Jurassic Park taught us all two very valuable lessons. #1 – Always make sure that your fence security is on point and #2 – Just because something seems cool and exciting, doesn’t mean you should go ahead and do it. There’s a reason humans didn’t come into the picture when the pre-meteorite mega dinosaurs were roaming about – we sure as hell wouldn’t be here today. The creatures in this list may not all be scary-ass carnivores like T-rex and the like (some are even herbivores and insects), but you wouldn’t be in a hurry to pet any of this lot.
What’s freaky about this bunch is the fact that they are all the close ancestors of many animal species we know and live amongst today. Except for one teensy little factor – the ones we co-exist with today are not so freakin’ HUGE! This is thought to be due to the lower amount of Oxygen in today’s atmosphere. So, short of oxygen dramatically increasing or a mass spillage of radioactive waste, these creatures will thankfully never reach this size again. (And if they do, I’m moving to Mars).
Kinda like Pokémon in reverse, these prehistoric creatures have evolved to look cuter and smaller, and with much less ability to kill everything in their path. But for the sake of nostalgia – and a desire to have nightmares tonight – let’s travel back a few million years and take a look at the abnormally super-sized versions of our modern animals. Here are 15 big beasts that you’ll be glad to know are long extinct!
15. Arctodus (Giant Bear)
Currently, the largest bears on the planet are considered to be the Polar bear and Alaskan Kodiak bear (the biggest ranging between 7 and 8 feet in length), but their prehistoric ancestor makes them both seem like Winnie the Pooh in comparison. The Arctodus, or ‘short-faced bear’, puts our modern grizzlies to shame – standing at a colossal 15 feet when stood on its hind legs and weighing close to a ton (900kg).
This gargantuan mammal lived in the Pleistocene era – or the Ice Age – around 11,700 years ago, and this may point to how it became extinct. When it comes to food sources, early humans will have beaten the short-faced bear to it – and presumably killed them to make an entire tribe’s worth of fur coats.
14. Jaekelopterus (Giant Sea Scorpion)
Regular sized scorpions aren’t exactly what you’d call ‘cute’, so the idea of a Giant one is frickin’ terrifying! For starters, this guy sported claws the size of a grown man’s head and the biggest ones could reach up to over 8 feet in length! Be thankful you weren’t around when these things were – this creepy crawly of the sea could have quite easily snipped us in half if it wanted to.
This ferocious sea scorpion ruled the freshwater lakes and streams of the ancient world around 390 million years ago and (if it wasn’t obvious), it didn’t have too many natural predators. Imagine paddling in the stream on a hot summers day and finding this thing next to your feet? *Shudder* Just when you thought it was safe to go into ankle-deep water…
13. Argentavis (Giant Bird)
When Alfred Hitchcock produced his eerie horror flick The Birds, he used hundreds of small ones to play on our fears of being watched and surrounded, when what he really should have done was save money and use one giant model bird to strike fear into his audience – this prehistoric monstrosity would’ve been a good suggestion.
Argentavis Magnificens was the largest flying bird to ever grace the planet, boasting a 19 to 26 foot wingspan and a total wing area of 75-feet. To put this even more cosily, that’s only a little smaller than the dimensions of a Lear jet. If these guys were still hovering around, nobody would leave the house without a titanium umbrella. Actually, scratch that. Nobody would leave the house – period.
12. Meganeura (Giant Dragonfly)
Like the Bulldog or the Killer Whale, Dragonflies seem to be in that camp of animals with fairly misleading and inappropriate names. There’s nothing particularly ‘dragon’ like about the modern dragonfly. Its prehistoric ancestor, on the other hand, was much closer to the mark (in size and scariness).
The body of a Meganeura Permiana – to give it its full title – grew to a whopping 17 inches and its wingspan stretched to more than 2 feet in length. Rightly so, this prehistoric dragonfly was the fiercest insect that ever lived. The fact that it couldn’t breathe fire is the only thing missing from this ancient winged beast! Research has suggested that it fed on a diet of frogs and squirrels to keep it going. (If we were around, it will no doubt have tried to eat us too).
