“Be careful, because there’s always someone out there that’s bigger and tougher.” This age old lesson on humility, passed down from fathers to sons, rings true for the animal kingdom as well. All the terrifying (and not so terrifying) animal species you can think of have bigger, badder, stronger, and faster relatives. As a matter of fact, we should count our lucky stars that some of these primal beasts are not walking/flying/crawling among us in 2018. Safe spaces be damned! You’d need a safe ‘base’ to protect yourself from these dangerous predecessors...Now, have you ever dreamed of waking up in a exotic environment surrounded by super-sized animals? Well, your dream is about to become a reality, and remember that truth is oftentimes stranger than fiction. Here is a top ten list of prehistoric animals and their modern counterparts.
1.) Megalodon---Modern relative: Great White Shark
Many of us are familiar with the Great White Shark and the frightening aura associated with this apex predator of the world’s oceans. The image of its blood-red gums holding in place those sharp spearheaded teeth, will send a shiver through your bones. Now, what if I told you that it had a relative who many scientists regard as one of the largest and most powerful fish to have ever lived? Megalodon(meaning ‘big tooth”) went extinct just 2.6 million years ago, which sounds like eons, but in the context of world history, it’s a fairly short window of time. According to fossil records, this fish could reach up to 60 ft in length and weigh in at an average of 35,000 lbs! Its diet consisted of small whales and had an estimated bite force of about 30,000 lbs! Comparatively, the “bite force” of the largest confirmed Great White is 4,095 lbs, and the average length and weight is 15 ft and 4,200 lbs respectively. Now that we’re on the subject, who wants to take a dip?
2) Megatherium---Modern Relative: Sloth
Megatherium (meaning ‘great beast’) was a ground sloth that was the size of a modern elephant! If you’ve ever seen the movie Ice Age than a good description of this beast would be the size of Manny the Mammoth with the look of Sid the Sloth! It measured up to 20 ft in length and weighed about 8,000 lbs. It possessed those long curved claws like the modern day sloth and only ate veggies. If it couldn’t reach certain vegetation, it would prop itself up on its densely muscular tail(similar to a kangaroo) and pull down the desired leaves. Also known as ,”The Giant Ground Sloth”, it was capable of walking on two legs but only on the sides of their feet; their claws were too large to place their feet flat! Its size alone, kept the majority of enemies at bay and they were essentially the epitome of a “gentle giant”. Don’t dare call this sloth lazy!
3,) Meganeura---Modern Relative: Dragonfly
For those like me, who detest insects, the idea of a giant dragonfly buzzing around my head is the stuff of nightmares. The Meganeura (meaning “large-veined”) had a wingspan of approximately two and a half feet(similar to that of an eagle)and lived around 300 million years ago. They were predatory and enjoyed feasting on other insects and in some cases small amphibians. The reason for this insects immense size was due to the fact that the oxygen levels were three times higher than present day. What’s interesting about Meganeura, however, is that their size was deceiving; they would have been much slower than modern dragonflies. Like their descendants, Meganeura could be found in and around bodies of water such as ponds, streams, etc... It would probably take a bucket full of deet and a snow shovel sized flyswatter to combat these giant-sized dragonflies!
4.) Glyptodon---Modern Relative: Armadillo
The shell of a modern armadillo is hard....essentially bulletproof. In 2015, a Texas man was shot after the bullet he fired ricocheted off an armadillo shell and hit him in the face. Now that that’s established, what if I told you there existed an armadillo relative that was roughly the same size and weight of a Volkswagen Beetle? Meet Glyptodon! This thing was 5 ft tall, 11 ft long, and weighed up to 4,400 lbs! I’m not sure any modern caliber bullet could penetrate Glyptodon’s massive shell. Lucky for other species at the time, Glyptodon was a herbivore eating mainly grass and leaves. That doesn’t mean they were pushovers! Glyptodon had a thick bony cap that worked just like a helmet and a fearsome tail with rings of bone attached making it powerful, mobile, and a deadly weapon. The interesting fact about this “mini-tank”, is that it only became extinct around 10,000 years ago with evidence suggesting that humans facilitated their demise!
