Speaking of prehistoric animals, it is customary to mean primarily dinosaurs. However, few people know about the thousands of other interesting prehistoric animals that lived with dinosaurs.
Some of these representatives are similar to the inhabitants of today's aquarium or zoo, while others are very strange and scary. In any case, they've all died out millions of years ago. Below we will talk about ten of the strangest prehistoric animals, albeit not as known to us as dinosaurs.
The useful skills of archaeologists constantly increase their knowledge, expanding the list of hitherto unknown living creatures that once lived on Earth. Also, scientists are trying to find out whose ancestors they are in order to more fully trace the chains of evolution on the planet.
Dunkleosteus (Dunkleosteus). This prehistoric fish looks like a creature from nightmares. The representative of the genus carapace family of placoderms is one of the largest among fish. An armored creature with powerful jaws plied the waters of the oceans about 400 million years ago. The length of the dunkleosteus was 8-10 meters, and its weight was almost 4 tons. The creature was considered the top of the pyramid of predators, which meant that dunkleosteus could not be a victim of other animals. The fish itself ate meat as its main food. Such a terrible creature essentially did not have teeth, instead, two pairs of bone plates were located in the mouth, which helped to crush the shells. Scientists concluded that the pressure of the fish's jaws was 55 MPa, which is comparable to a crocodile bite. The predator opened its mouth so quickly (1/50 of a second) that the stream of water simply sucked in the prey. The undigested remains of the monster simply regurgitated. Fortunately, during the late Devonian period, the creature became extinct, otherwise today, swimming in the ocean could be much more dangerous. Although it is believed that after the Devonian period, there were no direct descendants of Dunkleosteus, another fish, Titanichthys, can be mentioned. She, however, is also considered ancient. As a result, Dunkleosti can be considered a shark that lived 400 million years ago. In any case, today's predators can be associated with this gigantic, scary fish.
Archeopteryx. Many scientists call this creature the first bird, and besides, it is the most primitive that ever existed. Archeopteryx lived at the end of the Jurassic period in the south of modern Germany about 150 million years ago. Then on the site of Europe there was an archipelago of islands. The prehistoric animals were about a foot and a half long, about the size of a crow today. Although the creature seems to us a small harmless feathered, in fact it had wide wings and sharp teeth like a crocodile. At the end of the wings were fingers with sharp claws. One toe was hyper lengthened, dubbed the "killer's claw". Scientists concluded that Archeopteryx was more related to dinosaurs than birds. Perhaps the creature became the first of its kind, initiating a new generation of animals. Dinosaurs received the first attributes of birds, eventually learned to fly, mastering new possibilities of existence. Archeopteryx mastered low bushes, possibly even carrying out some primitive flights (planning).
Elasmosaurus. This creature lived in the late Cretaceous period, about 80 million years ago. Elasmosaurus was 14 meters long and weighs more than 2.2 tons. Half of the animal's length fell on its neck, which consisted of more than 70 vertebrae. This is more than any other creature known to science today. But the long neck was an important part of the body that could protrude far out of the water. It seems that such a large volume of mass should be accompanied by powerful flippers, but the fossils found in Kansas told scientists that there were only 4 of them, and also small in size. The body of the animal was crowned with a small head, but the teeth were very sharp. It fed on small fish and mollusks, making sharp movements of the cervical region. Elasmosaurus does not have any close ties with modern animals, but is a distant relative of reptiles. If you believe in the Loch Ness monster, then this prehistoric animal may be what you expect to see. There have been extremely few other creatures in history like this. Among paleontologists, by the way, there is a legend about how, during the reconstruction of an animal, its head was placed on the end of the tail, not the neck.
Deinotherium. These creatures lived in the Middle Miocene, extinct during the early Pleistocene. It is the third largest land animal that has ever existed on the planet. The height of the Deinotherium was about 5 meters, and the weight was more than 15.4 tons. The creature looks very similar to modern elephants, the only difference is a shorter trunk and tusks attached to the lower jaw, and not to the upper, as it is now. The animals lived in the rainforest, and their habits had a lot in common with elephants. Plants served as the main food, while it was possible to use not only the trunk, but also the limbs for obtaining food. Fossils of these animals have been found all over the world, mainly in Europe, Asia and Africa. It is believed that the discovery of these remains with large teeth and fangs was the reason for the Greek belief in giant archaic creatures. One glance at the unreconstructed image of the deinotherium is enough to realize that they are the ancestors of elephants. The creatures are also associated with gomphotheria and mastodons, now extinct.
Opabinia. Archaeologists hope to find more than the remains of just twenty of these creatures and learn more about them. Famous opabinia fossils have been found in British Columbia. By its appearance, this animal does not correspond in any way even to prehistoric times. The species lived on the seabed, its soft body was about 7 centimeters in length. There were 5 eyes on the head, and the mouth was at the end of a movable two-centimeter proboscis. The body of the opabinia was segmented; each section had its own pair of blades. Most of the time, the animal crawled along the bottom, looking for its prey - bottom animals with the help of the proboscis. However, in case of danger, opabinia could also swim, bending its body and flapping its blades. When the fossilized remains of these animals were discovered, scientists quickly decided that this species could not be associated with any of the current ones. However, numerous studies have made one think about the relationship with arthropods and worms. Other scientists believe that opabinia was the ancestor of tardigrades.
