokele-mbembe lurks in the murky waters of the Congo Basin rainforest. This elephant-sized version of Diplodocus kills hippos, elephants, and humans that invade its territory in Lake Tele and vine-choked Likouala Swamp. Many cryptozoological expeditions have been conducted in this inhospitable jungle with the sole purpose of finding a living, breathing specimen of a type of animal that should have gone extinct 65 million years ago. In Mokele-mbembe: Fact or Fiction?, take a look at the evidence dinosaur hunters have collected, and decide whether Mokele-mbembe is a real animal or just a figment of the imagination.
Drums Along the Congo: On the Trail of Mokele-Mbembe, the Last Living Dinosur
By Rory Nugent

Open Road Distribution
Released: 2016-05-03
Kindle Edition (222 pages)

Drums Along the Congo: On the Trail of Mokele-Mbembe, the Last Living Dinosur
Product Description:
In the heart of the Congo is rumored to live a dinosaur called Mokele-Mbembe, or the god-beast. A handful of scientific expeditions have searched for it over the years with little success, but Nugent relied less on science than a desire to document the obscure. He made his way by dugout canoe and foot to Lake Tele, reputed home of the brontosaurus-like creature. It’s an environment little changed since the age of dinosaurs and he spent weeks paddling and trekking the area. He finally spotted a periscope-shaped object moving through the water. But when he tried to get closer, his guides threatened to shoot him, explaining that the “the god can approach man, but man never approaches the god.” Nugent’s photographs have been reprinted hundreds of times by those who believe in the god-beast. Drums Along the Congo merited inclusion on “Best 50 Books of the Year” list compiled by every major US newspaper.
The Lost World: A Retelling
By Brent Saltzman

The Daily Marvel
Released: 2012-06-26
Kindle Edition (274 pages)

The Lost World: A Retelling
Product Description:
For centuries, stories have emanated from the Congo of mysterious animals roaming the swamps. Expeditions have turned up enormous, dinosaur-like footprints while others have not come back at all. No one is quite sure what's hiding in the unexplored regions of the African jungle, but one thing is for certain. It is a place like no place on Earth. A world lost in time. A place where monsters dwell.

A modern retelling of Arthur Conan Doyle's classic novel, full of thrills, action, and suspense along with extensive research regarding the very real Mokele-Mbembe legends of the Congo region, "The Lost World: A Retelling" is an adventure not to be missed.
Extreme Expeditions: Travel Adventures Stalking the World’s Mystery Animals
By Adam Davies

Anomalist Books
Released: 2010-08-29
Kindle Edition (164 pages)

Extreme Expeditions: Travel Adventures Stalking the World’s Mystery Animals
Product Description:
Does a dinosaur exist in the Congo?

Does a Yeti-like creature live in the jungles of Sumatra?

Does a fearsome Death Worm inhabit the deserts of Mongolia?

Explorer Adam Davies has traveled some of the most dangerous places in the world in search of these and other supposedly mythical beasts. In this fascinating account of his adventures, you'll read how he was shot at in the Congo, arrested and interrogated by the Mongolian Army in the Gobi Desert, filmed Norway's Nessie as it charged across a lake, and made world news when leading scientists backed his claims that a “jungle Yeti” exists!

ADAM DAVIES has been described as an “explorer,” “adventurer,” and “cryptozoologist.” But whatever the label, there can be no doubt that he has crossed some of the most inhospitable and unexplored parts of the world in an effort to bring back evidence of often legendary beasts. When not on expedition, he is a mildmannered Civil Servant living in Manchester in the United Kingdom. He spends most of his spare time and all of his money searching for mysterious creatures. Both his quests and successes have made headlines around the world.
No Mercy: A Journey Into the Heart of the Congo
By Redmond O'Hanlon

Released: 1998-06-30
Multicolor Paperback (480 pages)

No Mercy: A Journey Into the Heart of the Congo
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Lit with humor, full of African birdsong and told with great narrative force, No Mercy is the magnum opus of "probably the finest writer of travel books in the English language,"  as Bill Bryson wrote in Outside, "and certainly the most daring."  

Redmond O'Hanlon has journeyed among headhunters in deepest Borneo with the poet James Fenton, and amid the most reticent, imperilled and violent tribe in the Amazon Basin with a night-club manager. This, however, is his boldest journey yet. Accompanied by Lary Shaffer--an American friend and animal behaviorist, a man of imperfect health and brave decency--he enters the unmapped swamp-forests of the People's Republic of the Congo, in search of a dinosaur rumored to have survived in a remote prehistoric lake.

The flora and fauna of the Congo are unrivalled, and with matchless passion O'Hanlon describes scores of rare and fascinating animals: eagles and parrots, gorillas and chimpanzees, swamp antelope and forest elephants. But as he was repeatedly warned, the night belongs to Africa, and threats both natural (cobras, crocodiles, lethal insects) and supernatural (from all-powerful sorcerers to Samalé, a beast whose three-clawed hands rip you across the back) make this a saga of much fear and trembling. Omnipresent too are ecological depredations, political and tribal brutality, terrible illness and unnecessary suffering among the forest pygmies, and an appalling waste of human life throughout this little-explored region.

An elegant, disturbing and deeply compassionate evocation of a vanishing world, extraordinary in its depth, scope and range of characters, No Mercy is destined to become a landmark work of travel, adventure and natural history. A quest for the meaning of magic and the purpose of religion, and a celebration of the comforts and mysteries of science, it is also--and above all--a powerful guide to the humanity that prevails even in the very heart of darkness.

From the Hardcover edition.
A la recherche du Mokélé-Mbembé
By Michel Ballot

Editions du Trésor
Released: 2014-05-15

A la recherche du Mokélé-Mbembé
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Voilà plus d’un siècle que de nombreux témoignages pygmées attestent de l'existence d'un mystérieux animal qui habiterait les rivières d'Afrique centrale… Décrit par les habitants de la région comme une sorte de rhinocéros à queue de crocodile et à tête de serpent, l’animal mesurerait 15 mètres de long et ressemblerait un dinosaure. Bien qu’aucun spécimen n’ait à ce jour été découvert, Michel Ballot est bel et bien convaincu de son existence et traque à travers la jungle les preuves qui permettront de la démontrer.
Le Mokélé-mbembé (French Edition)
By Pierre Salvignol

pierre Salvignol
Released: 2012-02-21
Kindle Edition (226 pages)

Le Mokélé-mbembé (French Edition)
Product Description:
Une jeune crypto zoologue passionnée entend parler du Mokélé-mbembé, un monstre de légende africaine.
Elle entreprend une expédition dans le nord Congo pour prouver son existence.
Elle y rencontre un géologue minier parti en mission au Congo pour rechercher du minerai d’uranium.
Dans un climat électrique de conflit ethnique précurseur de génocide, Leurs deux destins vont se joindre, se
confondre, et l’objet de leur passion commune va les faire disparaitre.

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