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Prehistoric Animal Analogue

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From top to bottom: Aerodactyl - Pteranodon, Archeops - Archaeopteryx, Aurorus - Amargasaurus, Tyrantrum - Tyrannosaurus rex, Cranidos - Pachycephalosaurus, Shieldon - Protoceratops, Kabuto - Horseshoe Crab, Omanyte - Ammonite, Anorith - Anomalocaris
Extinct animals have captivated wonder in fiction since their discovering and introduction in pop culture — the idea of strange and alien animals like dinosaurs, saber-toothed cats and giant insects actually existing outside of story books has led to countless stories imagining how their life was like, or what would happen if they had survived extinction or were, somehow, brought to the present.

However, the presence these animals leave in media can also be seen in fictional species not intended to represent them. When designing fantastical or extraterrestrial creatures, several creators use animals as inspiration, often several aspects of different ones, in order to make them more plausible and believable. Between these, extinct animals attract much attention for being unfamiliar and otherworldly, but still recognizable to the audience. In this way, when making the monsters and Kaijus of a setting vaguely dinosaur-like, for example, the audience can still accept them as functioning beings despite their unconventional and almost alien appearance, as they have been based on beings that once existed and are somewhat recognizable to the public. In short, because dinosaurs and other creatures are seen as mysterious, given the limited information on them, there are less barriers of reality to follow in fiction without damaging the audience's Willing Suspension of Disbelief, and the fact that prehistoric animals are portrayed as stronger, scarier and more ferocious gives more inspiration for fictional designs. Many times, the real ancient animals are already so alien-looking that creators might not even have to change much beyond their name, which is also one of the reasons for the popularity of the Insectoid Aliens and Octopoid Aliens tropes.

Since such creatures aren't supposed to represent real-life animals In-Universe, this trope isn't necessarily related to Artistic License – Paleontology. The designs, however, can be based on inaccurate and outdated depictions of said animals, be it because the work in question was made in a time in which those representations were thought to be accurate or simply because the creator believed that portrayal would be better suited for the setting and story they wanted to tell. Also, keep in mind that this trope is about inspiration, not superficial similarities — not every giant snake is necessarily based on Titanoboa, not every big bear is based on cave bears and so on, so context is an important tip to keep an eye on.

Super-Trope to T. Rexpy, when monsters are particularly inspired by Tyrannosaurus rex, arguably one of the most famous extinct animals in History. See also Prehistoric Monster, for when the wonder for prehistoric animals leads to works portraying them as much stronger, ferocious and dangerous than modern ones, Dinosaurs Are Dragons, for works portraying dinosaurs as similar to dragons, and Notzilla, for characters based on or parodying the already dinosaur-inspired Godzilla.

Compare Whateversaurus, when the creature is supposed to be a fictional prehistoric species, often a dinosaur, and Fantastic Fauna Counterpart, when fictional species occupy the same niches and stereotypes that of real ones.

For actual information about prehistoric critters, see Prehistoric Life.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Kirara from Inuyasha is based on the Japanese yokai cat spirit called a nekomata, and she can transform into a larger form that resembles a flaming sabertooth cat with two tails. Additionally, the Mook level members of the demon bird tribe are clearly thinly-veiled pterosaurs rather than any sort of bird.

    Fan Works 
  • Realistic Pokémon: Not only do the Fossil Pokémon make appearances (so far Tyrantrum, Tyrunt, Archen, Bastiodon, and Cranidos, plus non-dinosaur Aerodactyl) but several Pokémon that aren't (or at least not entirely) based on dinosaurs are also depicted this way.
    • Druddigon and Abomasnow are portrayed as being therizinosaurids and are closely related.
    • Magmar (and Golduck, apparently) appear to be raptor-like theropods that have ducklike beaks.
    • Groudon resembles a mix between an ankylosaur and a theropod.
    • Yveltal looks like a giant version of Yi (a dinosaur with pterosaur-like wings) in its wing structure.
    • Reshiram is based on a primitive bird, like Archaeopteryx.
    • Aggron is portrayed as a ceratopsian, even being alluded to as a relative of Bastiodon.
    • Scyther looks like a generic theropod, though seeing as the canon Scyther looks kind of like a raptor, this kind of makes sense.
    • Haxorus and Tyranitar are portrayed as this as well, though they were already based on dinosaurs in canon.

