Are dragons considered a species of dinosaur


dinosaur (Dinosauria, Greek for terrible lizards) are a group of archosaurs that, with the exception of birds (Neornithes) died out 65 million years ago. Since many dinosaurs (or the image of them that the masses have) are large, reptilian animals, they are often associated with dragons.

General [edit | Edit source]

Dinosaurs differ from other archosaurs in some common features:

  • Legs upright: As with mammals, the legs of the dinosaurs are attached to the bottom of the body, not to the sides as in more primitive archosaurs and all reptiles today
  • Various skull and skeleton features: See here
  • Filaments and feathers: The body of most theropods is covered with proto-feathers or feathers, which can be seen, for example, in all modern birds and in well-preserved fossils. Similar structures, which presumably developed in parallel, have also been found in some ornithischia, which is why it is assumed that all dinosaurs (or even all ornithodira) had such filaments.
    • Since scales are also known from many dinosaurs, it is assumed that primitive species had systems for scales as well as proto-feathers and that, depending on the clade or species, either scales, feathers or a combination of both have prevailed in later species.
  • Warm-bloodedness: In addition to the proto-feathers, a few other features also suggest that at least most of the dinosaurs were warm-blooded. All birds today are warm-blooded.

Based on the shape of their pelvis, dinosaurs are divided into Saurischia (lizard pelvis dinosaur) and Ornithischia (bird pelvis dinosaur). The basin belonging to the Saurischia Paravesto which the birds also belong, however, has some changes that make it superficially resemble that of the Ornithischia.

Dinosaurs and Dragons Edit source]

Fossils Edit source]

According to a hypothesis by historian Adrienne Mayor, fossils found by early humans were misinterpreted and found their way into mythology as dragons. Even today fossils are sold as dragon teeth in China. However, these fossils come mainly from mammals, as do European examples such as the woolly rhinoceros skull of the Lindwurmbrunnen in Klagenfurt, the mammoth bones of the dragon from Atessa or the bear bones in the dragon cave near Mixnitz[1].

In fact, however, the origins of the dragon myth, such as Ušumgallu or the first Chinese dragons, show little resemblance to dinosaurs. Most dragon depictions before the 13th century are more reminiscent of giant snakes. It is more likely that the myths about dragons and mythical creatures originated in a different way and were only used sporadically as an explanation for fossil discoveries much later[1].

Conversely, dragon myths were a major influence on early representations of dinosaurs. The second scientifically described dinosaur, Iguanodon, discovered in 1809, was depicted very kite-like in the 19th century. The early sauropodomorpha Plateosaurus was founded by Friedrich August von Quenstedt (1809 - 1889) as Swabian Lindwormdesignated.

Later, more recent insights into the biology of dinosaurs and the changing way we depict these animals actually became a huge influence on the depiction of dragons. Using the example of Smaug from J.R.R. Tolkien's book The Hobbit (1936) you can see this very clearly. Tolkien's own portrayal in the book portrays him like a lizard, with mammal-like ears, while the dragon in the 2013 film has a pterosaur-like physique and a horned head[1].

Today, many newly discovered dinosaurs are named after dragons. There are e.g. Balaur (Romanian for dragon) or various theropods with the name part Lóng (Chinese for dragon), e.g. Dilong or Guanlong. Even the Chinese word for dinosaur is 恐龙 (traditionally 恐龍, pinyin kǒnglóng, German: "Terrible Dragon"). The theropod described in 2015 Yi is often compared to wyverns because of its membranous wings.

Also among the pterosaurs, which are closely related to the dinosaurs, there are genera and clades known after dragons, e.g. the Azhdarchids, which are known after Azhi Dahaka or various genera with the ending draco (Latin for dragon), e.g. Phosphatodraco or Dawndraco.

Other dinosaurs and pterosaurs named after dragons can be found in the list of creatures named after dragons.

Surviving dinosaurs Edit source]

A cryptozoological hypothesis states that it is possible that the non-avian dinosaurs were not extinct at all. Then the sightings of dinosaurs and other large reptiles believed to be extinct would be the origin of the dragon legends.

Unfortunately, there is no solid evidence to support such a hypothesis. The sightings of such animals or their representations in ancient art can usually be explained by misinterpretations and false reports.

Examples for this are:

  • MokeleMbembe, a sauropod living in Africa, described by the natives as "half dragon, half elephant"
  • Illustrations of feathered dragons such as the cockatrice in medieval bestiaries could be traced back to feathered theropods
  • Burrunjor, an Australian cryptid, looks very much like a large theropod
  • Creationists often interpret the descriptions of dragons from the Bible, such as Leviathan or Behemoth, as dinosaurs and see these as evidence that the earth is much younger than science claims. Of course, the existence of living animals believed to be extinct in historical times would not be an argument that contradicts modern knowledge about the age and history of the earth.

