With no camera phones and televisions, malls and multiplexes, operas and movies, Dominoes and subway, and most of all not even human beings; the primal world would seem to be a boring one. A world with no action and adventure. But, one couldn’t have been more wrong. The prehistoric world, in reality, was a dangerous place. It was filled with horrifying giant beasts, aeroplane-sized birds, and larger than life aquatic animals.
We have seen just a glimpse of the dangerous world in movies like Jurassic park and Sea Rex. But, that is just the beginning. Dinosaurs weren’t the only animal species that roamed around the world before humanity came into existence. There were others, some of them bigger and more dangerous than the good-old T-rex. This here is a list of 20 such prehistoric animals that are now gone for good.
Irish Elk or an Irish giant deer was one of the largest deer species that ever lived. The Irish elk evolved during the last million years of the Pleistocene Epoch i.e. around 400,000 years ago and died out approximately 5,000 years ago. The prehistoric deer stood about 6.9ft tall! They carried the load of two large antlers of 12ft on the shoulder that weighed up to 40kg. And, here we are freaking about the weight of our school bags! Most likely reason for the extinction of the animal was hunting by humans (because we can be blamed for every destruction in the world!) for those mighty antlers. Or, maybe because of lack of dietary minerals (they needed Calcium Sandoz probably).
Remember Ellie in the Ice Age movies? For those who don’t know she is a wooly mammoth. A prehistoric mammal that once roamed the vast frozen, northern landscapes in large size. They had a thick coat of brown hair to keep them warm in the frigid torrid zone that they called home. Furthermore, they had a large, curved tusks that may have been used for fighting and as a digging tool for foraging meals of shrubs, herbs, roots and other small plants from under the snow. The wooly mammoth was a giant creature, having a height of 8fts and weighed 8,000 kgs. Finally, they became extinct in 1700BC (around 10,000 yrs ago) probably because of humans over-using their body parts and also the end of the ice age.
Smilodon first appeared about 1.6 million years ago and went extinct about 11,000 years ago. It lived during the last Ice Age and the Pleistocene Epoch. Also called the sabre-toothed cat/tiger, they are not related to a cat or a tiger in any manner. Smilodon was a ferocious predator having two huge canine saber-like teeth that were 7 inches long. They were about 4-5 feet long, 3 feet tall and weighed about 200 kg. Smilodon became extinct 10,000 years ago. Its extinction has been linked to the extinction of large herbivores, which were replaced by smaller and agiler ones like deer.
Strong, speedy and eager to eat anything in its way, Dunkleosteus lived about 360 million years ago. Dunkleosteus fossil remains have been found in Morocco, Belgium, Poland, and North America. At its prime, it could grow up to 33ft and was the top predator of its era. It could open its mouth in one-fifth of a second and could suck the prey right into its mouth (could use that for noodles!). It was a hungry, gluttonous hunter, very vicious and could eat any hapless creature that dared to come in its way!
The next creature in our list is a prehistoric buzzsaw killer. This 290 million years old shark had a 360 degree serrated teeth. It was the largest marine on Earth during its time. Recent studies and fossils found shows that the shark was around 30-40 feet long. Helicoprion used its unique set of teeth- like a chainsaw- to slice into its prey.
The largest land-dwelling “bug” of all time, Arthropleura is an extinct millipede arthropod. It livednortheastern North America and Scotland. Because the mouth of Arthropleura has never been recovered it is difficult to say if it was a herbivore or carnivore. But one thing is sure, it was a very big creature and grew up to 6ft long and 1.5ft wide. It is the largest known land invertebrate of all time.
Pterodaustro is a prehistoric bird with a wingspan of up to 8 feet and a weight of 5 to 10 pounds. They lived around 105 million years ago and were a close relative of modern times flamingo (less beautiful and more vicious). Pterodaustro fed on fish, insects, or other types of meat. These prehistoric creatures were a filter feeder and used their bristle-like teeth to filter out plankton and tiny crustaceans.
Livyatan Melville is a prehistoric whale that lived in Miocene era, around 12-13 years ago. They were 13.5 to 17.5 m long, having a skull of 3 m long. Unlike the modern sperm whale, L. Melvillei had functional teeth in both of its jaws. And, not just any teeth, they had the largest known teeth of any known animal. Their teeth were 36cm long.
Fun Fact- The giant whale gets its name “Livyatan” from biblical monster Leviathan. In addition, the name “Melvillei” was dedicated to author Herman Melville, author of Moby-Dick was added. This was because the researchers behind the excavation of the creature were all fans of this novel.
