12 GIANT Prehistoric Critters
12. The Giant Abnormal Shrimp.
Better known as the Anomalocaris (ah-noe-malo-kerris), this creature was first described in 1892 by Joseph Whiteaves. Fortunately, the abnormal shrimp actually lived approximately 505 million years ago.
Fossils have been found all around the world, which means that there were many of these creatures swimming in earth’s oceans at the time.
The anomalocaris is believed to have been a good swimmer, and a great predator. It fed on mostly trilobites, and stood at a whopping 3.2 feet tall (1 meter). That might not seem like a lot, but let’s not forget the fact we are talking about a carnivorous SHRIMP here.
On a side note, there is an asteroid named after the creature, 8564 Anomalocaris.
Giant Dragonfly —
Dragons really did exist … in a sense anyway. Some 300 million years ago, Dragonflies as big as birds buzzed over the land. Found in 1880, Fossils of the creature were labelled ‘Meganeura’ or “large-nerved” by French paleontologist Charles Brongniart (bron-yart) in 1885. Nice fossil specimens have been found in France and Derbyshire, England.
M. permiana, the ancestor of the modern day dragon fly might have been the biggest insect that ever existed, with a wingspan over 2 feet and a length of almost 17 inches. Due to its enormous size, researchers believe it may have preyed on animals as big as squirrels and frogs.
High levels of oxygen in the earth’s atmosphere decreased millions of years ago, which is when the these prehistoric dragonflies are believed to have gone extinct.
Monster Sea Scorpion
Fossils of a monster sea scorpion’s claw were first discovered in a German quarry in 2007. Identified as J.rhenaniae, the creature was active some 390 million years ago, and thought to have gone extinct 250 million years ago.
The creature is thought to have measured 8 feet in length, and a single pincer was over 18 inches long. In effect, you had a sea scorpion that was the size of a crocodile. Those dimensions make it bigger than a group called eurypterids, a group of previously known sea scorpions, that are the relatives of today’s land spiders and scorpions.
The J.rhenaniae (ren-uh-nee-uh) fossil is the largest arthropod yet discovered. Today, lobsters and spider-crabs are the largest living arthropods. They likely wouldn’t have whetted the appetite of J.rhenaniae!
Known as Arthropleura (ar-throw-ploo-ra), this was an ancestor to both millipedes and centipedes, living some 300 million years ago. Its fossils have been located across areas now identified as North America and Scotland.
It was similar to the modern centipede, except it was more than 8 feet long! Compare that to today’s centipede which measures about 10 inches long … something of a size difference.
Even so, the modern day centipede is known to feast on bats, snakes and birds. No, think about a centipede more than 3 feet long … what would a creature that big prey on? Interestingly, for its massive size, this giant bug was a complete herbivore, based on evidence of its fossilized stomach remnants.
This huge, prehistoric bird lived between 70-65 million years ago, and was discovered in North America.
The first fossils were found by a geology grad student in 1971 at Big Bend National Park in Texas. That relic dated back some 68 million years
The creature weighed up to 300 pounds and had a wingspan of 30 feet. It was named after Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec god. Aren’t you glad these big birds are gone? If you thought pigeons were a problem …
The creature was first described by Edward Drinker Cope in 1868, from a fossil discovered in Kansas. Other specimens of the creature have been found in North America, and lived over 80 million years ago.
Over 46 feet in length and weighing over 4400 pounds, Elasmosaurus was the largest of the plesiosaurs (pleh-see-o-soars). It was thought to be a slow swimmer and preyed on schools of fish.
Identified by its signature long neck, some people think this creature might still be alive and well, and residing in Scotland … Ever hear of the Loch Ness Monster?
The Steppe Mammoth
Even though it’s called a Mammoth, this was actually the biggest elephant that ever lived. The most complete skeleton yet found was in Serbia in 1996. Other fossils have been discovered in the UK and France. It lived from 600,000 to 370,000 years ago.
Based on fossil evidence, the animals were as tall as 15 feet, and would have weighed up to 11 tons. Today’s African elephants stand up to 13 feet tall. As big as the Steppe Mammoth was, its size couldn’t protect it against humans and their weapons. It’s thought the animals were hunted to extinction some 300,000 years ago.
Sarcosuchus Imperator (sark-os-uh-chus Imp-er-ay-tor) …
That’s a big name for a big crocodile. It lived some 112 million years ago, with fossils found in Africa from the 1940s to the 1960s, and South America in 1977.
What would the Crocodile Hunter made of this specimen? It actually did resemble the crocodile of today … The Imperator could weigh up to 8 tons and grow to a length of 39 feet … about the size of a truck!
Researchers think that this beast may have preyed on dinosaurs, which might explain its size
Thought to have lived some 34 million years ago, this is considered the ancestor of today’s whales and porpoises. The first fossils of the creature were discovered in the United States, and during the early 19th century were so common they were often used as furniture in the South.
Basilosaurus had seal-like flippers and a long tail. A typical size was between 40 to 65 feet long, about the size of a small ship!
The name “Basilosaurus” means ‘king lizard’ in Latin. That’s because the creatures remains were were initially mistaken for those of a dinosaur. Because a complete skeleton has never been unearthed, the real appearance of this animal is unknown
Megalania Prisca (Mega-lay-nee-uh Pris-kuh)
Megalania prisca means “ancient great roamer” and was coined by Sir Richard Owen in 1859. It’s also known as the Giant Ripper Lizard, and is thought to have disappeared some 50,000 years ago.
The Komodo Dragon is the world’s largest reptile … but its ancient ancestor, the Megalania would have dwarfed it. This was a large monitor lizard, and its exact proportions have been a source of debate. But recent research reveals the animal was around 23 feet long and weighed up to 1400 pounds. That would make it the largest terrestrial lizard that ever lived.
Because it had oral glands that could secrete a toxin,that would also make it the largest venomous vertebrate that ever existed. It’s thought that Australia’s early aboriginal settlers might have encountered them.
Short Faced Bear
Inhabiting North America, it was especially abundant in what is now California, up to 11,000 years ago. In 2011, a short-faced bear was found in South America that is thought to be the largest of its kind. The South American bear existed around 500,000 to 2 million years ago. That skeleton was discovered in Argentina in 1935.
This bear weighed up to 3500 pounds and measured at least 11 feet when standing. That would make it bigger than the average bear if not smarter!
It was known to be a carnivore, but less certain is how and what these animals ate. Interestingly, it’s thought that the South American bear species started off big and became smaller over time. While their North American cousins started off small and got bigger.
They roamed South America between 62 million and 2 million years ago. Fossils of these predators were first discovered on that continent in the late 1800s.
This species of flightless, carnivorous birds were known as Terror Birds for good reason. They stood up to 10 feet tall and could eat mammals about the size of a dog … in a single gulp!
You could say they had a nose for killing. Using their massive, eagle-like beak the predator could attack vulnerable parts of its prey with critical strikes … or pick up smaller prey and just smash it on the ground.
Did you know, researchers still haven’t come to a conclusion as to why these birds went extinct. But the last appearance of this animal’s fossils seems to coincide with the appearance of the first humans.