11. Dino-Rat (Giant Rodent)
Imagine setting a rat trap in your basement. Now imagine returning to your basement, only to find a rat the size of a small hippo staring back at you, with your pathetic rat trap swinging from its mouth. (Apologies in advance for the nightmares). Based on the size of its head alone (2 feet long), it’s thought that this horrific mega rodent could have weighed over 2,000 pounds – that’s about as heavy as a fully-grown bull!
It’s intimidating stature may have helped it to defend itself against the sabre-toothed tigers and other large predators that were roaming about, but despite its size, this prehistoric rodent will have fed mostly on plants. This still isn’t much of a comfort, though. A year’s supply of rat poison probably wouldn’t slow this thing down!
10. Megalodon (Giant Shark)
The largest shark species to inhabit today’s oceans is the Great White shark and they can reach 20 feet in length. The Megalodon on the other hand? The clue’s kinda in the name, as fossil remains suggest that these jumbo sized sharks grew to between 50 and 67 feet!
Megalodon’s roamed the waters around 1.5 million years ago and were nearly half the size of a blue whale. In fact, their prey of choice was usually small prehistoric whales, dolphins and giant turtles. Horrified yet? The force of its bite was also pretty nightmarish – coming in at around 1.8 tonnes of clamping power, compared with the 600 pound chomp of an African Lion. Makes the one from Jaws seem like a pussycat, don’t it?
9. Beezlebufo (Giant Frog)
The name Beezlebufo roughly translates as ‘Devil Frog’, and you’d no doubt be screaming the same thing if this mini monster came leaping towards you. This prehistoric frog was roughly the size of a bowling ball – weighing in at 10 pounds and so big, it fed on baby dinosaurs and sizeable reptiles.
The Beezlebufo was hopping around about 65 million years ago and sported a freakishly wide mouth in comparison to modern frog and toad species. As well as being the size of a bowling ball, recent fossil investigations have suggested that the devil frog may have had the strong, hard armour of a bowling ball too – sporting sharp spikes and a tough shell-like structure protecting its head and back. Any predators swallowing these guys will have had a sore throat for weeks!
8. Psittacosaurus (Dino Parrot)
At a rather alarming 3 feet tall, it doesn’t seem likely that this Polly would want a cracker. The 110-million-year-old Dino Parrot had much the same diet as their modern counterparts, feeding mainly on nuts and seeds – but you wouldn’t know it judging from its freakish size!
The fossil of a dino parrot was recently discovered in Mongolia and has revealed that the herbivorous creature displayed some incredibly strong features. Prehistoric polly boasted some hefty jaw muscles and a powerful beak that made up one third of its entire skull size – making it able to bite and crush its food with ease. They could also run fairly well for their size too. Come to think of it, so would we…right out the pet store.
7. Campanile Giganteum (Giant Sea Snail)
Remember that childhood past time of collecting pretty shells at the beach? Sooner or later, you might have come across that one seashell that was super long and cone-shaped. Creepily, the prehistoric sea snail bares an uncanny resemblance to the coiled Turitella shell – but at 2 feet long, you may not have been so quick to want to take this guy home with you.
The largest known snail today is the 7 inch-long African land snail, which, as snails go, is a pretty unsettling size in itself. Picturing one the length of a small dog trailing slime around your local beach is close to the stuff of nightmares! Good thing there were no curious kids to poke around in rock pools 50 million years ago.
6. Arthropleura (Giant Centipede)
The biggest kind of modern centipedes are normally dealt with by pest control, but all the rent-a-kill teams and top assassins of the world wouldn’t go near this thing – and who could blame them? This colossal prehistoric pest could reach up to 8 feet in length and the fatter varieties would have been a little wider than the average human torso. Yikes!