    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Godzilla: Most of the giant monsters of the franchise take inspiration in prehistoric animals — especially dinosaurs —, depicting them as ancient and otherwordly beasts. This is often justified in-universe in some continuities due to the kaijus being mutated descendants or otherwise related to the animals they were based on.
    • Godzilla himself was originally visually inspired by several different dinosaurs depictions of the time and had origins as a surviving fictional species mutated by atomic radiation, possessing a bipedal position, long tail, erect tripodal posture like theropod dinosaurs were believed to have had at the time, back plates and tail similar to the ones of stegosaurids, sharp teeth and reptilian skin. The art director of the original movie Akira Watanabe combined attributes of Tyrannosaurus rex , Iguanodon, Stegosaurus and alligators when making the character's striking design.
    • Godzilla's first opponent, Anguirus, is instead based on Ankylosaurus, while his head is inspired by ceratopsids such as Styracosaurus, with several horns on top of his head. He also has five brains across his body, possibly a reference to the outdated hypothesis of Stegosaurus and sauropods needing a second brain in order to coordinate their large bodies
    • Rodan is similarly based on how pterosaurs were portrayed at the time, as a giant beaked reptilian flyer with leathery wings and, in many appearances, a crest that resembles the one of the pterosaur Pteranodon. In fact, his original Japanese name "Radon" is derived from Pteranodon.
    • Like Godzilla, Titanosaurus from Terror Of Mecha Godzilla was also inspired by dinosaurs. Curiously, he shares his name with a real sauropod dinosaur, although he shares most of his design with spinosaurids such as Spinosaurus due to his aquatic adaptations, relatively thin and crocodile-like snout and dorsal sail-like fin.
    • In Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019), Behemoth is a mammalian kaiju with the head of a wooly mammoth and the body similar to the one of a ground sloth.
  • The Lord of the Rings:
    • The mumakil are giant elephants portrayed with four tusks, similar to the extinct proboscidean Stegotetrabelodon.
    • In The Hobbit trilogy, a giant elk ridden by Thranduil as a steed is inspired by the large prehistoric deer Megaloceros, particularly the giant antlers. Similar antlers can also be seen being carried by hunters in the Amazon Prime prequel series The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.

  • Star Wars: Throughout the franchise, several species have been based on dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals in order to make them more alien and strange-looking.
    • The dewback, large beasts of burden of Tatooine, are very similar to quadrupedal dinosaurs, and the Krayt Dragon skeleton seen by C-3PO and R2-D2 in A New Hope, with a long neck and relatively tiny skull, has great resemblance to a sauropod.
    • The Dactillon is a flying monster based on common portrayals of pterosaurs. The Ruping from The Clone Wars also are reminiscent of them, even walking quadrupedally like the animals are believed to have done.
    • In Attack of the Clones, the Jedi Coleman Trembor is inspired by a Parasaurolophus, having reptilian skin and a huge crest.
    • The Eopie is based on outdated depictions of the Cenozoic mammal Macrauchenia, when this relative of modern camels was believed to have had a small trunk.
    • The mounts of the Gungans, the Kaadu, resemble hadrosaurs without forelimbs, possessing the duck-bill associated with the skulls of hadrosaurids.
    • While the Tiss'shar from the Expanded Universe can be more lizard or amphibian-like Depending on the Artist, they started to get an appearance very cleary inspired by Jurassic Park velociraptors in the comic book Empire 31. The Ssi-ruu are also based on theropod dinosaurs.
  • Zathura: The Zorgons are partially inspired by depictions of raptors, being bipedal lizard-like human-sized aliens with mouths full of teeth.

