Dinosaurs on the Ark: How It Was Possible

How dinosaurs lived with man, how they were preserved on Noah’s ark—likely as juveniles—and what happened to dinosaurs after the flood

by Troy Lacey on April 28, 2021
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People often wonder how all of the animals could have fit on the ark. Often, “bathtub arks” are loaded down with various species of animals, rather than the biblical kind, which is approximately at the family level of biological classification. Noah didn’t need to bring lions, leopards, and tigers onto the ark, just a single pair from the cat kind. We see so many illustrations of large creatures packed tightly into a little boat. But this image is inaccurate too. Noah’s ark was so much larger than it is usually depicted, and many of the animals were probably smaller than are shown in popular pictures.

The Dinosaur “Hurdle”

But the biggest hurdle people have when they see any of our displays of the ark (or visit the Ark Encounter) is seeing dinosaurs depicted on the ark (or in stalls in the Ark Encounter). Due to evolutionary indoctrination, many people can’t picture man living alongside dinosaurs, or if they do, they think of the Jurassic Park/World movies and view all dinosaurs as wanting to trample or eat people. Even if they overcome or set aside this stumbling block, we still get questions of how dinosaurs could even fit on the ark, particularly when considering the massive dinosaurs, especially the sauropods. Other oft-cited “problems” with dinosaurs on the ark are feeding the herbivores the massive amounts of vegetation that the adults eat, feeding the carnivorous ones (and avoiding being eaten by them), and cleaning up after them.

It makes more sense to think that God would have sent to Noah juveniles (or sub-adults) or smaller varieties within the same kind.

It makes more sense to think that God would have sent to Noah juveniles (or sub-adults) or smaller varieties within the same kind. Consider the following advantages to bringing juveniles or smaller versions of a creature: they take up less space, they eat less, they create less waste, they are often more docile and easier to manage, they are generally less susceptible to injury, and they would have more time to reproduce after the flood. And considering this last point, wasn’t that the end goal of bringing them on board the ark: to keep them alive and to ensure that they would “be fruitful and multiply on the earth" (Genesis 8:17)? Bringing a full-sized dinosaur that only had a few years left and/or was past its reproductive prime seems illogical and wasteful. Neither of those is characteristic of God.

How Could Noah Have Fed the Carnivorous and Vegetarian Dinosaurs?

Regarding carnivorous activity, we know from the fossil record (most of which is a testimony of the worldwide, globe-covering flood) that some animals were carnivores in the post-fall/pre-flood world. But even if carnivory was prevalent in the late pre-flood world, it is still possible the animals that God sent did not eat meat or were omnivores that could have survived for one year without meat. There have been modern examples of animals normally considered to be carnivores that refused to eat meat, such as the lion known as Little Tyke. Additionally during times of war or natural disaster when meat was unobtainable, zoos and wildlife parks have utilized meat substitutes1 like nuts, peanut butter, coconuts, beans, soy, and other legumes as their protein-source feed for the animals.2

However, if some of the ark’s animals did eat meat, there are several methods of preserving or supplying their food. Meat can be preserved through drying, smoking, salting, or pickling. Certain fish can pack themselves in mud and survive for years without water—these could have been stored on the ark. Noah may have also brought mealworms and other insects onto the ark as food, and these can be bred for both carnivores and insectivores, providing even necessary amino acids, like taurine. Cricket or grasshopper flour could be baked into breads, as could the ground seeds of gourds. And plants like amaranth and quinoa yield high protein feed. Yeast paste and dried seaweed also contain high amounts of protein and taurine, so Noah quite likely had many options available to him. And occasionally in desperate times, like during the Nazi siege of Leningrad in 1941, even obligate carnivores (in this case, a tiger) have switched to vegetarian diets and survived for several years.3

For the plant-eating dinosaurs, the animals brought on board could have eaten compressed hay, other dried grasses, dried vegetables, seeds and grains, legumes, etc. Another factor that may have reduced food consumption for both vegetarian and carnivorous dinosaurs is that they went into a state of hibernation/brumation or torpor. Many reptiles today begin to eat less, reduce their metabolic rate drastically, and then “sleep” for long periods of time when the weather gets a little cooler, virtually eating nothing and waking up only for brief periods to drink before reentering brumation. Often the best conditions for this state are humidity, temperatures between 50° and 68° F (10° and 20° C), and low-light conditions.4 The outside weather at the time of the flood (rainy and thus likely cool) combined with the lower-light interior compartments of the ark would make ideal hibernation/brumation conditions on the ark. If any of the dinosaurs and other reptiles and amphibians went into brumation, then food requirements would have been severely reduced.