5.) Hippopotamus Gorgops---Modern Relative: Hippopotamus
The modern day “Hippo” is currently the third largest land mammal on earth behind the elephant and rhino. That, coupled with the fact that it’s among the most dangerous animals in the world(number one killer of humans in Africa), due to its unpredictability and heightened aggression...make it one scary beast. Well, I think you may know where this one is going. Once upon a time, there existed a direct descendant of the Hippo, known as “Hippopotamus Gorgops”, that was twice as big! Weighing in at a mind boggling 8,600 lbs and measuring 14 ft in length, this prehistoric hippo dwarfs the modern day behemoth otherwise known as “The River Horse”. The prehistoric hippo also had better underwater vision than its descendant, which is why I’m glad they died out just prior to the Ice Age…
6.) Deinosuchus---Modern Relative: Crocodile
I Know. As if Crocs weren’t terrifying enough? Meet Deinosuchus(meaning “terrible crocodile”), the dinosaur-devouring distant relative of the modern “Croc”. Even Mick Dundee would have a tough time wrangling this meat eating super assassin! Deinosuchus, despite its immense size, bore an uncanny resemblance to its crocodile descendants. It had thick and robust teeth that were adapted for crushing and probably would have been able to walk on land. According to many estimations, the bite force of this “croc on steroids” would’ve been greater than even the strongest of dinosaurs including the T-Rex! Scientific estimates reveal that Deinosuchus could’ve reached up to 33 ft. in length and weighed up to 11,000 lbs! Even more terrifying, is the fact that they were highly concentrated in the continental United States! A little too close to home, if you ask me…
7.) Gigantopithecus---Modern Relatives: Apes
Gigantopithecus is simply the largest primate that ever lived. Standing around 9 ft. tall and weighing around 1,200 lbs, this creature was the real Bigfoot. It’s probable that Gigantopithecus resembled and even walked on four limbs like its descendant, the modern gorilla. When fully grown, this awesome creature had no enemies or predators; would you mess with a 9 ft. tall gorilla? This particular species lived exculsivley in Asia, and dieted on bamboo sticks and fruit.The large appetite of the ape interestingly led to its demise, however. During the Pleistocene era, when more and more forested areas turned into savanna landscapes, there simply wasn’t enough food for the giant ape to consume! Like the aforementioned Glyptodon, Gigantopithecus became extinct just 10,000 years ago! It’s been suggested that the tales told by various cultures around the world about giant bipedal ape-like creatures, are actually convincing evidence that Gigantopithecus may have been more abundant and spread out than previously thought. Next time someone inquires if Bigfoot exists tell them he ‘existed’ in the form of the mighty Gigantopithecus!
8.) Titanoboa---Modern Relative: Boa Constrictor
This next prehistoric creature should've come with a warning label: “Not your garden variety snake!” (pun intended) If you’re familiar with snakes at all, you’re most certainly aware of the incredible Anaconda who measures a staggering 15 ft. in length and weighs up to 215 lbs.! That sounds big, right? Allow me to blow your mind. Titanoboa, was a 50 ft. long/2,000 lb serpent that looked like a boa constrictor but hunted like a crocodile! At one time, Titanoboa was likely the largest non-marine creature living on earth. Given its name, one might imagine that this snake would squeeze its prey to death, but on the contrary, it would sink its massive jaws into the necks of its victims.The slithering school bus sized serpent could even crush and devour prehistoric crocodiles(save for Deinosuchus). What’s of particular intrigue, is the fact that this snake was only recently discovered. It kind of puts in perspective how little we know about the creatures of days past. Again, I’m just relieved this monster snake went extinct 60 million years ago, or I’d be buying adult diapers(wholesale…)
9.) Archelon---Modern Relative: Sea Turtle
It’s no secret that turtles are awesome. They live forever, have cool decorative shells, and are gentle creatures for the most part. As big as some modern sea turtles may be; they’ve got nothing on Archelon(“ruler turtle”). They’re the largest genus of sea turtles ever documented and lived 66 million years ago. Archelons were massive, weighing up to 4,850 lbs and measuring 13 ft long from flipper to flipper. For comparison's sake, the largest modern sea turtle is the “Leatherback” whose measurables include 6 ft in length & 1,500 lbs in weight. Their large sharp beaks were able to crack through shelled animals like a hot knife through butter. The only disappointing fact about Archelon, was the fact that it couldn’t retract into its shell! I guess you could argue that it was too big for its own good; without the ability to hide in their shells, they were essentially an easy target for larger predators. That being said, wouldn’t it be fun to ride on the back of an Archelon?
10.) Short-faced bear---Modern Relatives: Bears
The ancestor of most of the bears around today, the Short-faced bear ruled North America and were most abundantly found in the state of California. The name speaks for itself, as this bear had a disproportionately short snout compared to other bears at the time. Scientists consider them to be one of the largest mammalian carnivores to ever exist. Would bear spray work on one of those? I think not, given the dimensions of this burly beast; The Short-faced bear weighed up to 2,100 lbs, stood 10 ft tall on its hind legs, and reached a height of 6 ft. on all fours(enough to stand eye to eye with an average sized adult human) Another unique physical trait of these bears were their unusually long legs. These legs allowed them to chase down their prey at speeds of 30-40 mph! It’s amazing that these husky animals were able to chase down speedy wild horses and antelopes with relative ease! The Short-faced bears were nothing short of incredible.
What do you remember? No cheating!
For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.
- What creature is a descendant of Megalodon?
- Hammer Head Shark
- Tiger Shark
- Great White Shark
- Which snake is a descendant of the great Titanoboa?
- Boa Constrictor
- Great White Shark
- Boa Constrictor