Fossilized remains have shown that this huge-ass centipede was strictly herbivorous, but at this size – it really could have had any animal it wanted! Unsurprisingly, the arthropleura is thought to be the largest invertebrate to have ever existed on Earth. Imagine living in a world where centipedes have gone from something you can kill by stepping on, to something that about 5 children could ride on the back of? Nope!
5. Elasmotherium (Giant Rhino)
Currently, the largest Rhino species on the planet is the White rhino, averaging 12 feet in body length. It’s prehistoric cousin, on the other hand, was closer to 20 feet long and weighed as much as four tonnes – nearly double the weight of the largest male white rhino. Dino rhino (or elasmotherium) also sported an impressive 3 foot long single horn on its head, and many believe this feature could have sparked the whole ‘Unicorn’ legend.
The giant rhino only disappeared as recently as the last Ice Age – meaning early humans will have come across this strange-looking creature and possibly passed on their fascination through folklore. Ancient texts have even been found containing descriptions of a mythical beast with ‘the head of a sheep, the tail and hooves of a cow and a big horn’. Sorry everyone, Unicorns may not be the pretty rainbow-horned horses we once thought they were!
4. Megatherium (Giant Sloth)
Modern sloths are nothing more than cute and harmless slobs, so how the hell did they descend from these horrendously huge creatures? The Megatherium or ‘giant ground sloth’ of what would now be South America was 20 feet from head to tail and weighed an enormous 4 tonnes – making it the size of a modern day elephant.
Studies into the giant sloth’s footprints show that it was bipedal, in other words, able to stand on its hind legs. This allowed it to feed from the tallest trees around… like giraffes. Sloths as big as giraffes? Why, nature, why?! In sloth-like tradition, the megatherium was certainly a slow-moving and relatively non-threatening creature, but it could have easily decapitated you with one swipe of its claw.
3. Titanoboa (Giant Snake)
For those of you with a snake phobia, it’s probably best to not even read this next bit. Forget Boa Constrictor, how about Boa Godzilla? Fossils have estimated that this prehistoric snake may have reached up to 50 feet in length. Just to put that in context, the largest known snake on the planet today (the Reticulated Python) only grows to about 23 feet long.
The Titanoboa weighed in at 2,500 pounds and was thankfully slithering around the planet about 60 million years ago. The last time many of us will have seen something resembling the Titanoboa in living memory may have been when Harry Potter encountered the Basilisk in The Chamber of Secrets – and no amount of magic would help you out against this thing anyway.
2. Gigantopithecus (Great Ape)
It’s thought that the Gigantopithecus or Great Ape was the closest thing to a real-life King Kong of the prehistoric era and it’s not hard to see why. Reaching up to 10 feet tall and weighing in at 1,200 pounds, scientists believe this ape to be the largest of its species to ever exist.
This Great Ape lived between 9 million and 100,000 years ago, and – despite its towering stature – was thought to be more of a gentle giant than you might have expected. Fossilised remains of their teeth indicate that they mainly fed on tough, fibrous plants and fruit. Big foot did in fact exist – just a few hundred thousand years longer ago than the internet and conspiracy theorists would have you believe.
1. Deinosuchus (Giant Croc)
At 39 feet in length, this humungous ancestor of our modern day crocodiles and alligators may be not be the biggest creature on the list, but it certainly wins the contest for the most badass. Why? Because the fearsome Tyrannosaurus Rex was amongst its main prey, that’s why! Not even the insanely brave Steve Irwin would have dared to go near this beast.
The name Deinosuchus roughly translates as ‘terrible crocodile’ in Greek. Far from it! These guys would have made a great ally to Dr. Alan Grant and the kids during so many moments. Lesson #3 from Jurassic Park – If you ever plan on resurrecting the dinosaurs, make sure you have plenty of T-rex killing Crocs on your side when things (inevitably) go wrong.