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Living Dinosaurs

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Some writers think having dinosaurs in a story is inherently cool, but in this case dinosaurs were not brought back with cloning technology nor due to time travel. Dinosaurs just survive the mass KT extinction up to modern (or even future) times.

In a sense, this is Truth in Television. Birds are scientifically considered a type of dinosaurs, which means that dinosaurs are indeed present in the modern day. However, this trope deals with non-avian dinosaurs, including the giant beasts usually associated with the word "dinosaur".

The in-universe explanation for them to be mostly undiscovered all this time often involves a Lost World somewhere in the far and unexplored regions of Earth, or even Beneath the Earth or inside a Hollow World, where dinosaurs manage to remain untouched, or in some cases, on a different planet. In some cases they evolved into something new, often Reptilian Conspiracy or Ultraterrestrials.

Although this trope uses the term dinosaur, due to Artistic License – Paleontology it is not uncommon that non-dinosaur prehistoric beasts may also be included as examples, like plesiosaurs and pterosaurs. But remember, dinosaurs and cavemen living together was a common trope in old media, but is more a case of a writer's mistake than the intentional use of this trope.

A Sub-Trope of Not So Extinct, and very commonly use in works with Our Cryptids Are More Mysterious; supertrope to Mokele-Mbembe. Compare with Stock Ness Monster (often portrayed as a surviving plesiosaur) and Dinosaurs Are Dragons (for the idea that dinosaurs actually inspired the dragon myth). Domesticated Dinosaurs may result if people manage to tame them. Overlaps with Medieval Prehistory in works that use a real medieval setting (as opposed to a medievalish fantasy land).


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Dinosaur Sanctuary: The backstory states that a small population of surviving non-avian dinosaurs was discovered living on a remote island in 1946, and their populations were grown through captive breeding. However, in 1987, a scientist discovered a way to also revive long-extinct dinosaurs through genetic-engineering.
  • Doraemon: Nobita and the Knights on Dinosaurs have Doraemon and gang discovering an underground world populated entirely by dinosaurs, having escaped the cataclysm 65 million years ago. The troodontids in particular have evolved into humanoid forms with their own culture, technology, and have plans to invade the surface world in an attempt to reclaim it.
  • In Dragon Ball, dinosaurs are seen freely roaming around the modern day world, despite Beerus claiming to have wiped them out the last time he visited Earth. Some of them are anthropomorphic.
  • Getter Robo: The Dinosaur Empire.
  • My Girlfriend is a T-Rex is set in a world where dinosaurs, pterosaurs and marine reptiles evolved into human-creatures and live alongside humans in society.
  • Several episodes of the Pokémon: The Series anime have dealt with the cast encountering living examples of normally extinct fossil Pokémon. Sometimes it's explained by cloning or time travel, but other times it doesn't get any explanation at all.
  • One episode of Sailor Moon has Chibiusa befriending a living baby plesiosaur.

    Comic Books 
  • All-Star Superman has the Subterranosauri, a society of humanoid dinosaurs living at the Earth's core.
  • In the DC Universe, dinosaurs survived on Dinosaur Island. This was originally the setting for The War That Time Forgot series, and has subsequently provided the setting for countless stories allowing superheroes to battle dinosaurs.
  • The Antarctic Press comic Dino Wars said intelligent dinosaurs evacuated the Earth millions of years ago but are now back to reclaim it.
  • In the Disney Ducks Comic Universe, dinosaurs and other Mesozoic reptiles still exist in an Amazonian region called Forbidden Valley.
  • In the Marvel Universe, dinosaurs survived in a Lost World, hidden in Antarctica, known as the Savage Land.
  • Red Nails: The comic adaptation of the short story in the Conan the Barbarian comic book also features Conan fighting a surviving dinosaur.
  • Tragg and the Sky Gods: The presence of dinosaurs alongside cavemen is handwaved as being only an isolated pocket of ecology in the region where Tragg's tribe dwelt, and they were gone in most of the world.
  • The Warlord (DC): The Lost World of Skataris is overrun by a variety of prehistoric creatures from all geological eras; most notably dinosaurs.

    Comic Strips 
  • Dilbert introduces dinosaur characters after Dilbert proves mathematically that it's impossible for all the dinosaurs to have become extinct. Turns out they've just been hiding this entire time. (Incidentally, Dilbert's conclusion is approximately correct: some dinosaurs survived by, more or less, evolving into birds)

    Film — Animated 
  • The Good Dinosaur takes place in a world where the dinosaurs never went extinct and developed a primitive society, while humans remained wild, feral creatures.
  • In Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Mesozoic creatures such as dinosaurs survived the K-T extinction in a Lost World beneath Earth's surface, which the protagonists, a gang of prehistoric mammals, visit.
  • Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf Film Series:
    • Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: The Tiger Prowess utilizes this trope as part of a big reveal. All those times that Counselor is called a gecko? Not true. He's actually a dinosaur who wants to revert the world back to the prehistoric era. He also summons a dodo to attack the goats after he reveals this.
    • Moon Castle: The Space Adventure: The moon has dinosaurs on it in this film. One of the locations Wandi teleports Weslie to is the top of a T. rex's head, the dino being in Dino Canyon.
  • Up: Muntz mentions that in his youth he battled an Arsinotherium, a prehistoric relative of elephants that lived about 30 million years ago, in the modern age.

