Neodinosaurs have been reported from the Amazon Basin, principally Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, and Peru, since the late 19th Century. Descriptions from South American are uniformly vaguer than the more famous neodinosaurs of Central and West Africa, and no local names for any South American neodinosaur are known.
Aside from undetailed or generic reports of reptilian cryptids connected with dinosaurs only dubiously, the most common type of neodinosaur reported from the Amazon is a large, long-necked amphibious animal compared to a sauropod, followed by iguanodont-like animals, and, more rarely, bipedal reptiles compared to allosaurs. Alongside theories of mistaken identity, hoaxes, surviving dinosaurs of various kinds, and unknown species of reptile, some cryptozoologists theorise that the dinosaurian tracks reported from the Amazon, if not the neodinosaurs themselves, could be explained by surviving toxodonts.
Sightings of short-necked animals likened to ornithopod dinosaurs have occasionally been reported from the Amazon, including an alleged Iguanodon sighting in Colombia's Magdalena River in 1921. According to a sceptical account by Swedish naturalist Rolf Blomberg in his book Rio Amazonas (1966), a Brazilian Indian named Alvaro Mesquita claimed to have encountered a camptosaur-like animal one night on the shore of a swampy lake between the Rio Purús and the Rio Juruá. When Mesquita missed a shot he took at the animal—which was green, bipedal, red-eyed, and larger than a cow—it fled into the lake and disappeared.
Dale A. Drinnon believes that South American artwork indicates the existence of a giant crested iguanid lizard, called by him the greater dragon iguana (Iguana sp. nov.), which is capable of "sitting up to the height of a human being". A similar lizard, compared to a Komodo dragon, is reported from Venezuela.
An early account of a bizarre long-necked neodinosaur was published in Scientific American in 1883. According to this anonymous report, a "saurian" was allegedly killed shortly before July 1883 on the Río Beni, in the El Beni Department of Bolivia, after being shot thirty-six times. It was described as:
Its body was dried and preserved in Asuncion before allegedly being sent to La Paz by order of the President of Bolivia (Narciso Campero). Photographs of drawings of the animal were said to have been sent to the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Brazil from the Brazilian Minister at La Paz. A Professor Gilveti allegedly examined the animal, and believed it to be "a member of a rare or almost lost species, as the Indians in some parts of Bolivia use small earthen vases of identical shape, and probably copied from nature". Although George Eberhart lists it as a neodinosaur, not all of its traits were "saurian," and Karl Shuker describes it as an ultra-mysterious beast.
Another highly detailed but suspect account of an atypical long-necked neodinosaur is alleged to have occured in October 1907, according to the German traveller Franz Herrmann Schmidt, who, alongside Captain Rudolph Pfleng was one of the principal alleged eyewitnesses. According to Schmidt, during the twelfth day of his expedition to the remote swamps and valleys of Peru, he and Pfleng came across "huge tracks," two sets of different sizes, on the shore of a shallow lake formed in a valley. The following day, shortly after they discovered a muddy track on the shore, some monkeys in the nearby jungle began to shriek:
The South American explorer Percy Fawcett, known for his 1925 disappearance and for his alleged encounters with cryptids such as the giant anaconda, the maricoxi, and the mitla, famously reported the existence of a dinosaurian creature in Bolivia, although his association with this cryptid is frequently exaggerated or misquoted. He never claimed to have seen such an animal for himself, and only mentioned second-hand discoveries of three-toed tracks and other trails with which he associated it, but he did briefly attest to the existence of "dinosaur-like animals" in the Rio Guapore region of Bolivia-Brazil, in the Bolivian Madidi, and in the swamps of Acre in Brazil. Fawcett did not, as is sometimes reported, claim to have seen either a dinosaur or the tracks of a dinosaur, for himself.
