Thursday, March 14, 2013

Living Sauropods

In several of the world's rainforests, many reports and rumors have emerged of creatures which, at first glance, bear a striking resemblance to the sauropod dinosaurs of prehistory. These reports come from several different areas, including the Congo rainforests of central Africa, the Amazon rainforests of South America, and the rainforests of Southern Asia. The vast majority of the sightings have come from central Africa. The creature living there is called the mokele-mbembe, a native term which means "the one who stops the flow of rivers".
According to conventional wisdom, the last of these great creatures died out around 64 million years ago. However, several cryptozoologists are convinced that at least some of these gigantic dinosaurs survived the mass extinction event at the end of the Cretaceous period, and still survive to the present-day. Today, I am going to examine this hypothesis, and evaluate just how likely it is.

Many proponents of the sauropod hypothesis claim that the areas where these creatures are most-frequently sighted, such as the Congo rainforests in Africa, have remained stable for millions of years, without major environmental changes. However, what I have found is that some research will reveal that this claim is simply not true. Several major environment-altering events have happened in Central Africa since the end of the Cretaceous. One example is the creation of the Great Rift Valley. Therefore, this argument can sadly be debunked.

Another claim is that, since there are no other creatures which resemble these cryptids, they therefore must be modern-day sauropod dinosaurs. However, this is also -- sadly -- incorrect for 2 reasons. First of all, the fossil record is far from complete. It is, indeed, very possible that the fossilized remains of another creature which convergently evolved to resemble a sauropod do exist, but they just have not yet been discovered by paleontologists.
And second, there also happens to be another group of extinct animals which I think are great potential candidates for the mokele-mbembe, and are a lot more likely than a surviving sauropod. It is a group of extinct rhinos, known as the indricotheres.

The indricotheres were a group of gigantic rhinoceroses which lived during the Cenozoic Era, but are now believed to be extinct. Unlike modern rhinos, they had long necks, and they did not have any horns. Although their fossils have not yet been discovered in central Africa, I believe it is possible that some of them might have lived there.
My hypothesis is that, if the mokele-mbembe exists, it is most-likely to be an evolved modern-day form of an indricothere. This hypothetical creature would have evolved several new features, including a semi-aquatic lifestyle, a long, powerful tail, and an even longer neck.
As cryptozoologist Loren Coleman has pointed out, if a scientifically untrained observer saw this creature, they would probably think that it was a dinosaur.

In conclusion, I do not think it is very likely that large sauropod dinosaurs have persisted into the present-day. Instead, if these sightings are, indeed, real, I think that they can most probably be explained by a surviving indricothere, which has evolved over time to look like a sauropod dinosaur, through the fascinating process known as convergent evolution.

1 comment:

  1. Great article! I actually also hypothesized about a relict indricothere species which had evolved a long and powerful tail for swimming a few years ago! Keep up the great work.