    Film — Live Action 
  • Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend: A couple of young scientists discover the last remaining sauropods in the African jungle. Based on the myth of Mokele-Mbembe, a Real Life African cryptid thought by locals to be a surviving race of brontosaurs.
  • The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms has a dinosaur, a four-legged amphibious predator called the Rhedosaurus, that was frozen in polar ice long ago, finally thawed out by bomb testing in the Arctic. The Professor repeatedly comments on how incredibly improbable this is, before the hero is able to convince him that unlikely or not, it happened.
  • The Beast of Hollow Mountain starts off as a Western film, then makes an abrupt Genre Shift into a monster movie when the creature killing livestock around a small Mexican town is revealed to be an Allosaurus. It beat the more famous Valley of the Gwangi to the "cowboys vs. dinosaurs" concept by a few years.
  • The Crater Lake Monster is an especially ridiculous example, as the movie opens with the monster (a plesiosaur) hatching from an egg that has apparently sat at the bottom of the lake, undisturbed and unhatched, for sixty-five million years. Just sitting there.
  • The Giant Behemoth: Nuclear waste dumping in the ocean awakens a giant marine dinosaur known as a Paleosaurus (resembling a sauropod, except carnivorous), that goes on a rampage through England, now lethally radioactive. The ending implies that it's not the only one of its kind still around to boot.
  • Godzilla and other of his fellow Kaiju have many origins, and sometimes are implied to be surviving dinosaurs or related to them. But the most straight use of this trope was in Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, where Godzilla's origin is retconned as a surviving dinosaur living in an Island of the Pacific that interrupted an American-Japanese battle. Later mutated due to radiation from a hydrogen bomb test on the island.
  • King Dinosaur has astronauts landing on a planet that is younger than Earth, and therefore, still has dinosaurs (or rather, big lizards with plastic fins) on it.
  • King Kong (1933) and its sequel The Son of Kong shows Skull Island, an island in the middle of the Pacific with giant gorillas and living dinosaurs. The remake King Kong (2005) kept this idea. Both incarnations had the island suddenly sink into the ocean due to an earthquake a few years later, taking all the dinosaurs and prehistoric animals with it.
  • Kong: Skull Island invokes but mostly averts this trope. This version of Skull Island is home to some pretty strange creatures, a few of which - especially the Skullcrawlers - are distinctly reptilian, and we do see a few creatures that resemble small pterosaurs and what appears to be the skull of a gigantic triceratops-like animal - but no living dinosaurs ever actually show up.
  • The Last Dinosaur: Famous B-Movie about an Egomaniac Hunter discovering surviving dinosaurs somewhere deep under the North Pole, taking a crew there to hunt the ultimate hunter (aside from him): the last Tyrannosaurus rex.
  • The Land Unknown has a Lost World of dinosaurs underneath the South Pole.
  • In Palm Springs, a herd of sauropods appear - apparently as a result of Time Travel — in the modern California desert.
  • The film Planet of the Dinosaurs follows a group of astronauts who discover a planet where dinosaurs still live.
  • Pterodactyl: An earthquake inside a mountain near the Turkish–Armenian border shakes loose a clutch of pterosaur eggs that somehow survived perfectly intact and dormant for millions of years, causing them to hatch. At the end of the movie, once all the pterosaurs are dealt with, an actual dinosaur is also shown living inside the mountain.
  • Robot Monster has scenes of dinosaurs (actually Stock Footage, mainly from the caveman movie One Million B.C.) that appear throughout the movie and appear prominently in the marketing, but have no bearing on the main plot and never interact with anyone else. Given that the movie is set After the End, these scenes are a true Mind Screw that is only resolved when the story turns out to be All Just a Dream, tenuously justifying their presence.
  • Super Mario Bros. (1993): After the meteorite's strike 65 million years ago dinosaurs survive in a separated dimension created by the impact and evolved into Human Aliens.
  • Teenage Caveman and Yor: The Hunter from the Future are both ostensibly set in Hollywood Prehistory, dealing with primitive humans living in the shadows of dinosaurs, but via the exact same twist ending both movies turn out to actually be set After the End in a Future Primitive world. How the dinosaurs have come back is never explained.
  • The Valley of Gwangi: In The Wild West a group of cowboys discover the eponymous valley where dinosaurs somehow survive into the modern age.