Other reptiles and other animals thought to be extinct could also have entered mythology and cryptozoology with unknown, surviving species. These are no Dinosaur:

Conversely, it could of course also be the case that dragons actually exist and that the sightings of modern dinosaurs and giant reptiles go back to dragon sightings. Apart from such unreliable sightings, however, there is no evidence for this.

Pierre Belon's Ethiopian dragon is often understood by creationists as a dinosaur or pterosaur. The first to express this idea was Bill Cooper (1992), who suggested that the illustration of a dragon by Edward Topsell was in his History of serpents (1608) on a living Tyrannosaurus that the author could only observe from a distance[2]. In doing so, he disregards the fact that Topsell's illustration was a copy of a copy (by Conrad Gessner) of an illustration that Pierre Belon had created in 1557 based on a stuffed animal[3].

Interestingly, Cooper's mistake was corrected by another creationist. John Goertzen corrected the origin of Belon's drawing in an article in 1993, but instead suggested a pterosaur as the origin[4], although these show even less resemblance to Belons and Topsells drawings.

Dinosaurs as the ancestors of dragons Edit source]

It is also possible that the dragons descended from the dinosaurs, making dragons themselves dinosaurs. The early dragons were probably even smaller and survived the mass extinction 65 million years ago. Larger species of dragons died out along with the dinosaurs. This theory is advocated by Peter Dickinson, among others.

However, as long as no dragon fossils are found, this cannot be proven or refuted. A very kite-like fossil was discovered in 2015 with the wyvern-like theropod Yi qi described.

Fantasy Edit source]

Dinosaur-like dragons Edit source]

Since dinosaurs have been viewed as large, reptilian-like animals since their discovery (which is of course not true of all species), they have influenced the representation of dragons in fantasy at least as much as early reconstructions of dragons were. It is particularly noticeable that most western dragons of modern fantasy have a very upright physique, similar to that of the dinosaurs, in contrast to the lizard-like physique of older dragons.

Not infrequently there is a type of dragon in a fantasy work that hunts in packs and is reminiscent of featherless dromaeosaurs, based on the raptors from the Jurassic Park film series. In general, Jurassic Park was a huge influence on Dragons in later films, especially Dragonheart.

Some fantasy works go further and blur the line between dinosaurs and dragons. Examples for this are:

  • The Pokémon Monargoras, which is based on tyrannosaurs, but belongs to the dragon type.
    • The dragon-Pokémon Maxax is also roughly based on a theropod.
    • In the eighth generation, the "dragon fossil" was introduced, from which Pescragon and Lectragon, two dragon-Pokémon with dinosaur-like bodies, can be brought to life.
    • Some dragon masters in the game have dinosaur or pterosaur-like Pokémon such as Despotar or Aerodactyl, which is a mixture of a pterosaur and a wyvern, although these are not of the dragon type.
  • The battle wyvern Deviljho from Monster Hunter is also based on a tyrannosaur and belongs to the dragon element.
  • The dragon species Kerkozar and Jimbob from Dragon Hunters are reminiscent of theropods. The former are reminiscent of (presumably outdated) representations of dromaeosaurs in their pack behavior, based on Jurassic Park.
  • Also the featherless dragon species Schneller Stachel aud How to train your dragon obviously based on the raptors from Jurassic Park.
  • The bone dragon from Final Fantasy is reminiscent of a dinosaur skeleton in most games.
  • The Draconosaurus rex from the Dragonology books is a dragon, but by its name and walking upright it is reminiscent of outdated reconstructions of the Tyrannosaurus rex.
  • The scientific names of some dragons from Dragons of the World such as Indoraptor navigare or Mirolong prealautus It is no coincidence that they remind of dinosaur names.
    • For this reason, the presumably unintentional identity of the Indoraptor with the fictional dinosaur of the same name Jurassic World: The Fallen Kingdom.
  • The monster dinosaur from Ni no Kuni is in the genus Dracones (Dragons) although its name suggests dinosaurs.
  • In Batti Dohm's novel Stalk eye of the primeval crab Dragons are mentioned, which are believed to be dinosaurs. They live in the period between the extinction of the trilobites and the present day, and the illustration is reminiscent of old dinosaur reconstructions. The dragon is also surrounded by pterosaurs.
  • In Stanley's dragon, the boy Stanley finds an egg that he thinks is a dinosaur egg. Ultimately, however, a dragon hatches, the design of which is also reminiscent of dinosaurs.
  • The character from Radune the Dragon After Armageddon is able to take on two saurian-like forms in addition to many other monster forms. Nebelkeruten has a theropod-like physique, while Tsole's head is the skull of a tyrannosaur.
  • Despite its name, the monster "Drago" from Mother 3 is reminiscent of a theropod.
  • While Draco's Dragonheart design was originally a variation on the Tyrannosaurus rex from Jurassic Park, it was modified until the final film so that the similarity can no longer be recognized.
  • The Deadly Nadder from How to Train Your Dragon is based in appearance and body language on both modern (ostrich, parrot, chicken) and extinct (Tyrannosaurus) Dinosaurs, which makes it look very bird-like.
  • Hauzer from Red Earth is an earth dragon that was awakened from a fossil. It is very reminiscent of you Tyrannosaurus.
  • Riffi Raffi is a dinosaur-like dragon and a member of the Finnish metal band Hevisaurus and the main character in the children's fantasy comedy Heavysaurus - A Rocking Stone Age Adventure. He is the only dragon in a family / band made up of dinosaurs.

