Thursday, September 30, 2010
Since the monsters that were fear and trembling before a few million years, today remained only bones, or maybe not?
Everyone probably remembers the terrifying great white shark of the movie Jaws. Yet this shark species had a larger brother, aptly named the giant white shark, or megalodon. Based on recovered teeth from this shark (its skeleton was composed of cartilage, which decomposes, leaving only the teeth), its official length was estimated at 40-55 ft. long, compared to 20-25 ft. for the great white shark. Megalodon is thought by evolutionists to have died out millions of years ago.
Terror birds, formally known as Phorusrhacids, were the top predators in South America and parts of North America during the Miocene, Pliocene and Early Pleistocene periods, before they were replaced by big cats and other carnivorous mammals. They were unable to fly, but could run very fast (as fast as a cheetah, according to some scientists!) and were very large; the largest species could grow up to three meters tall and weigh up to half a ton. Their main weapon was their head, which could be up to one meter long, allowing them to swallow prey as large as a dog in one single gulp! However, thanks to the hooked tip of the bill, similar to that of eagles and hawks, the terrors birds could kill and devour prey much larger than a dog, including horses, camels, etc.
Smilodon often called sabre-toothed cat or sabre-toothed tiger, is an extinct genus of machairodontine saber-toothed cats endemic to North America and South America. The genus is currently divided into three species : Smilodon gracilis, Smilodon populator, and Smilodon fatalis.
Estemmenosuchus is a genus of large, early omnivorous therapsid that lived during the middle part of the Middle Permian period. It was the largest animal of its day, and is characterised by distinctive horns-like structures, probably for intra-specific display.
Azhdarchids were a kind of pterosaur (most popularly known as pterodactyls) which included the largest flying creatures ever to have existed. Some of them had wingspans of 12 to 15 meters, making them as large as a small plane (although they were obviously not as heavy). But what makes Azhdarchids really strange are their body proportions; they had ridiculously long legs, necks and beaks, and very small bodies, as well as relatively short wings. Scientists believe that they did not hunt on the wing, but rather walked on the ground hunting for any animal they could catch and swallow whole- that included dog-sized, perhaps even man-sized creatures! Standing on all fours, the largest Azhdarchids were as tall as a modern day giraffe… and almost as tall as a T-Rex.
Purussaurus was a giant caiman living in South America during the Miocene epoch, 8 million years ago. It is known from skull material found in the Brazilian, Colombian and Peruvian Amazonia, besides in the north of Venezuela. The skull is about 1.5 meters (5 ft) long, and paleontologists estimate that the whole body would have measured around 12 meters, which means that Purussaurus is one of the largest crocodilians known to have ever existed. Two other extinct crocodilians, Sarcosuchus and Deinosuchus, have similar proportions, but both are geologically much older, dating from the Early and Late Cretaceous, respectively. They were probably predators of vertebrates, perhaps grabbing large mammals, but also eating turtles, smaller crocodilians, fish and other prey.
Although pigs, wild boars and warthogs today are known to eat meat on occasion, they are basically vegetarian. On the other hand, the Entelodon, a prehistoric pig relative, was a full time carnivore and possibly one of the most monstrous-looking mammals ever. Standing on all fours, this beast was as tall as a man, and had an immense head armed with powerful jaws and sharp teeth. Scientists believe that it was able to hunt live prey, but that it also scared other predators away from their kills (which should have been very easy). Its bite marks also suggest that it fought viciously with its own kind, and it is even possible that Entelodonts were cannibalistic. Entelodons were quite successful beasts, existing for about 9 million years.
Gigantopithecus is an extinct genus of ape that existed from roughly one million years to as recently as three-hundred thousand years ago, in what is now China, India, and Vietnam, placing Gigantopithecus in the same time frame and geographical location as several hominin species.The fossil record suggests that the Gigantopithecus blacki species were the largest apes that ever lived.