  • Gor: Tharlarion is a blanket term for a variety of species that resemble dinosaurs, pterosaurs, and plesiosaurs. Many of them are domesticated and serve a variety of purposes.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: We're shown mammoths and dire wolves living beyond the Wall, and a case could be made for the giants being the extinct ape, the Gigantopithecus. The unicorns of Skagos have also been theorised to be the extinct Elasmotherium. At one point a reptile from the jungles of Sothoryos that sounds an awful lot like a Velociraptor is also described.

    Live-Action TV 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Warhammer 40,000: Various planets are home to a variety of dinosaur-like animals. The Exodite faction of Aeldari, who call them "dragons", even use them as mounts.
  • Warhammer Fantasy: The Lizardman army includes a number of pseudo-dinosaurian monsters to occupy the niche of other factions' fantasy beasts. These include the T. Rexpy Carnosaurs, Cold Ones (scaly, spiky dromeosaur lookalikes), Bastiladons (based on ankylosaurs with greatly exaggerated armor), Stegadons (pseudo-ceratopsians with armored skin, spiked mace tails, and omnivorous diets), Tetradons and Ripperdactyls (two variants of Terror-dactyl), and Troglodons (albino, cave-dwelling, eyeless poison-spitting predators visually based on spinosaurs).
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Third edition's first Monster Manual featured the Destrachan and Yrthaknote , two peculiar creatures that resemble prehistoric animals (respectively, a horse-sized theropod and a Pteranodon) adapted for cave life. Both are blind, but can echolocate and attack with sound. While the yrthak has animal-level intelligence, the Destrachan is much more intelligent and evil. Both creatures also appear in Pathfinder.
    • The first Monster Manual of 3rd Edition also featured the Digester, a man-sized theropod-like creature that could squirt stomach acid at its enemies from a nozzle-like structure on its tubular head. Also from the same book is the Ethereal Maraudernote , which resembles a blue, human-sized theropod with a Flower Mouth and has the ability to move between the Material and Ethereal Planes at will to ambush prey.
    • 3rd Edition's Monster Manual 3 introduced a whole set of new, speculative dinosaurs, including the Battletitan (a magically-created hybrid of various large theropods, typically used as beasts of warfare), the Bloodstriker (a very strange ankylosaurid-like creature with corrosive blood), the Fleshraker (a Velociraptor-like creature with venomous claws), and the Spindlespitter (a smaller theropod that spits venom). Note also that most of the other Monster Manuals published stats for a lot of real dinosaurs as well, so the Fleshraker and the Velociraptor could both appear in a single campaign.
    • The Epic Level Handbook features the Prismasaurus, a creature that resembles a big ornithopod dinosaur like an Iguanodon or Hadrosaurus, but with the club tail of an Ankylosaurus and a ridge of prismatic scales running along its spine. It has incredible magical power, and is tougher than most dragons.
  • The writers of Pathfinder are clearly big fans of cryptoozology, and a few of the crypids that appear in-game as monsters are clearly modeled on prehistoric animals.
    • The Mokele-Mbembe appear as violent and carnivorous Aquatic Sauropods.
    • The Water Orm loosely resembles a freshwater plesiosaur, but is actually a Magical Beast that can transform itself into water to avoid detective, and is capable of supernatural stealth.
    • Because Pathfinder began as a spin-off of Dungeons & Dragons' third edition, it also has its own versions of the Yrthak and Destrachan, mentioned above.

