Although it has proven unlikely that dinosaur fossils actually served to stimulate the ancient or medieval imagination into creating the legends of dragons, dinosaurs themselves both in science and in popular culture have taken over the entire mythos formerly belonging to the dragon. Arthur Conan Doyle's analogies in The Lost World between surviving fossil-lizards and medieval grotesques shaped popular conception of the extinct animals, as this book inspired the first important feature movie by the same name, thereby influencing all subsequent dinosaur films. Even beforehand, though, the original nineteenth-century paleontologists very unscientifically succeeded in designing the animals as monsters. The name "dinosaur" itself means "terrible lizard."
By whatever contrived means the screenwriters arrange
to contemporize these prehistoric monsters with human beings (whether
our cave-dwelling forebears or groups of intrepid modern explorers
in uncharted territory), the assumed antagonism between the two
species is noticeably reminiscent of the harassment of medieval
Christians by ravenous reptiles (or vice versa), the latter usually
emanating from the forces of Hell, for the devil himself in medieval
bestiaries was classed as "the most enormous of all reptiles."
Most striking is the focus on the reptilian mouth. Protagonists
such as Victor Mature in One Million BC (1940), Doug McClure
in The Land That Time Forgot (1974), even King Kong, and
many others are found almost inevitably assaulting dinosaurs in
the mouth with sticks, spears, bullets and missiles. Such scenes
are identical with medieval iconography of St. Michael and St.
George in their roles as dragon-slayers. But the image is not
consciously adopted by the films' directors; rather, the essence
of the dragon/dinosaur myth involves the horror that Western culture
feels over the dynamics of eating.