Helicopryon. This animal became famous for its dental spiral. Helicopryon is believed to have lived in the Carboniferous period. It is believed that this fish was one of the few to survive the Permian-Triassic mass extinction. But at the end of the Triassic period, the creature still became extinct. Although few fish remains, scientists have discovered an unusual dental helix and several jaw bones. With their help, possible images of the animal were recreated. It is known for sure that he had teeth similar to a circular saw, located on the lower jaw. There were so many teeth that the older ones were pushed into the middle, creating a new turn of the spiral. However, new theories say that the spiral could be located in the pharyngeal region, remaining invisible from the outside. This structure of the marine life made it possible to hunt better. So, with a spiral, it was possible to cut off tentacles, injure fish or dig up mollusks. The length of such unusual creatures reached 2-3 meters, based on the diameter of a typical spiral of 25 centimeters. True, there were also dental formations of 90 centimeters, which gives reason to believe the length of helicopryons is up to 9-12 meters. Although the fish is very similar to the modern shark, they were primitive cartilaginous, close to the ancestors of modern marine predators.
Quetzalcoattl. This creature is called one of the largest, if not the largest of all who have ever roamed the heavens. Its name is associated with the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, who was known as a feathered serpent. The flying creature lived in the Late Cretaceous. He was a real king of the sky, with a wingspan of 12 meters and a height of almost 10. However, the weight was quite small - up to a centner, thanks to the hollow bones. The creature had a sharpened key with which it collected food. Long jaws did not hinder the absence of teeth, and the main food could be fish, the corpses of other dinosaurs. Fossils were first discovered in Big Bend Park, Texas in 1971. It is believed that, being on the ground, the four-legged animal was so strong that it could take off right from the spot, without a run. Comparing this huge animal with modern ones, of course, is difficult. Since it was a pterosaur, it had no direct descendants. But at one time he was most associated with the pteranodon, which is already comparable with modern birds, in particular with the marabou stork. Two facts bring them together - a larger than usual wingspan and an addiction to falling as food.
Dimorphodon. This medium-sized pterosaur lived in the early Jurassic period, about 200 million years ago. His fossil remains were found in 1828 in Great Britain. The name of the animal comes from the Greek word meaning "two-shaped tooth". The name was given by Richard Owen in the hopes of focusing researchers' attention on differences from other members of the reptile family. The creature possessed two different types of teeth in its jaws, which was rare in the family. In height, Dimorphodon reached about a meter, its neck was small, in contrast to the head, up to 30 centimeters long. The wingspan reached 1.5 meters. The tail had 33 vertebrae, which supposedly could play the role of a balancing mechanism when walking and were certainly used in flight. Scientists still cannot come to a consensus - whether Dimorphodon moved on four limbs, or on two. Today, no connections of this animal with any of the modern ones are known. Scientists believe that the reason for this is the weak connection of the pterosaur itself with dinosaurs. It is true that a relationship with insectivorous anurognathus is allowed, but this is very controversial. As a result, we can say that Dimorphodon is generally a distant relative of all species of birds with wings.
Jaekelopterus. The first fossils of a giant sea scorpion were discovered in Germany. This creature is one of the largest arthropods ever discovered. The fossilized claw of 46 centimeters makes it possible to assume the size of the scorpion itself is 2.5 meters. He lived in freshwater lakes and rivers about 400 million years ago. Then the oxygen content in the atmosphere was much higher, which was the reason for the appearance of giant animals. It is believed that it was scorpions who first mastered the land. These ancient ancestors of today's crabs, spiders and scorpions have been combined into the Merostomata group. Today there is evidence, despite its size, that the jekelopterus is a relative of these arthropods. However, unlike its terrestrial descendants, this creature remained aquatic, for which it received the name "sea scorpion".
Hallucigenia (Hallucigenia). In the late 1970s, Simon Conway Morris in British Columbia, Canada, studied strange fossils. Later, similar ones were found in China. Scientists came to the conclusion that prehistoric creatures were so strange that they could only exist in a dream. The creature was 0.5-3 centimeters long, it was elongated like a worm. However, the body covered three rows of processes - two rows of thorn legs, seven in each, and a row of tentacles on the back. At one end of the body, a thickening was found, which was mistaken for the head. Surprisingly, no organs inherent in this part of the body - eyes, mouth, were found. They were probably located in one of the tentacle sets. Recent studies have shown that the animals had females and males, the latter being slightly more rounded. Scientists still cannot understand exactly where the animals' bottom is, and where it is in front, and how it moved. It is hypothesized that the hallucigenia is still a worm, with legs and thorns for protection from enemies. Some paleontologists generally believe that such an independent animal did not exist at all, and the discovered remains are part of a larger animal. As a result, it was decided to consider Hallucigenia as the ancestor of modern arthropods, in particular, there is a close connection with velvet worms.