Follow TV Tropes


Living Dinosaurs

Go To
Some writers think Everything's Better with Dinosaurs, but in this case dinosaurs were not brought back with cloning technology nor due to time travel. Non-avian dinosaurs just survive the mass KT extinction up until modern (or even future) times.

As dinosaurs are pretty well known, 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 below the surface of the Earth, 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 the Plesiosauria and the Pterosauria. But remember, dinosaurs and cavemen living together was a common trope in old media, but is more a case of Critical Research Failure than the intentional use of this trope.


A Sub-Trope of Not So Extinct, very commonly use in works with Our Cryptids Are More Mysterious, 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 maybe 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). Compare Not So Extinct, which is a similar concept applied to fantasy creatures.



    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • In the Marvel Universe, dinosaurs survived in a Lost World, hidden in Antarctica, known as the Savage Land.
  • 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.
    • All-Star Superman has the Subterranosauri, a society of humanoid dinosaurs living at the Earth's core.
  • In The Warlord, the Lost World of Skataris is overrun by a variety of prehistoric creatures from all geological eras; most notably dinosaurs.
  • The comic adaptation of the Red Nails short story in the Conan the Barbarian comic book also features Conan fighting a surviving dinosaur.
  • The Antarctic Press comic Dino Wars said intelligent dinosaurs evacuated the Earth millions of years ago but are now back to reclaim it.

    Comic Strips 
  • Dilbert introduces dinosaur characters after Dilbert proves mathematically that it's impossible for the dinosaurs to have become totally 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 3: 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.
  • The second Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf film utilizes this trope as part of a big reveal. All those times that Counsoler 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.

    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 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.
  • 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.
  • The film Planet of the Dinosaurs follows a group of astronauts who discover a planet where dinosaurs still live.
  • 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.
    • 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.
  • Super Mario Bros.: After the meteorite's strike 65 million years ago dinosaurs survive in a separated dimension created by the impact and evolved into Human Aliens.
  • The Valley of Gwangi: In The Wild West a group of cowboys discover the eponymous valley where dinosaurs somehow survive into the modern age.
  • 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 Beast from 20,000 Fathoms has a dinosaur that was frozen in polar ice long ago, finally thawed out by bomb testing in the Arctic. The Professor repeatedly comments on how incredibly improbably this is, before the hero is able to convince him that unlikely or not, it happened.
  • Robot Monster has scenes of dinosaurs (actually Stock Footage from the caveman movie ''One Million BC) 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.
  • Teenage Caveman and Yor: The Hunter from the Future are both ostensibly set in 1 Million B.C., 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.
  • In Palm Springs, a herd of sauropods appear - apparently as a result of Time Travel - in modern California.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Pellucidar series by Edgar Rice Burroughs has a similar premise, with dinosaurs surviving inside the Hollow Earth known by its inhabitants as Pellucidar.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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!
  • Red Nails, the last short story of Conan the Barbarian written by Robert E. Howard starts with a dinosaur (named in-universe as dragon) attacking Conan and company.

    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 materialised, 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.
  • The Sliders episode "Dinoslide" shows a parallel world where dinosaurs never became extinct, becoming an endangered species.
  • The Voth in Star Trek: Voyager are descendants of hadrosaurs that left Earth after discovering space travel, reaching the other extreme of the Galaxy, or Delta Quadrant. But, except for some scientists, they are totally unaware of their Earthly origins, as their religion says they are natives of that region of space.
  • 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.

    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.

    Video Games 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Oakwood is set in an abandoned campground that had a pocket ecosystem in it. This allowed the dinosaurs within said pocket ecosystem to be able to survive and thrive into the modern day.
  • 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.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Most editions of Dungeons & Dragons (as well as the unofficial D&D spinoff 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.
  • 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.

  • 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 Video 
  • 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 

    Real Life 
  • Birds are considered to be dinosaurs. It's now accepted by an overwhelming number of biologists that birds are simply a group of flight-capable theropods that survived the mass extinction, especially now that it's been discovered that there were a large number of dinosaur species that had feathers. While birds might not look much like one's concept of dinosaurs, there are several things to bear in mind. Not only were dinosaurs as a whole a very diverse group, but not all dinosaurs evolved into birds; rather birds were just one branch on the family tree. The closer one gets to birds on the family tree, the more bird-like the non-avian dinosaurs look to the point distinguishing between what is an early bird and what is a bird-related non-avian dinosaur is almost impossible. Remember that early birds had mouthfuls of teeth, unfused wing fingers with sharp claws, and long bony tails; essentially looking like scaled down versions of feathered theropod dinosaurs with bigger arms.
    • Additionally, birds still carry the genes for long tails and toothy snouts that most modern species lack, but lack the activator enzymes necessary to develop them. One scientist made dinosaur-faced chicken embryos by accident while doing genetic research.
  • There's a growing theory that some non-avian dinosaurs may have survived into the Paleocene era. Some cryptozoologists connect this theory to modern sightings of non-avian dinosaurs.
  • Contrary to popular misconception however, alligators and crocodiles are not dinosaurs. They and dinosaurs are part of the same family alongside the extinct Pterosaurs, Archosaurs; so they are related but aren't in each other's distinct family line. It be more correct to call them "cousins" of dinosaurs. This relation is actually the reason crocodilian meat tastes like chicken or turkey.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: