In our modern world TRUTH is often elusive! For every theory there is a contradictory theory. For every study there is an opposing study that seeks to disprove the previous study. How are we suppose to discern the truth with so many contradictions? I guess living in a world full of contradictions the best any of us can do is to decide truth for ourselves, that is, decide for ourselves what we believe to be true and what we believe to be untrue. So, then, truth is relative……….
With that in mind allow me to pose some questions. In anthropology there are two types of extinction. There is Biological Extinction and Functional Extinction. A species is said to be biologically extinct when there are no living specimens of a species. A species is said to be functionally extinct when there is a small population surviving but breeding on any significant scale is unlikely or no longer possible at all. The Coelacanth was once thought to be biologically extinct as we only found them in the fossil record. But, then, in 1938 a very much alive specimen was caught in South Africa and since that time many more have been caught or observed. So the Coelacanth went from being biologically extinct to being functionally extinct as although they still survive today they are rare.
Actually, when it comes to aquatic creatures I know of at least 10 prehistoric fish that should be extinct but are NOT. As mentioned, the Coelacanth is one of them. It is perhaps the most famous living fossil and it is also the prime example of something known as the LAZARUS TAXON, which is, animals that are suppose to be extinct are unexpectedly found to be very much alive! The Coelacanth was suppose to go extinct during the Cretaceous Period along with the dinosaurs but one was caught in 1938 off the coast of South America and since then many more have been caught and observed. For a long time native peoples and fishermen reported sightings of this supposedly extinct creature and they were often ridiculed and mocked for telling “tales and myths.” But in 1938 they were proved RIGHT and all of the soothsayers with PhD behind their names were proved WRONG! The Coelacanth was very much alive and is STILL very much alive today. But that’s not all. A SECOND SPECIES of Coelacanth thought to also be extinct was found off Indonesia in 1999! And these are no small creatures. On the average they are about 6 1/2 feet long (2 meters) and they are classified as predators as they feed on smaller fish and even sharks. Typically, they are found in deep and dark waters and it’s reported that they have a horrible taste when you try to eat one.
The Polypterus Senegalus is another aquatic creature and it has been around since the time of the dinosaurs. It’s sometimes called the “Dinosaur eel” but they really are not eels at all. As for the “dinosaur” part? Well with their reptilian looks and spiked looking backs they look like something out of Jurassic Park. There’s also the Alligator Gar. You’ll find this relic in the southern US and northeastern Mexico. This is the largest freshwater fish in North America and is sometimes found in salt water too. It can grow as big as 13 ft (4 meters) long and weigh over 400 lbs (200 kgs). They have a reptile appearance and some very long and toothy jaws! They kill their prey by ambushing them and have even been known to bite humans. Gars are among the oldest fish alive today and their origins trace back to the Cretaceous Period as well.
The Sawfish is another surviving creature from the Cretaceous Period (145-66 million years ago). It can be found in saltwater OR fresh water creeks and rivers. It’s been found inland several times, in fact. They measure about 23 ft (7 meters) and although they look a bit like sharks they are actually more closely related to rays. When provoked the sawfish can become a very dangerous enemy and rather quickly. There is also the Arapaima which has been reported to be over 14 ft long but on average only are about 6 ft long. You might think that this creature came from the Miocene Period but, in fact, it is far older than that! Its family comes right out of the age of dinosaurs.
Believe it or not the Sturgeon is yet another survivor from the age of dinosaurs. These aquatic creatures were already around by the early Jurassic Period and is one of the main sources of caviar. They are not only magnificent to see but they are also armored. They can get up to over 20 ft long. The Frilled Shark is another example of a prehistoric creature surviving today. Frilled Sharks are rather odd looking and look like they are straight out of the movies! Horror movies that is!! They are a deep sea predator and are one of the most primitive sharks living today. They come from the Cretaceous Period when dinosaurs ruled the planet and they are rare and seldom seen alive. It can get up to more than 7 ft long and, amazingly, females are larger than males in this species. Typically, we only find dead or dying specimens of this creature.
The Arowana is yet another water species of creature from the age of dinosaurs that survives today. They belong to the Osteoglossids family and they were already in existence by the early Jurassic Period. Today you can find them in the waters of the Amazon, parts of Africa, and also in parts of Australia and Asia. These are vicious predators! They feed on small animals including birds and bats who get to close to the water! And they can catch them in mid-air by the way as they are capable of leaping out of the water to a height of about SIX FEET! In China these things are called DRAGON FISH and are considered good luck.
The Lancefish is yet another water creature that has survived out of the age of dinosaurs. This is one of the oddest water creatures I’ve ever seen. They have a very clear PREHISTORIC appearance complete with fierce looking sharp teeth and a spiky sail on their backs. In fact, if this thing had legs and walked on the land and you saw it you’d swear it was a dinosaur!! They can get up to about 6 1/2 ft long and they are found in ALL OCEANS except those near the poles. It will also feed on its own species! If ever there was a sea monster the Lancefish would surely be one of them.