Dragon-like dinosaurs Edit source]

Other beings known as dinosaurs have kite-like traits, such as wings or the ability to spit fire:

  • Yoshi from Super Mario World can, depending on which turtle shell he eats, spit fire or fly.
    • Other inhabitants of the dinosaur country such as Rex or Dino-Rhino have dinosaur-like names, but have clear dragon characteristics. For example, the Rex looks more like an upright Western Dragon, while the Ceratopsier-like Dino-Rhino is called a dragon and can spit fire.
  • Urmel from the ice also grow wings in the later course of the books, making him a western dragon.
  • The sauropod-like chomposaur from EarthBound creates its fire using telekinetic forces.
  • Another example is Godzilla, most commonly referred to as a dinosaur, whose breathing weapon is a thermonuclear heat ray. Japanese dragons were also an inspiration for the design of Godzilla's face[5].
  • From the video game and anime series Monster rancher: The Zuum and its subspecies (zebra dinosaur, shield dinosaur, and others in the games) are reminiscent of small theropods, but can, like dragons, spew fireballs.
  • The television series "Primeval" is about extinct or future animals that enter the present day through time portals and spread chaos. In the episode The Dragon Hunter, one of these animals, a Dracorex named Princess, is mistaken for a dragon during the Middle Ages and hunted by a knight. The Dracorex was an Upper Cretaceous herbivore who looks even more like a dragon in Primeval than it probably actually did.
  • The character from Tianhuo Them's fightin 'herds is a Longma, a cross between a dragon and a horse. However, in addition to various skins based on popular culture dragons, it also has one based on the raptor Blue from Jurassic World.
  • An April Fool's joke in Nature magazine reported by Smaugia volans, a dromaeosaur that has developed adaptations to spitting fire and an additional pair of wings such as western dragons. The genus is named after Tolkien's dragon Smaug.
  • In the book The Battle of the Dino Knights arrives Baryonyx to the European Middle Ages and is mistaken for a dragon.
  • In He-Man - In the valley of power So-called Dragosaurs appear, which are typical western dragons. However, their name, and the fact that they are extinct, is reminiscent of dinosaurs.

Aside from all of these examples, there are also some works in which dragons do not have clearly dinosaur-like features, but are referred to as modern descendants of dinosaurs. Examples of this:

  • The Draco alatus of the Merrylin Cryptid Museum (a project by the artist Alex CF) is described as the only surviving dinosaur besides the birds, which, unlike other dinosaurs, is featherless and has the typical pelvic bones of a theropod[6]. The corresponding model is reminiscent of a typical wyvern.

Birdlike kites Edit source]

Since dragons often had bird-like features in mythology, e.g. eagle claws or feathered wings, it is not surprising that some fantasy works also contain bird-like dragons:

  • The dragon / flying Pokémon Altaria is based on the mythological peng bird, which is itself a mixture of dragon and bird.
  • Another example would be the bird wyverns from Monster Hunter, which, as the name suggests, are wyverns with a bird-like physique and partial beaks and feathers.
  • The dodo dragon from the Dragonology books looks similar, which is strongly reminiscent of the dodo bird.
  • The dragon Barry from Nico and his dragon is able to transform itself into various birds and also gives this ability to the human child Nico.
  • The Millennium Dragons from One Piece are very reminiscent of dragon-headed birds.
  • The dragon "Flieger" from Eldrador has a bird-like head with a beak, but is otherwise a typical wyvern.

See also [edit | Edit source]

Videos [edit | Edit source]

  1. 1,01,11,2Spencer McDaniel (2020), Were Mythical Creatures Inspired by Fossils?
  2. ↑ Bill Cooper (1992), The early history of man — part 4, Living dinosaurs from Anglo-Saxon and other early records in Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal, 6:49-66
  3. ↑ Phil Senter, Darius M. Klein (2014), Investigation of claims of late-surviving pterosaurs: the cases of Belon’s, Aldrovandi’s, and Cardinal Barberini’s winged dragons in Palaeontologia Electronica, Vol 17, Issue 3,
  4. ^ John Goertzen (1993), Living dinosaurs in Creation Ex Nihilo Technical Journal, 7:200-201
  5. ↑ Monster Legacy: Gojira
  6. ^ Encylopedia Obscura