Crunching the Numbers

Noah also did not have to bring marine animals, bacteria, fungi, or plants (except as possible food sources) and many (if any) insects onto the ark.

Noah also did not have to bring marine animals, archaebacteria, bacteria, fungi, or plants (except as food sources and possibly a few hardier live plants/fungi for fresh food) and many (if any) insects onto the ark. Even current estimates are that there are fewer than 34,000 species of known, land-dependent vertebrates in the world today.5

Studies beginning in 2012 estimate that there are fewer than 1,400 known living and extinct kinds among land-dependent vertebrates. In a worst-case scenario, it is projected that Noah was responsible for about 6,700 individual animals—most of them small and easily maintained. Even if the biblical kind were expanded from the family to the genus level (4416 genera-according to a 2013 study)6, we would still be talking about approximately 16,000 animals total, as in the case study done by researcher John Woodmorappe in 2007.7

Based on the Hebrew common cubit (which Woodmorappe used) that, from records, was 18 inches, we can calculate that Noah’s ark was 450’ L x 75’ W x 45’ H—large enough to contain approximately 350 semi-truck trailers. Based on the Hebrew royal cubit, which we know from estimates of a cubit and a handbreadth (Ezekiel 40:5 and 43:13) to be equal to 20.4 inches (and believed to be the older cubit measurement), we can calculate that Noah’s ark was 510’ L x 85’ W x 51’ H—large enough to contain approximately 450 semi-truck trailers. The Hebrew royal cubit is the standard we used when we built the Ark Encounter’s ark.

Back to the dinosaurs, the average dinosaur is about the size of a bison, and the estimated number of dinosaur kinds (of which only a pair of each was brought) may have been about 85—-meaning a maximum of 170 dinosaurs were taken aboard the ark. Therefore, the ark had adequate space for every kind of dinosaur, particularly if God sent sub-adults to Noah. For example, the average 24 x 7 ft. cattle trailer can safely haul a maximum of eleven 1,200-pound cows.8 If cattle were transported with a common semi-truck trailer9 of 53 x 8.5 ft., an average of 28 such animals could be safely hauled.10 That means even assuming the maximum number of dinosaur kinds, only six of the 450 semi-truck trailer storage capacity (for a royal cubit sized-ark) would be needed for the dinosaurs.

But How Could Noah Care for the Dinosaurs on the Ark?

Creation researcher John Woodmorappe has written extensively on this topic in his book, Noah’s Ark: A Feasibility Study. Some of the methodologies he mentioned were practical, labor-saving devices like food and water troughs, slatted floors for waste disposal, ventilation systems, and lighting. Answers in Genesis also has a detailed book, a children’s book, and several articles on ventilation and lighting, animal care, logistical questions, as well as several videos of how Noah and his family could have prepared for and taken care of the animals.

We need to keep in mind that Noah was a very intelligent man and was obeying God’s commands by faith (Hebrews 11:7). And it was God’s desire that the animals on the ark were well cared for and able to disembark healthy and repopulate the new world. To use a perhaps overused phrase, but in this case highly appropriate, God did not set Noah up for failure but set him up for success. After all it was God’s own promises to Noah that were on the line (Genesis 6:20-23, 7:1-3), and God does not go back on his Word (Numbers 23:19; Titus 1:2). Although Scripture records only a few basic instructions on the design of the ark given by God to Noah, it is safe to assume that he providentially guided Noah to ensured that the ark was designed well, durable, and that it could do what he intended it to. Some good resources for looking at the technical aspects, and even possible floor plans for the layout of the ark, its animal enclosures, and labor-saving technologies can also be found on the Answers in Genesis website: Caring for the Animals on the Ark, How Could Noah Fit the Animals on the Ark and Care for Them? and Was There Really a Noah’s Ark & Flood?.