    Video Games 
  • God of War
    • God of War: Chains of Olympus: The Sphinxes are enemies that, while resembling more their classic appearance as half-woman half-lion winged beasts in concept art, have a final appearance in the game itself closer to saber-toothed cats, due to being completely feline and possessing oversized fangs.
    • God of War (PS4): The facial features of most of the dragons of the game resemble those of ceratopsian dinosaurs such as Triceratops, possessing frills, beaks and horns on their faces.
  • Horizon Zero Dawn: While most copy off mammals or birds, several machines' designs are influenced by the body structures of various dinosaurs, and the idea that the machines rule the world, instead of the humans, also plays into that. There's a recording of a conversation between GAIA and Elisabet wherein GAIA expresses sorrow upon learning of the Cretaceous-Tertiary Extinction Event that killed the dinosaurs and other megafauna, which may explain the predominance of this animal type.
  • Metroid:
    • Ridley, one of the main antagonists of the franchise, is a reptilian alien with a draconian and pterosaur-like appearance, possessing the crest and beak associated with Pteranodon.
    • Metroid: Other M has a recurring Mini-Boss enemy in the Pyrosphere that resembles a giant trilobite, even more so when it moves around by crawling. It is immune to Samus jumping on it and can only be killed by shooting a weak point on its underbelly when it lunges to attack.
  • Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor: The Caragors are feline-like monsters created for the game that possess large visible tucks, akin to saber-toothed cats like Smilodon; they were said by the creators to be analogous to felines like lions just as wargs are analogous to wolves.
  • Pokémon: Most installments feature "Fossil Pokémon," based on real-world prehistoric animals and revived from fossils:
    • Pokémon Red and Blue introduces Omanyte, Omastar (both ammonites), Kabuto (which combines trilobites with "living fossil" horseshoe crabs), Kabutops (eurypterid), and Aerodactyl (pterosaur).
    • Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire introduces Lileep, Cradily (both crinoids), Anorith, and Armaldo (both Anomalocaris).
    • Pokémon Diamond and Pearl introduces Craniados (Micropachycephalosaurus), Rampardos (Pachycephalosaurus), Shieldon (Protoceratops), and Bastiodon (Chasmosaurus).
    • Pokémon Black and White introduces Tirtouga (Protostega), Carracosta (Archelon), Archen (Archaeopteryx), and Archeops (which combines elements of an Archaeopteryx and a Microraptor).
    • Pokémon X and Y introduces Tyrunt (a mix of Tyrannosaurus and Gorgosaurus), Tyrantrum (a mix of Tyrannosaurus and Cryolophosaurus), Amaura, and Aurourus (both Amargasaurus).
    • Pokémon Sword and Shield introduces Fossil Pokémon that intentionally mash together elements of random prehistoric animals with little rhyme or reason, riffing on improper reconstructions of dinosaurs that was common in early paleontology (which first developed in Britain, the basis for the Galar region). Forming them requires mixing different fossils together, which can result in either a Dracozolt (dromaeosaurid + stegosaurian), an Arctozolt (dromaeosaurid + plesiosaur), a Dracovish (Dunkleosteus + stegosaurian), and an Arctovish (Dunkleosteus + plesiosaur).
  • Ratchet & Clank: One of the more recurring planets is Sargasso, whose environment is mainly swamps and dense jungles and its fauna includes two dinosaur-like creatures; the fearsome T. Rexpy Grunthors and the docile Gentle Giant Sauropods Troglosaurs.
  • World of Warcraft:
    • The game has a Lost World named Un'Goro Crater, where almost every monster is based on a real-life prehistoric animal. The Stegodon is a Stegosaurus with a larger head and rhino horns, the Diemetradon is a Dimetrodon with six legs, the Pterrordax is an old-fashioned, inaccurate pterosaur, and the Devilsaur is a T. Rexpy with giant spikes on its back.
    • Almost all breeds of big cat have saber teeth, including striped tigers, cheetahs, lynxes, and panthers. Saberon do as well. This also included lions originally, although the updated lion model in Cataclysm does not (probably because The Alliance uses a lion as its symbol... a lion that didn't have saber teeth). It goes with the general aesthetic for most animals in the game, where they take a real-life animal and slap extra horns, teeth, and/or legs on to it.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY: The continent of Solitas is a frozen polar wasteland that is difficult for both humans and Grimm to survive in. Most of the Grimm that do exist there have designs based on prehistoric creatures. For example, Sabyrs are based on sabre-tooth cats, Megoliaths are based on Woolly Mammoths, Centinels are giant centipedes based loosely on the extinct millipede genus Arthropleura, and the Teryx is a dromaeosaurid with pterosaur wings instead of feathers.