Finally, there is the Hagfish. We find Hagfish fossils dating from as far back as 300 million years ago! Thus, they were already an old species when the dinosaurs came upon the scene! They are also called Slime Eels and are typically found in very deep waters. But they really are NOT eels at all and some scientists think that they are not even fish at all. In every regard they are odd and even bizarre. They are almost blind and tend to feed at night. They have a skull but no spine. And they have TWO BRAINS! They feed on large sea animals who are dead and on the bottom of the oceans. They produce a slimy substance that damages the gills of predators and, thus, they have virtually NO NATURAL ENEMIES!
So I’ve just give you PROOF POSITIVE that there are some aquatic creatures that have SURVIVED since the age of the dinosaurs and some even EARLIER than the dinosaurs!! But is there more????? Well of course there is. Let’s look at some prehistoric BIRDS that are still very much ALIVE today…………….
Actually we’re going to look now at some prehistoric birds and other animals that are still very much alive today. We call them “Living Fossils” and besides the above mentioned aquatic organisms there are many more. Let’s begin with a PLANT! The plant is named Ginkgo biloba and we find it today as well as 170 mya (million years ago) and it is pretty much unchanged.
During the Cretaceous Period (145-66 mya) the continents were NOT in the positions they are today. In fact, they were all more closely together as near as we can deduce. Not quiet like Pangea but a little more space inbetween.
Blue-Green Bacteria are known as “living fossils.” They are created by Stromatolite which is a layered structure created as sediment is trapped in shallow water. Another living fossil is the Monkey Puzzle Tree (Araucaria araucana) and the Ginkgo Tree. Horsetails are another and so are Whisk Ferns. Also, the Metasequoia which is a dawn redwood tree related to the sequoia.
The Amami Rabbit is considered another “living fossil” as well. It looks rather archaic and has short ears. It’s sometimes called the Wild Black Rabbit and it’s found on two small islands near Japan, one being Okinawa. It is a living fossil of ancient rabbits that once lived in Asia. Of course, there is also the Elephant Shrew which is considered a living fossil. They are small animals that look a bit like mice found in and native to Africa. They have long noses that resemble elephant trunks. Then there is the Echidnas (also known as the Spiny Anteater) found in Australia and New Guinea. They are one of only a few mammals that lay eggs and they are related to the anteaters of the Americas!
The Laotian Rock Rat is another living fossil found in the fossil record and still found very much alive today. They are also known as the Rat Squirrel and they’re found in the country of Laos in southeast Asia. The Mountain Beaver is another living fossil and it is found in North America. It has several nicknames including Boomer, ground bear, and giant mole. It’s closely related to the North American and Eurasian beavers but not the same species as those.
The Okapi is yet another living fossil. This mammal is found in the Congo in Central Africa and is very odd looking. It has black and white stripes on its legs, its body is a dark brown, and its face is white and brown kind of in the shape of a deer. It is native to the rainforest of Central Africa and is most closely related to the giraffe. In fact, the giraffe and the okapi are the only two living members of the family Giraffidae.
Opossums are also considered living fossils as is the Pygmy Right Whale. The False Killer Whale is actually a dolphin and not a whale at all and it is found in temperate and tropical waters around the world today. Pelicans are also living fossils and, in fact, have changed very little if at all since the Eocene Period 56-33 mya!
There is also the Hoatzin which is a bird that has two visible claws on their wings but the claws fall off when the bird matures. And then there are the Crocodilians that survived the K-Pg extinction event that is believed to have killed off most of the dinosaurs. Crocodiles have changed little since that time. The K-Pg Extinction Event is believed to have been a mass extinction event occurring over a short period of time 66 mya and it is one of 6 known extinction events.
There is also the Alligator Snapping Turtle, the Pig Nosed Turtle, the common Snapping Turtle, Giant Salamander, Hula Painted Frog, Purple Frog, Bowfin fish, and the Queensland Lungfish that are considered living fossils.
In terms of living fossil sharks there is the Blind Shark, Bullhead, Elephant Shark, and the Gulper Shark. One very strange looking living fossil shark is the Goblin Shark. It’s a deep sea shark that looks like something right out of a prehistoric themed movie! It has a long nose and a foreboding set of teeth. Its lineage goes back to 125 mya and gets up to 10–13 feet long. However, it can actually get much bigger! They tend to hang out in submarine canyons, seamounts, and continental slopes. It has a rather flabby body and small fins. Meet up with this thing in dark water and you’ll swear you encountered a dino-shark!!
There are many, many more of these living fossils and far to numerous to mention here but what I’ve given you is just a few to make my point. And my point is there ARE living fossils with some thought to be extinct at one time but are very much alive today! The last extinction event didn’t kill off everything and, in fact, there are many creatures, plants, etc that survived INCLUDING ANCIENT HUMAN ANCESTORS!! Oh yes, if our ancestors had not survived the last great extinction event you and I would not be here today. But we are and that proves yet one more….dare we call ourselves?…LIVING FOSSILS!! Of course, we were not Homo sapiens back then but our forerunners were certainly very much alive and they survived the last great extinction event. Soooo what about living fossil dinosaurs????
We’ll get into that in part 2 of this post which is forthcoming…………..