Dinosaurs Were on the Ark and Dinosaurs Came off the Ark

The evolutionary story is that dinosaurs died out 66 million years ago, long before humans evolved. But Scripture tells a quite different account.

The evolutionary story is that dinosaurs died out 66 million years ago, long before humans evolved. But Scripture tells a quite different account. All land animals were created on day six of creation week. And two of every unclean land animal were commanded by God to be brought onto the ark. Therefore Scripture testifies that dinosaurs would have survived the flood and coexisted with mankind. Then later in history we read of Behemoth, likely a sauropod dinosaur (Job 40), marine reptiles like Leviathan (Job 41, Psalm 104:25–26), and numerous references to dragons and flying serpents (possibly pterosaurs) throughout the Bible—all living alongside mankind. And man, specially created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), was given dominion over all of God’s creation (Genesis 1:28).

But dinosaurs did not prosper in the post-flood world, and they died out for many of the same reasons that some animals go extinct today. The post-flood world was radically different from the tropical/semi-tropical pre-flood world, and many plant species that the herbivorous dinosaurs likely fed on (cycads and gymnosperms) went extinct or were severely reduced in number and variety. Predation on some of the smaller dinosaurs by larger ones or large mammals and disease also could have contributed to their demise. Mankind may have hunted some dinosaurs for meat or destroyed them because they ravaged crops or were a threat to human survival. As Ken Ham has written, as they began to be seen less and less, they faded from memory and later remembered as legends. Dragon legends though likely containing kernels of truth about the size and ferocity of some of the larger dinosaurs, became stories told around campfires and hearths. But the very nature of their encounters with mankind after the flood in Scripture and in several historical accounts is testimony to their survival on the ark and their continued presence with man for a few thousand years afterward.

Footnotes

  1. Mayumi Itoh, Japanese Wartime Zoo Policy: The Silent Victims of World War II (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), 33.
  2. H. Bieguszewski, C. Lewicki, “Protein metabolism in fur-bearing carnivorous animals. 4. Effect of different composition of the feed and different protein contents on digestibility, N balance and some blood values in Arctic foxes,” Rocznik nauk rolniczych. Seria B. Zootechnika 91 (1969): 603.
  3. Henry Shapiro, “100,000 Died in Leningrad Siege,” New York Times, June 29, 1943, 6.
  4. Scott Solar, “Preparing Reptiles For Winter's Sleep,” Reptiles, last modified February 7, 2014, https://www.reptilesmagazine.com/preparing-reptiles-for-winters-sleep/.
  5. Liz Osborn, “Number of Species Identified on Earth,” https://www.currentresults.com/Environment-Facts/Plants-Animals/number-species.php
  6. Michael L. Rosenzweig et al., “Patterns in the diversity of the world’s land vertebrate genera,” Evolutionary Ecology Research 15, no. 8 (2013): 869. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/260595912_Patterns_in_the_Diversity_of_the_World's_Land_Vertebrate_Genera.
  7. John Woodmorappe, “Caring for the Animals on the Ark,” Answers 2, no. 2 (2007), 36–38, https://answersingenesis.org/noahs-ark/caring-for-the-animals-on-the-ark/.
  8. Doug Mayo, “Protect Beef Quality with Proper Cattle Hauling Practices,” University of Florida, March 20, 2015, https://nwdistrict.ifas.ufl.edu/phag/2015/03/20/protect-beef-quality-with-proper-cattle-hauling-practices/.
  9. “Semi Trailer Length,” https://www.bigtruckguide.com/semi-trailer-length/.
  10. Heather Smith Thomas, “What to know when buying a semi and trailer,” Tri-State Livestock News, August 15, 2018, https://www.tsln.com/news/buying-a-semi-and-trailer/.

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