    Web Original 
  • Bosun's Journal: A number of posthuman species end up resembling bygone animals to various degrees.
    • The ancestors of the desert ravers were designed to be essentially mammalian theropods.
    • The spindly stabbers strongly resemble flightless azhdarchid pterosaurs. They are descended from flying posthumans who became secondarily flightless, walking on the knuckles of their huge wing-derived arms, and the triangular heads atop their long necks have incisors elongated to form a beak.
    • The woolly manoths, megafaunal grazers with thick hairy coats and large, sail-like ears, strongly resemble woolly mammoths.
  • Hamster's Paradise: All vertebrates on the planet are descended from hamsters but some do manage to resemble various prehistoric organisms thanks to convergent evolution.
    • One branch of the kangaroo-like boingos develops into a lineage of walking animals called podotheres which resemble mammalian ornithomimid dinosaurs. One group goes on to become raptor-like predators while some even evolve into bird-like flyers. It goes even further in the original draft, after a mass extinction they become even more like dinosaurs with some becoming similar to sauropods, tyrannosaurs and hadrosaurs. At the same time some members of a clade of scaly lizard-like hamsters grow larger and evolve to resemble armored dinosaurs like ceratopsids, stegosaurs and ankylosaurs.
    • The leviahams are marine predators with large jaws and swim using four paddle-like flippers, much like pliosaurs.
    • The hammoths, as the name suggests, are based off of mammoths, being huge shaggy herbivores that live in actic environments and have large, elaborate tusks. The main difference being that they don't have trunks like mammoths do.
    • Two downplayed example would be the daggarats and the fangaroos, which dispatch their prey using elongated fangs like sabertooth cats. However, this is mostly where the similarities end, especially for the daggarats as they are dog-like endurance hunters that stab and slash prey using a single massive incisor made from two fused teeth, although their dark mauler descendents have two fangs making them a bit closer. The fangaroo is of a hybrid version of this trope as they are large ambush predators with a pair of saberteeth much like Smilodon but are a member of the aforementioned dinosaur-like podotheres.
    • On the subcontinent of North Westerna, the apex predator is the terror bird-like pterowrist, which is a descendant of the above-mentioned bird-like podotheres that made it to the landmass. However, in a case of Bizarre Sexual Dimorphism, its only the females who look like terror birds while the males are condor-like flyers. By the middle Temperocene, one offshoot of the pterowrists has evolved into the pterowrex, a large theropod-like predator that hunts the mammoth-like maustodons. It shares the sexual dimorphism of its relatives so the males are more like storks.
  • Neopets: Tyrannia, being a prehistoric world once isolated from the rest of Neopia, is hope to many pets and petpets inspired by prehistoric creatures. There are dinosaurs like the Grarrl and Chomby, and petpets that resemble various creatures like a saber-toothed cat, the Velociraptor, and the woolly mammoth. There's even a beast that resembles a pterodactyl.
  • Serina: A number of the evolved descendants of canaries develop into analogues of non-avian dinosaurs:
    • The pseudornithopods, a flightless group, redevelop extensive tails with feathered fans at the ends and lips along their beaks, resulting in creatures visually very reminiscent of generalized small ornithopods.
    • The serestriders, gigantic, long-necked and legged moa-like herbivores, end up developing into sauropod analogues. One particular branch of their family tree, the cragbacks, develop low-slung profiles, armored hides and territorial attitudes reminiscent of ankylosaurs. Alongside their main predators, the T. Rexpy tyrant serins, this leads to the savannahs of the late Thermocene developing a notably Mesozoic flair.
    • Much, much later in Serina's history, a group of giant quadrupedal birds called the boomsingers become rough brachiosaurid sauropod mimics thanks to their long legs, tall necks and high-browsing habits — the only major thing missing is that they lack tails.
    • The gantuans of the Hothouse Age, who appear some millions of years after the boomsingers' extinction, are much closer to the bygone sauropods — outside of having beaks, giving live birth, and being boar-like omnivores in diet, they share almost precisely the same body shape, size range, and rough ecological niche.