However, in a letter written to the Daily Mail published on 17 December 1919, Fawcett did report a sighting of a large, long-necked reptile made by a friend of his around the border of Brazil and Bolivia, while also specifying that he himself had never seen either the animal or its tracks:
American explorer Leonard Clark referred to Fawcett's stories in his own book The Rivers Ran East (1954), and Clark himself received rumours of an animal like a sauropod from locals of the Rio Marano in Peru. In his introduction for that work, U.S. Consular Agent at Iquitos Lewis (or Louis) Gallardy claimed that the animal's existence was "confirmed by many of the tribes east of the Ucayali, a region covered by Clark," also in Peru.
According to a 1976 story in the Liverpool Daily Post, during the previous year an unidentified Swiss businessman holidaying in the Amazon received an account of a large long-necked animal from a 75-year-old guide named Sebastian Bastos, who had been educated in Switzerland. According to Bastos—as transmitted through both the businessman and the Liverpool Daily Post—several years previously, he had beached his canoe by a river in dense rainforest, and was walking away when, hearing a loud noise, he turned back to see a large monster tearing his boat apart. Bastos fled, briefly looking back to see that the animal had submerged in the river. Bastos' Indian friends told him that these animals lived in deep pools in the heart of the jungle, mainly coming out onto the land during the night. The Indians, who were afraid of the animals, described them as having heads, necks, and backs of about 18' in length.
The most recent recorded sighting of a long-necked neodinosaur in northern South America is alleged to have occurred in early 1995, according to contemporary media accounts. A party of geology students in eastern Brazil's Sincora Mountains allegedly glimpsed two 30' animals, with huge bodies, 8' necks, fearsome heads, and 8' tails, bathing in the shallows of the Paraguaçu River, on the Orobo Plain.
Karl Shuker writes that, unlike with the long-necked neodinosaurs of Central Africa, these cryptids' descriptions are usually quite vague, often more like plesiosaurs (which have also been reported from the Amazon), or even a combination of plesiosaur and sauropod. Some stories, such as the anonymous Scientific American report, are regarded as hoaxes, and while Roy P. Mackal regarded the Schmidt-Pfleng sighting as reliable, though no record of Schmidt himself could be found, Shuker questions how seriously the story should be taken, and notes that, again, the animal "seems unable to decide whether it is a sauropod or a plesiosaur". Similarly, Shuker writes that the Bastos account contains too little detail to try to identify the animal, though Shuker points out that the mokele-mbembe is also said to destroy boats. Fawcett's descriptions are similarly brief, although the mention of tracks implies feet as opposed to flippers.
Shuker writes that the 1995 sighting reminded him of Charles R. Knight's famous painting of submerged sauropods. According to Shuker, although such aquatic behaviour is not currently supported for prehistoric sauropods by most palaeontologists, it is impossible to say what adaptations a putative modern-day sauropod might not have evolved after 66 million years.
According to explorer and cryptozoologist Arnošt Vašíček, a pack of small, Allosaurus-like animals were reported from "one of the tributaries of the Amazon" in the early 1990's. They resembled these dinosaurs in appearance, but were much smaller, and were very aggressive.
A reptilian cryptid sometimes described as a neodinosaur was reported from southwestern Brazil's Marmoré River in 1931. It was allegedly seen by Swedish explorer Harald Westin, who described it as being about 20' long, with an alligator-like head, four lizard-like feet, and a distended body which reminded him, in shape and form, of a boa constrictor. Westin approached the animal in his boat, prompting it to turn and look at him with its small, scarlet eyes, so Westin shot it. However, his bullet seemed to have no effect on the creature, which walked away unconcerned. Karl Shuker, while noting that the animal's distended body most likely resulted from it having recently eaten a large prey item, writes that the report does not contain enough details to identify the animal, although it is unlikely that Westin could have mistaken something like a caiman for such an animal. Although it has been sometimes been described as a possible neodinosaur similar to the alleged "Amazonian Iguanodon," Shuker notes that it does not sound like a dinosaur at all.