With five eyes and body and mouth facing not only the underside of the body but also backward; Opabinia might as well be the weirdest animal to have ever lived on our planet Earth. The eyes were arranged into two rows on the head, with two in the front row and three in the back row. It was a small animal, between 4-7cm in length. An especially relevant strange feature was the nozzle-like appendage on its head that could curve backward to deliver food to its backwards-facing mouth!
Shastasaurus was a prehistoric animal that lived during the late Triassic period, about 21o million years ago. Furthermore, it is the largest marine reptile that has yet been found. It has a ribcage measuring 6.6ft deep and the distance of 23fts between its flippers. Maybe due to its unusually short, toothless snout, Shastasaurus was thought to be a suction feeder.
Sarcosuchus is a prehistoric animal that lived during the early Cretaceous Period around 112 million years ago. First of all, it is one of the largest crocodile-like reptiles that ever lived. A fully grown Sarcosuchus is estimated to grow up to 36–39 ft in length and 8 tons in weight. The long snout comprised of 75% of its skull. It had 35 teeth on each side of the upper jaw, while in the lower jaw there were 31 teeth on each side.
Dimorphodon was a pterosaur from the early Jurassic Period, around 165 million years ago. The word “Dimorphodon” is derived from a Greek word meaning “two-formed tooth”. It was because of the fact that it had two distinct types of teeth in its jaws. Furthermore, a fully grown Dimorphodon had a length of 3.3 ft long, with a 4.6 ft wingspan. Another distinctive feature was its long tail with a diamond-shaped flap of skin at its pointy end.
Megalodon is a prehistoric extinct species of shark that lived 23 to 2.6 million years ago, during the Cenozoic Era. It is regarded as one of the largest and most vicious predators that ever lived. Doing complete justice to its name, “mega” Megalodon is said to measure 59fts in length. It is said that the greatest creature to ever prowl the ocean, may have been its own enemy. Finally, it got so big that it was prone to extinction. Poetic justice?
Quetzalcoatlus was a prehistoric bird that lived 68million years ago. They were the largest known flying animal of all time. It had a wingspan as large as 52 feet was 36-39 feet in length. Most notable were their no-hook sharp beak, much like a modern-day stork.
Phorusrhacids or as they are rightfully nicknamed, “terror birds”; are extinct carnivorous non-flightless birds that lived in the Cenozoic era around 1-2 million years ago. Furthermore, they had a height of 3.3 to 4.8 ft tall. Also, they were quite a fast runner too and were able to reach speeds of 48 km/h.
Deinocheirus is an extinct prehistoric animal that lived during the Late Cretaceous era around 70 million years ago. The arms, hands, and shoulder girdle were all that was discovered in 1965 in Mongolia’s Gobi desert. All the rest of the body skeleton were missing. Especially relevant, their arms were eight feet long and each had three 8 inches claws. For about 50 or so years their weird-looking, three-fingered hands were all that the humanity knew of them. Their arms were an enigma, a puzzle with some missing piece that riddled the paleontologists. As a result, that the creature was nicknamed “terrible hands”.
Epidendrosaurus or the “lizard of the tree” lived in late Jurassic era, 150 million years ago. Furthermore, it was 12in tall and weighed about 5 lbs. Also, they had long arms, clawed at the end that did not compliment its tiny size. Most notably, Epidendrosaurus had adopted an arboreal (tree-dwelling) lifestyle. Probably because of its small size, the land became a dangerous place filled with huge dinosaurs.
Plesiosaur also lived during the Jurassic period 66 million years ago. They had a broad flat body and a short tail. The creature was approximately 3 mt long. Most noteworthy were their long necks and small head. Furthermore, they were the among the first fossils to be found.
Deinotherium was a large prehistoric relative of modern-day elephants. Apart from a shorter trunk and downward curving tusks attached to the lower jaw, it looked same as a modern elephant. It had a height of about 3-4 m. This was probably why they were nicknamed “terrible beasts”.
Titanoboa or the “titanic boa” were an extinct species of snake that lived 60-58 million years ago. Most noteworthy is the fact that the snake was 48feet long and weighed 2,500 pounds. Consequently making them the largest of the snake species that ever roamed the earth.
The primal world must have been a terribly dangerous one with all these fantastic beast around to chew each other apart. Glad these beasts are extinct, aren’t we?