Dinosaur Tales

Did the Road to Extinction Take a Detour?

Sixty-five million years ago a great extinction took place on Earth. It is said to have wiped out just about all life on Earth including the dinosaurs. But did it? Alligators, sea turtles, sharks, horseshoe crabs, the platypuses, and cockroaches were among the survivors. But there were more. A large fish called the ‘coelacanth’ had been swimming in the ocean as far back as the Devonian period, 350 million years ago. Fossils of this large, oily fish have been found in lakes, swamps, inland seas, and the oceans of many parts of the world.

Dinosaurs, it is said, have been extinct for 65 million years, but a fisherman, it is reported, pulled one onto his boat in 1938. Captain Hendrick Goosen caught a 5-foot-long, 127-pound coelacanth off the coast of South Africa. He called a collector of oddities, and brought his catch to a university for study. Initially rejected as just another grouper, the creature was ultimately examined by ichthyologist J.B. Smith, who found otherwise.

Smith became obsessed with the notion that such a creature could have not survived the millions of years alone and set about to find them. He would be elated when a man who had attended his lecture on the bizarre Goosen discovery, claimed that in the Comoros Islands off Mozambique in Africa there were more. The locals caught them now and then and called them gombessa.

In recent years, according to Ancient Traces by Michael Baigent, there is evidence this “extinct” fish has turned up in Florida on one side of the Atlantic and in Spain on the other.


Evidence of Survival

Could some dinosaurs have survived as well? There is evidence that they did—and that they survived long enough to have co-existed with humans. In the state of Guanajuato, Mexico a small town by the name of Acambaro was best known in the 1940s as the home of the only locomotive repair facility in Latin America. It was soon to earn another claim to fame. In 1944 a German by the name of Waldemar Julsrud visited the area. As he traveled on horseback through a dried-out stream, he saw what looked like ceramics poking out of the sand and hired a man to dig them all out. For days, thereafter, the man brought wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow load until the items found numbered over 30,000. Julsrud brought in others to examine the collection. Charles Hapgood, college professor of the history of science, was one. Erle Stanley Gardner, author of the Perry Mason series, was another. And a zoologist Ivan T. Sanderson was a third. They all believed the find was authentic despite criticism by the Smithsonian. Sanderson noticed one of the depictions was a Brachiosaurus, which was almost totally unknown to the public at that time.

Some items were said to date to 4000 BC, but the majority dated around 2500–2350 BC. Amazingly, many depicted dinosaurs and other species, believed to have been extinct, interacting with humans. In one case a creature standing on two legs with short arms was holding a human while biting off its head. The man was one-third the size of the creature, but this “monster” was small in comparison with those depicted on other ceramics, molded in the shape of brontosaurus-stegosaurus-like and tyrannosaurus-like dinosaurs. Two of the ceramics had women greeting tiny dinosaurs with open arms, like you might greet a pet. These had protruding spikes like a stegosaurus but stood on short legs with large tails. The head had a long snout somewhat like an anteater. The dinosaurs weren’t the only oddities. Statues of people ranging from Asian to Negroid to Central Americans were unearthed as well.

Further south in regions that the Olmec people inhabited there are also depictions of dinosaurs and dragons. The Oxtotitlan Cave has a dinosaur-like creature standing next to a man. The Olmecs also had depictions of men as Asians, Negroid, and Mediterranean.

While sites like Acambaro are unusual, they are not unique. In Ica, Peru, a Dr. Javier Cabrera has a private museum of 20,000 rocks and stones with odd etchings. Many depict men with feathered headdresses performing surgery, using stethoscopes, performing blood transfusions, and organ transplants. Others show carvings of stegosaurus, brontosaurus, and pterodactyls. Some show men attacking these dinosaurs. Even kangaroos, not indigenous to Peru, are carved into stones. Some Ica stones show humans riding pterodactyls. While this is very unlikely, to say the least, the stones can still be described as art, so artistic license is in play. Like the Acambaro stones, much further north there are stones in Dr. Cabrera’s collection also depicting small dinosaurs that reach only a man’s waist.

If this is evidence that man, at some time in recent history, co-existed with survivors of the great extinction, it is not limited to Central and South America. It has been only 50 years since the actual form of the Tyrannosaurus rex has become widely known. Scientists have only recently been able to virtually recreate extinct dinosaurs from their skeletons, yet one accurate depiction, made 12,000 years ago, of this large and aggressive creature has been found in Arizona’s Havasupai Canyon cave.

A more recent discovery of man and monster existing together was made in May 2006 in Florida. There, in a sinkhole 30 feet deep within the Aucilla River, mastodon bones and a crude knife were found. The site is the oldest in the Southeastern United States, dating to 14,500 years ago. Paleontologist, S. David Webb, has written of the discovery in his book, First Floridians and Last Mastodons.

On the other side of the world in a ruined temple at Angkor Wat in Cambodia, a stegosaur is part of a bas-relief. Between AD 800 and AD 1400 a Khmer artisan living million of years after that species supposedly went extinct, depicted one perfectly.


Dinosaurs of the Sea

Survivors of the great extinction included many sea creatures. The Plesiosaurus was originally a land creature that took to the sea and evolved into a longer-necked version with flippers. The most famous Plesiosaur is the elusive Loch Ness Monster. For decades hundreds in New England saw a less elusive sea monster. Dubbed the Gloucester Sea Serpent, it was first spotted in Maine but seemed to enjoy the Massachusetts waters more. Observed every summer, it was often seen swimming for hours at a time in shallow waters. Others have been reported in many places around the world. On April 25, 1977, the Japanese fishing vessel Zuiyo-Maru caught and photographed a plesiosaur near New Zealand. The dead creature was 33 feet long, and, while it was found as a rotting corpse, it still weighed 4,000 pounds. Plesiosaurs have been around for 135 million years.

