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Fact Check: The Truth Behind the So-Called Extinct 'Dragons' of North America

Image via X account @CMDRVALTHOR
Image via X account @CMDRVALTHOR

Claim:

Viral photos shared in February 2024 authentically depict extinct dragons of North America.

Rating:

Rating: Fake
Rating: Fake

Dragons have long gripped our collective imagination, likely first appearing in both European and Asian mythology. More recently, a series of sepia-toned images appearing to show various "extinct dragons" of North America went viral on X (formerly Twitter) in February 2024 with more than 729,200 views. The original post on TikTok also received more than 19.2 million views.

Many commenters questioned the authenticity of the photos, with one pointing out that one of the "dragon's" teeth extended into its apparent eye sockets.

(Image via Instagram account @the_ai_experiment)

The series of photos was indeed fake — entirely artificial intelligence (AI-generated). The X account that posted the series credited Instagram account @the_ai_experiment, a page that has produced dozens of similarly AI-generated posts.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CsIcUROMbGL/

Multiple conspiracies surrounding extinct dragons and dragon bones have also spread on TikTok, including a false claim that scientists successfully cloned dragons in Beijing (these AI-generated images received more than 8.9 million views).

The original creator of the sepia images in question, @the_ai_experiment, posted them on TikTok in May 2023, receiving more than 19.2 million views. Although the account does not have a disclaimer in its bio, the account's handle itself confirms that the images were AI-generated.

Additionally, a test by AI detection software Hive found that the images were 99.2% likely to be AI-generated.

(Image via Hive)

While it can be tempting to imagine the fire-breathing creature taking shape in our archaeological record, there is no scientific evidence that they ever existed.

Sources:

Gershon, Livia. 'A Natural History of Dragons'. JSTOR Daily, 3 Oct. 2022, https://daily.jstor.org/a-natural-history-of-dragons/.

'Https://Twitter.Com/CMDRVALTHOR/Status/1755991396807262237'X (Formerly Twitter), https://twitter.com/CMDRVALTHOR/status/1755991396807262237. Accessed 20 Mar. 2024.

TikTok - Make Your Day. https://www.tiktok.com/@the_ai_experiment/video/7232171560063274283?lang=en&q=extinct%20dragons&t=1710960928620. Accessed 20 Mar. 2024.

TikTok - Make Your Day. https://www.tiktok.com/@cabeladams/video/7228342101489110298?lang=en&q=extinct%20dragons&t=1710960928620. Accessed 20 Mar. 2024.