According to Harold T. Wilkins, a 1557-1558 report by Jean de Léry from Brazil described a 6' long, white "mountain lizard" covered in hard oyster-like shells. When confronted, the lizard retreated inland, into the mountains.
Reports of large tracks frequently attributed to dinosaurs, sometimes described as being three-toed, have come out of the Amazon from time to time, including Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. Such tracks are best-known for being mentioned by Percy Fawcett, though he never saw any for himself, and gave no detailed description of them. The northernmost discovery of such a track to be associated with neodinosaurs occurred in the Yucatán Peninsula of Central America, where according to Harold T. Wilkins, archaeologist Thomas Gann discovered tracks which he believed were made by an Iguanodon. However, unidentified three-toed tracks have been found on other continents, including North America and Africa.
Dale A. Drinnon theorises that these three-toed "dinosaurian" tracks "are probably" the tracks of persisting a Toxodon, or a related genus of toxodont, which had only three relatively short toes on each foot. According to Drinnon's theory, these putative surviving Toxodon must have a wide range, and, whatever their origin, Drinnon recorded accounts of three-toed tracks found "all over Brazil and Colombia" and "into fairly high altitudes in Bolivia and Peru," as well as in Ecuador. Further south, Drinnon also points to stories of water bulls as evidence for late Toxodon survival.
In popular culture
- Arthur Conan Doyle's 1912 novel The Lost World features a Brazilian plateau on which dinosaurs, including Megalosaurus and Iguanodon, still survive. Inspiration for the story is said to have come from Percy Fawcett, who showed Doyle photographs of certain South American plateaus, suggesting that "monsters from the dawn of man's existence might still roam these heights unchallenged, imprisoned and protected by unscalable cliffs".
Notes and references
- Eberhart, George M. (2002) Mysterious Creatures: A Guide to Cryptozoology ABC-CLIO, Inc. ISBN 1-57607-283-5
- Shuker, Karl P. N. (2016) Still In Search Of Prehistoric Survivors: The Creatures That Time Forgot?, Coachwhip Publications, ISBN 978-1616463908
- Heuvelmans, Bernard "Annotated Checklist of Apparently Unknown Animals With Which Cryptozoology Is Concerned", Cryptozoology, No. 5 (1986)
- Drinnon, Dale A. (2009) "Amended Cryptozoological Checklist"
- Anon. "A Bolivian Saurian," Scientific American 49 (1883)
- Shuker, Karl P. N. (1997) From Flying Toads To Snakes With Wings, Bounty Books, ISBN 0-7537-1305-5
- Schmidt, Franz Herrmann "Prehistoric Monsters in Jungles of the Amazon," New York Herald (29 January 1911)
- Fawcett, Brian & Fawcett, Percy (1953) Exploration Fawcett, Hutchinson
- Fawcett, Percy H. "Brontosaurus Hunt," Daily Mail (17 December 1919)
- Mangiacopra, Gary & Smith, Dwight "Rescued from the Past #3—An 1900s Prehistoric Amazon Monster," North American BioFortean Review, Vol. 6, No. 1 (June 2004)
- Vašíček, Arnošt (2005) Planeta Záhad: Tajemná Minulost, Mystery Film, ISBN 9788023954845
- Westin, Harald (1933) Tjugu ars Djungel - Och Tropikliv
- Shuker, Karl P. N. (2014) The Menagerie of Marvels: A Third Compendium of Extraordinary Animals, CFZ Press, ISBN 9-781909-488205
- Drinnon, Dale A. Frontiers of Zoology: On the Track of the Water-Bull frontiersofzoology.blogspot.com [Accessed 12 July 2020]
- Coleman, Loren & Clark, Jerome (1999) Cryptozoology A to Z: The Encyclopedia of Loch Monsters, Sasquatch, Chupacabras, and Other Authentic Mysteries of Nature, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 978-0684856025