Another sea creature is the Carcharodon Megalodon. Believed to have been extinct for a million years, a British survey ship in 1875 dredged up teeth that belonged to it, but they were not fossilized—they were actually teeth. They were five inches long and dated at 11,000 years old. The Megalodon grew to be twice the size of the largest great white shark. At 50 feet long and possessing a mouthful of teeth up to six inches long, it was a formidable creature. Polynesian seafarers claim that sharks of 100 feet in length exist in their seas. On the other side of the Pacific, an American anti-submarine frigate had its underwater tracking gear disabled by a large sea creature. In port later for repairs, the USS Stein was found to be imbedded with hundreds of one-inch teeth.


Dinosaurs on the Land

Possibly the last thing that anyone might believe to be alive in modern times is the Diplodocus—yet there is evidence that they are alive and well in Africa.

The Likoula swamp, in the northern jungles of the African Republic of Congo, is a constantly marshy area of 55,000 square miles. Hot and constantly humid, the area is infested with malaria-carrying mosquitoes, voracious ants, and venomous snakes. If you survive the heat and the insects, there are still leopards, panthers, and water buffalo to avoid. Very few people live in the swamp, most by the rivers. Those who do, fear one animal more than any other. They call it the ‘mokele-mbembe’. The native peoples have known of it for centuries, but Europeans first heard of it in the late eighteenth century. Described as having a body the size of an elephant with a very long flexible neck, it lived on plants but often attacked people with its very long tail. Fortunately, it was not carnivorous so its victims were not eaten. Zoologist James Powell and Professor Roy Mackal of Chicago University decided to seek it out. Powell went first to nearby Gambia where he showed pictures of various animals to a shaman. The medicine man recognized none, until he was shown a picture of a Diplodocus. He called it n’yamala. The descriptions of Gabon’s n’yamala and the mokele-mbembe of the Congo matched. The two scientists were not able to track down either for photographs, but they did collect numerous eyewitness accounts. They also received reports of other creatures. One they called emela-ntouka looks like a triceratops. Its name means “the killer of elephants.”

Others had more luck. An Englishman working in Zambia witnessed one of the creatures while fishing. As he watched the head rise above the waters, he had initially thought it was a large snake. Then he realized this was like nothing he had ever seen before. Luckily it sunk back into the waters without doing him harm.

Accounts of living dinosaurs in Africa were not uncommon. In 1776 Abbe Proyhart wrote of finding clawed animal footprints three-feet-across, as described by Pygmies in the Congo of the mokele-mbembe to members of a German expedition in 1913. Professor Mackal even documented a story of one village’s attempt to catch and kill one. They had succeeded, it was said, by making a barrier of sharp sticks that held the creature until they could kill it. This they did and then promptly ate it. According to Mackal, those who ate the meat died shortly afterwards.


Dinosaurs in the Air

One of the most successful orders of animals are flying reptiles known as pterosaurs. They have been around for 135 million years and diversified into 85 species. Some are as large as airplanes, but others are the size of tiny sparrows. Scientists agree on little regarding them—some researchers reporting that they had skin on their wings, others feathers; and, in Russia, paleontologists discovered a species with dense coats of long hairy scales. The real question is: how long did they survive? At Catal Huyuk, possibly the oldest city in the world, a painting shows a man being attacked by a pterodon. Carvings of this giant bird are also found in Mayan ruins at Tajin. Near Alton, Illinois, is the Piasa, immortalized in a rock-bluff painting first recorded in 1673. The Illini tribes say its name means, “Giant Bird that Devours Man.” It may not have disappeared, as it is said to have reared its head as late as July 25, 1977, at Kickapoo Creek, Illinois, where two giant birds, it was said, attempted to carry off a ten-year-old boy.

In 1975 a skeleton of a giant pterodon was found in Big Bend Park in Texas. It had a wingspan of 51 feet, making it the largest flying dinosaur fossil ever found. The Tombstone (Arizona) Epitaph of April 26, 1980, reported that two men discovered and attempted to kill a winged monster, 92 feet in length. In October of 2002 The Anchorage Daily News of Alaska reported several sightings of pterodactyls the size of a Cessna aircraft. The extinct dinosaur was seen by villagers in Togiak and Manokotak as well as by a bush pilot who said he was only a thousand feet away from it. Similar sightings were reported the same year in remote Wyoming County in Pennsylvania. A number of witnesses saw two enormous blackbirds land in a tree. Their estimated wingspan was said to be twelve feet, which was two feet less than in the Alaska sightings. Could the Native American belief in Thunderbirds be more than legend?

In the last hundred-plus years, over 300 major species have been scientifically unveiled. The list includes the world’s largest lizard, the Komodo dragon, an ice-age relic called the Chacoan peccary, the Cambodian ox, the buffalo-sized Vu Quang ox, the giant Munjac deer, tree kangaroos, short-necked giraffes and a dozen South American monkeys. The planet still contains massive forests, large jungles and vast deserts that may hold creatures that have survived multiple ice ages and the mass extinctions of millions of years.

By Steven Sora