Modern dinosaurs

The life-sized robotic dinosaurs aren’t the only link to our ancient past! The Zoo houses many animals who lived beside or are descendants of dinosaurs. Below are a few of our animal ambassadors who share a history with some of your favorite dinosaurs.


Crocodilian is a term that refers to large predatory reptiles including crocodiles, alligators, and caimans. They first appeared 95 million years ago during the late Cretaceous Period and have remained largely unchanged over time. The Louisville Zoo houses Cuban crocodiles as well as Chinese alligators and even a white American alligator named “King Louie.”

Turtles, Lizards and snakes

The first reptiles evolved about 300 million years ago and over time became dinosaurs as well as many of the reptiles we love today. The first modern reptiles to evolve were turtles, whose ancient ancestors are thought to have split from other reptiles 250 million years ago. Lizards and snakes evolved more recently, diverging from each other about 150 million years ago. Many of our reptiles are housed in the HerpAquarium, which has recently reopened to visitors.


Birds are thought to have first evolved around 150 million years ago. It is thought that birds descended from two-legged, hollow-boned dinosaurs called theropods. Over time, birds have evolved to swim in the water, run on the ground, and even soar through the air! They are an incredibly diverse group of animals that are as impressive as the dinosaurs they evolved from. Our newly reopened Islands exhibit features various bird exhibit spaces, including the free flying bird trail and African penguins.