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Modern Animals That Resemble Dinosaurs

Mamerto Adan is a feature writer who is back in college once again. Science is one of his favorite topics.


A lot of people cried when the Brachiosaurus died in the Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom. Well it’s just a CG creature, dying a horrid death in the scorching lava. But that dinosaur looks so real! In real life some experts suspect that real sauropods aren’t so friendly seeing how modern titans behaved. Who wants to stay close to a wild rino or a rampaging elephant?

Overall how we reacted to the Brachiosaurus death reflects our desires to see a real and live dinosaur. It would be great to see one wallowing in a lake, though I don’t fancy being chased by a T-Rex or a Utah Raptor. But as our understanding on dinos deepens, we become closer and closer on how they look like if they came walking with us. To my surprise I learned that they could be feathery, though some might be scaly and spiky as well. And now that we speak of downy dinos, it might be possible that some of these beasts might not be too different from our modern animals. This makes sense sometimes as we eventually learned some dinosaurs will evolve to become birds.

And as what you read above, we do have living creatures walking around us that seems to belong from a Jurassic Park/World movie. And below are just some of the lists.

A large alligator walking in a golf course in Florida.

A large alligator walking in a golf course in Florida.

Yes, I know that they are not dinosaurs. If this article was written way before dinosaurs are connected to birds, I will assume that these creatures are their living relatives. Yet one cannot argue that reptiles do look like dinosaurs, especially in the earlier reconstruction. I mean they look prehistoric, thought they are actually prehistoric themselves considering that they are living fossils like the crocs. The clawed legs, scales, plates, teeth and other features gave them an uncanny dino appeal. Monitor lizards could even stand on their hind legs. Thought when they did they look less than a therapod dinosaur because of their short hind legs and flat, elongated bodies. Then there is the fact that these creatures could eat you alive, much like their dinosaur counterparts. And when they reach epic proportion (thirty feet for a croc and ten for monitors), they are stuffs of monster movies.

Birds of Prey

The two raptors; a Steller's sea eagle (left) and a velociraptor (right)

The two raptors; a Steller's sea eagle (left) and a velociraptor (right)

The fact that hawk and eagle families are often referred to as raptors seem to connect them to dinosaurs. And that was before scientists determine that birds and dinos are related. And now we know how small raptorial dinosaurs sport feathers and develop primitive wings, it seems to make sense that modern birds of prey are basically modern raptors.

There you have it; the hawk swooping down for mice is the real life version of Jurassic World’s Blue.

And after seeing the recent reconstruction of dromaeosaurids (or raptorial dinosaurs), their resemblance to modern birds of prey became more apparent. Well any birds could resemble a raptorial dinosaur but it just so happens that birds of prey have so much in common with their prehistoric counterpart. Simply the two raptors have similarities.

Sure, modern eagles and hawks lack teeth or tail. But they do have nice sets of talons that rival that of any therapod raptors. You heard it right. The sickle claws of raptorial dinosaurs resemble the feet of modern raptors. And based from this morphology, it was suggested that raptorial dinosaurs might have killed their prey the same way as eagles do. They will leap on their victims, pin them down with their sickle claws and start devouring their hapless prey alive. If that’s the case the image of a cinematic velociraptor slashing with their claws could be problematic.

An eagle's feet (left), and a Deinonychus' feet

An eagle's feet (left), and a Deinonychus' feet

To cap it all, some birds of prey sound like dinosaurs. The cry of the Steller’s sea eagle sounded eerily prehistoric.


It looks like it could growl.

It looks like it could growl.

Now that we speak of prehistoric, we have a bird here that’s basically a therapod with beak. In my opinion the shoebill’s name is so undeserving. Once you saw the creature up close, the name will sound cartoonish. I mean there is nothing cartoonish about this bird. It looks like an animatronic monster from a Jumanji movie.

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Now a shoebill is a large stork-like bird with large bill. So large that t resembles an alligator’s mouth. Their large beak is well adapted for handling slippery frogs, large fishes, water snakes, even Nile monitors and turtles. And seeing the size of those clampers, they are fairly powerful. They hunt by standing still and lunging with their beaks when a hapless prey swims by. Their bites are known to decapitate.

These flying beasts might look prehistoric and dangerous. I mean if those beaks could decapitate young crocs, imagine what it could do to nosy people. Fortunately it’s pretty tame compared to other wading birds, though it is still not wise to mess with these creatures.


The ostrich (left), and the struthiomimus (right)

The ostrich (left), and the struthiomimus (right)

A large raptorial dinosaur could reach a height of a human. But we have a modern bird here that’s even taller.

There is a good reason why ostriches are considered the biggest living bird. One specimen could be nine feet tall. They are fast runners, like their therapod counterparts. And of all the creatures mentioned here in the list, they are the ones that closely resemble a dinosaur. We have this dinosaur species Struthiomimus altus; an omnivorous bipedal dinosaur with long neck, long legs and toothless beak. And yes, they are the spitting image of a modern ostrich. The only thing that ostriches are missing are the manus (hands) and the tail, while the name Struthiomimus means “ostrich mimic” in Greek.

With that said, does that means that ostriches are living dinosaurs?


A hoatzin chick using its wing claws to climb tree branches.

A hoatzin chick using its wing claws to climb tree branches.

The hoatzin looks more exotic than prehistoric. It’s a pheasant sized bird with colourful plumage and head crests. They are herbivorous, eating mostly leaves and sometimes fruits and flowers.

At first glance, there is nothing strange about this bird. Aside from the fact that this is a bird, nothing really made it so dinosaur-like. Compared to the big boys in the list it barely resemble any raptorial dinosaur.

Until you saw its chicks…

The chick will remind you greatly of archaeopteryx. As what the fossil records show, the crow-sized dinosaur bird has claws on its wings. And guess what, hoatzin chicks also possess wing claws. They use it as a climbing tool, and those claws will disappear when they get older.

Climbing they say? This means that hoatzin wings act like hands. Very raptorial indeed!


Details of the northern cassowary's head.

Details of the northern cassowary's head.

And if you really want to see a real life dinosaur, just visit your petting zoos and hope they got cassowaries. These birds are large, around six feet tall with a maniraptorian appeal. They got powerful legs ending in lethal clawed feet, while their head will bring in mind a dilophosaurus. Those head crests known as casques are keratin covered projection they use as head protection when running in thick vegetation. In addition is they are brightly colored along the bare sections of their heads and necks.

Lastly these birds are spitting image of Corythoraptors. Therapod dinosaurs sporting the same headcrest and body frame. And it is advisable to never mess with this creature as it could kill you with a kick of its clawed feet.


Lauchlan on October 21, 2019:

I love dinosaurs

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