  • In Anonymous Rex some dinosaurs survived the asteroid and evolved into forms that could cram into latex human suits, Hard Light Holographic Disguises in the Sci-fi channel film.
  • The Dinotopia series is all about a lost island where surviving, intelligent dinosaurs and shipwrecked humans have formed a fairly utopian society.
  • Doc Savage: In The Land of Terror, Doc and his friends follow a corpse-laden trail to a prehistoric crater and mortal combat with dinosaurs!
  • Ray Bradbury's short story The Fog Horn, is about two lighthouse keepers marvelling at a giant aquatic dinosaur that survived extinction by hibernating in the ocean abyss, which visits the site once a year on the exact same night. They speculate that it's probably the Last of Its Kind and mistook the lighthouse's foghorn for a mating call of its own species, as its roar sounds exactly like it. The story was loosely adapted into The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms.
  • Probably the Ur-Example is Jules Verne's Journey to the Center of the Earth, where three 19th century explorers witness a plesiosaur and an ichthyosaur fight each other in a deep subterranean lake (no actual dinosaurs appear, however, as the book was written before they were popularized).
  • Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World is about a group of explorers discovering living dinosaurs and other prehistoric fauna (including ichthyosaurs, Megaloceros and Toxodon) inhabiting a forested plateau in the South American jungle.
  • North of the Dragonlands by Stephen Dedman is a medieval fantasy in which the fantastic elements are unfamiliar non-magical things that the characters are trying to understand in terms of familiar concepts; the "dragons" are dinosaurs and pterosaurs that have somehow survived from prehistoric times.
  • The Pellucidar series by Edgar Rice Burroughs has a similar premise, with dinosaurs surviving inside the Hollow Earth known by its inhabitants as Pellucidar.
  • Robert J. Sawyer's Quintaglio Ascension series has the eponymous Quintaglios, evolved tyrannosaurs living on the moon of a gas giant, to which they were transplanted from Earth by a godlike entity millions of years ago. They farm herbivorous dinosaurs for food, most of which do not seem to have changed much from their Earth days.
  • Tales of Kaimere is a Speculative Biology project where swarms of lifeforms called magic have been harvesting animals from Earth for hundreds of millions of years and placing them on a select region on the planet of Kaimere. The descendants of non-avian dinosaurs are among the living fauna in Kaimere.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Chilean puppet show 31 Minutos, one of the songs of the show is Dinosaur Anacleto, the only surviving dinosaur on the Earth that even became a showbiz personality. The song is in general a melancholic one, since the main theme of the song is how lonely Anacleto is because all his dinosaur friends are dead and he wants friends again.
  • Dinosaurs surviving to modern times and developing sapience is the central plot behind the TV show Dinosapien.
  • Recurring culture the Silurians/Sea Devils/Homo reptilianote  in Doctor Who are sentient, vaguely-human-shaped dinosaurs from Earth. In order to escape an expected planetary catastrophe that never materialized, they either left to colonize other planets or went into hibernation deep underground. There have been several violent confrontations between them and the humans who evolved millions of years later and took over "their" planet. In some stories, they even have pet non-sentient dinosaurs.
  • Mystery Hunters: One episode sees Araya investigating whether a supposed living dinosaur is roaming around Colorado with one interviewee claiming she saw one while driving down a road.
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World, a very loose adaptation of Doyle's book, has dinosaurs (and humanoid Reptilians) living in the eponymous Lost World.
  • The Sliders episode "Dinoslide" shows a parallel world where dinosaurs never became extinct, becoming an endangered species.
  • The Voth in the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Distant Origin" are descendants of hadrosaurs that left Earth after discovering space travel, reaching the other extreme of the Galaxy, or Delta Quadrant. However, except for some scientists, they are unaware of their Earthly origins, as their religion says they are natives of that region of space.

