Evolution may be one of the great scientific discoveries of our time, but it also isn’t perfect. We have found lots of evidence for multiple awesome creatures, who have since become extinct and/or evolved into completely different creatures today. If you were to see the ancestors of many different animals living today, you would be shocked to know that their ancestors could actually even be their ancestors.
Apparently, the animals and creatures that we are going to look at thought that they were simply too cool to exist any longer. Either that, or mother nature had her way and got rid of these creatures by changing them into something different…and much less awesome and significant.
Evolutionary adaptation is defined as the gradual change of a species over time. Evolution has been documented with the shaping of life forms into different groups, with each group having different traits. Nonetheless, this does not mean that some creatures can evolve into truly bizarre life forms. For example, would you have ever thought that the ancestors of birds were dinosaurs? To put that into perspective, the red robin in your backyard was once a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Birds and dinosaurs are largely indistinguishable from each other, so it’s up to you to decide if the Tyrannosaurus Rex was ruined when it evolved into the birds we see today, or if that was a good thing. Here are the top ten formerly awesome creatures nerfed by evolution:
The Hyaenodons were predators the size of a horse with jaws the size of an alligator. They were also very quick and fierce killers who worked together to bring down large prey. If you can picture a giant hyena the size of a horse, that’s the closest representation to a Hyaenodon that you can think. But the Hyaenodons went extinct and what did they evolve into? Raccoons. That’s right, a raccoon are the closest descendants of Hyaenodons living today. Not to mention, their vast differences in shape, size and appearance, raccoons are scavengers, whereas the Hyaenodons were apex predators.
The Deinosuchus is an extinct relative of the crocodiles and alligators today, but it was far larger. Whereas today’s crocodiles measure about ten to twenty feet in length, the deinosuchus was over forty feet. What’s more, it feasted on large dinosaurs. The deinosuchus was believed to lie and wait under the water for dinosaurs to come and get a drink, and then it would strike and bring them down, turning the whole watering hole into a feeding frenzy. You have to admit, a crocodile that feasted on large dinosaurs is way more awesome than a crocodile less than half the size that only feasts on gazelles, wildebeests and zebras.
The Gastornis was an example of a killer bird that lived over a million years ago. In addition to being a top predator (and scavenger), it was also very beautiful with very colorful feathers. The Gastornis feasted on mammals by crushing their spine with a hook-shaped beak. The closest relatives to the Gastornis today are the Kiwi and the Rhea, which in turn, are very docile, skittish and significantly less colorful creatures.
Other than perhaps the Wooly Mammoth, the Smilodon (or Saber-Toothed Tiger) is one of the most recognizable creatures of the ice age world. They were the size of lions, worked together in packs, and featured eight inch canine fangs that would bite through the windpipe of their fallen prey and kill them in seconds. You would probably think that Smilodons evolved into the lions and tigers we see today, but that’s not true. In fact, Saber Toothed tigers weren’t even felines, but were actually more closely related to marsupials. That means the closet relatives to Smilodons we have today are Opossums, Koala Bears and Kangaroos. We tend to think of these creatures as being cute and cuddly…a far cry from the vicious predators that the Smilodons were reported to be.
The sloths of today live in trees, are of no threat to humans, and are extremely slow moving. Although, it was reported that sloths weren’t always this way. Back in the Pliocene era, the sloths of the day were known as Megatheriums, and lived on the ground rather than trees. Why did they? Because they were over twenty feet long and weighed over four tons! Now, just imagine if those kinds of sloths still lived today…
The horses of today are both some of the most popular and most practical animals to live. Whether they are used for riding, for racing at the Kentucky Derby, or for pulling large wagons, horses display some of the highest levels of endurance of any modern animal. But the horses of millions of years ago most certainly weren’t the horses of today. Modern day horses evolved from a mammal called the Eohippus, which was essentially a dog-sized horse. Now, you may be wondering why a dog-sized horse would feature on this list. Well, there’s no doubt that the horses of today are very useful and very likable. But who can dislike a horse the size of your Golden Retriever? That’s just awesome.
The Komodo dragon is the largest lizard of today, but it is dwarfed by the Megalania of millions of years ago. The Megalania was at least three times the length and weight of the Komodo dragons of today, meaning that it was also the largest lizard ever to have existed. If you think that Komodo dragons are scary enough, then you should definitely be glad you didn’t live during the times when the Megalania walked the planet.
When the word ‘shark’ comes to mind, we tend to think of the fearsome Great Whites or the Hammerheads. But even the mighty Great White Shark pales in comparison to the Megaladon, a shark that preyed the waters millions of years ago. The Megaladon very much resembles a Great White, but was the size of today’s whales. Back then, whales were much larger than the whales of today, but they were still the prey of choice for Megaladons. But once those great whales went extinct, so did the Megaladon, as their food supply dried up. The Great White Sharks of today are essentially miniature versions of the mighty Megaladon that once preyed the ocean waters.
2. Giant Dragonflies
Today’s dragonflies would be the prey of the dragonflies that once flew the earth over three hundred million years ago. You can consider yourself lucky if you see a dragonfly with a wingspan of six inches, but back then, a dragonfly with a wingspan of two feet was absolutely normal. They were also very quick, ruthless and predatory, essentially being the sharks of the insect world.
Andrewsarchus was a very refined killing machine, being twice the size of a Grizzly Bear and the largest mammal predator of all time. Scientists believe that in addition to being an excellent predator, the Andrewsarchus was also highly intelligent. But what did the Andrewsarchus evolve into? Goats and sheep. Now look, there’s no denying that sheep are some of the most fluffy animals of today and that goats are downright cute. But didn’t evolution rip mother nature off by having the largest mammal predator of all time evolve into a small, harmless herbivore that’s a common attraction at petting zoos? That’s up for you to decide.