    Religion and Myths 
  • Some Creationists believe that non-avian dinosaurs survive up to historical times and co-exist with modern humans. Some even think that dinosaurs still exist and are the origin of several cryptids like the Loch Ness Monster.
  • As mentioned in the film section, some cryptids around the world are thought to be living dinosaurs. The first one was probably the Loch Ness Monster. Africa has several, especially around the Congo region with the Mokèlé-mbèmbé (possibly a surviving sauropod) as the most famous one. There's also the Ropen (an alleged living pterodactyl) in Indonesia. Most modern cryptozoologists do not take these claims seriously and, although they do believe some of these animals could be undiscovered species, most of them do not think they are literally [non-avian] dinosaurs.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Call of Cthulhu book Blood Brothers offers a series of one-off adventures, using the game's rules but unrelated to the main Cthulhu Mythos setting, and mostly pastiching various horror subgenres. One of these, The Land That Time Ignored, opens thus:
    The Land That Time Ignored tells of explorers' adventures in 1932, in a valley filled with giant dinosaurs which just happen to look like iguanas with rubber stuff cemented onto them. The purpose of this scenario is to attempt to recapture the spirit and style of the Lost World type of movie, in which all dinosaurs are flesh-eaters, and there are always beautiful cave-girls to rescue.
  • Claim the Sky: One of the Inner Earth caverns is home to large numbers of otherwise-extinct animals including dinosaurs.
  • Most editions of Dungeons & Dragons (as well as its schism Pathfinder) will offer statblocks for various dinosaurs (and other technically-not-a-dinosaur animals like elasmosaurus and pteranodon), but it's usually up to the Dungeonmaster to work out how they fit into this world. A lot of the pre-written campaigns settings will sequester them in a Lost World, but a few worlds - such as Eberron - have dinosaurs as just another category of animals that roam the world, and are often kept as beasts of burden.

    Video Games 
  • Carnivores is set sometime after the discovery of a planet inhabited by dinosaurs and other prehistoric reptiles and said planet's purchase by a safari company who turn it into a game preserve where the player can hunt any of seven species.
  • In Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2: Yuri's Revenge, the Soviets commandeer the Allied time machine in their campaign but accidentally travel too far back in time to the Cretaceous, where they're attacked by Tyrannosaurs. It's possible to acquire one of them as a unit and take it back to present-day San Francisco.
  • Dino Strike (unrelated to below) is set in the present day, where a mysterious island full of still-living dinosaurs are uncovered by a criminal organization who begins modifying the dinos into their minions via cybernetic implants. You spend the whole game freeing rogue dinosaurs by destroying the implants, and the final stage have you infiltrating the island base to disable their operations.
  • Dino Strike Wii is set in the 1930s, where your protagonist accidentally crashes his plane into a Pacific Island full of dinosaurs who somehow escaped extinction. You then grab a Tommy-Gun and start shooting dinosaur enemies throughout the game.
  • In E.V.O.: Search for Eden, the dinosaurs (except for possibly Life) are killed at the end of the third era, except for a small group you can find in the Land of Survival in the fifth era.
  • In the seventh Lostbelt of Fate/Grand Order, the prime species are Deinos, sentient descendants of non-avian dinosaurs.
  • Oakwood is set in an abandoned campground that turns out to apparently have a prehistoric pocket ecosystem in it. This allowed the dinosaurs within said pocket ecosystem to be able to survive and thrive into the modern day, much to the horror, and later doom, of a seven member group of young campers.
  • Super Robot Wars: Being a Massive Multiplayer Crossover that features the above mentioned Getter Robo, has the Dinosaur Empire as one of the recurring antagonists.
  • Tomb Raider:
    • The first game and its remake has a T. rex and raptors living in a lost valley in Peru.
    • Tomb Raider II has a pair of T. rex living in a secluded area near the Great Wall of China.
    • Tomb Raider III once again features raptors and a T. rex on a South Pacific island, this time being joined by flocks of Compsognathus. The expansion pack has Pteranodons living in a secluded volcanic area.
  • Ys series is set in a Fantasy Counterpart of medieval Europe, so dinosaurs (properly called "Primordials") suddenly appearing is a big deal.
    • In Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana Primordials still inhabit the mysterious Isle of Seiren. They are invulnerable to normal weapons, which becomes a major obstacle for the party. Later it's revealed that existing Primordials didn't survive by themselves, but were recreated by the embodiment of evolution in order to wipe out humanity.
    • In Ys IX: Monstrum Nox the party fights a dragon-like Primordial at one point. It serves as major Foreshadowing, since the game not only doesn't take place on the Isle of Seiren, those Primordials were Ret-Gone at the end of VIII. Turns out, it was recreated from Adol's memories.

  • The Redacverse got human-looking dinosaurs like the Matthewsaurus, still alive in the present day, and the Therrysaurus, who survived as a fossil. Several other dinosaurs also exist, including normal-looking ones, but they aren't all incredibly long-lived.

    Web Videos 
  • The April Fools' Day episode of TierZoo discussed the Loch Ness Monster and the Mokèlé-mbèmbé during its look at cryptid builds. The former was hypothesized to be a surviving Plesiosaur which dominated the oceans back then, while the latter was hypothesized to be a pygmy sauropod from the Congo Jungle. Both were considered to be top-tier cryptid builds, the former due to its huge size and capability to find food easily, the latter because its dwarfism ironically gave it better survivability since it meant a far smaller food requirement than regular sauropods while still being large enough to deter would-be predators.

    Western Animation 


Video Example(s):


Martin's Prehistoric Pal

Martin wakes up to find a large egg on his bed, which a live dinosaur hatches out of.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / LivingDinosaurs

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