The sea Lord, Thalassomedon (1943)
Phylum : ChordataClass : ReptiliaOrder : PlesiosauriaFamily : ElasmosauridaeGenus : ThalassomedonSpecies : T. hanningtoni
Late Cretaceous (95 Ma)
12 m long and 1 300 kg (size)
Colorado, USA (map)
This genus of plesiosaur occurred in North America about 95 mya. It occurs in the Cenomanian strata of the Late Cretaceous rock. Its closest relative is the Elasmosaurus and together they make up the family Elasmosauridae. There are six specimens of varying state of preservation on display at various U.S. museums.
With a length of 12 metres, the neck comprises 62 vertebrae about 6 metres or half the animal. The skull is 47 centimetres long, with 5 centimetres long teeth. The flippers were about 1.5–2 metres long. Stones have been found in its stomach area leading some to theorize that they were used for ballast or digestion. If the latter, stomach action causes the stones to help grind ingested food.

The sea Lord, Thalassomedon (1943)

Phylum : Chordata
Class : Reptilia
Order : Plesiosauria
Family : Elasmosauridae
Genus : Thalassomedon
Species : T. hanningtoni

  • Late Cretaceous (95 Ma)
  • 12 m long and 1 300 kg (size)
  • Colorado, USA (map)

This genus of plesiosaur occurred in North America about 95 mya. It occurs in the Cenomanian strata of the Late Cretaceous rock. Its closest relative is the Elasmosaurus and together they make up the family Elasmosauridae. There are six specimens of varying state of preservation on display at various U.S. museums.

With a length of 12 metres, the neck comprises 62 vertebrae about 6 metres or half the animal. The skull is 47 centimetres long, with 5 centimetres long teeth. The flippers were about 1.5–2 metres long. Stones have been found in its stomach area leading some to theorize that they were used for ballast or digestion. If the latter, stomach action causes the stones to help grind ingested food.

The terrible Beast, Deinotherium (1829)
Phylum : ChordataClass : MammaliaOrder : ProboscideaSuborder : DeinotheroideaFamily : DeinotheriidaeGenus : DeinotheriumSpecies : D. bozasi, D. giganteum, D. indicum
Middle Miocene/Early Pleistocene (22 - 1 Ma)
7 m long, 4,5 m high and 5 000 kg (size)
Africa and Eurasia (map)

The “deino” in Deinotherium derives from the same root as the “dino” in dinosaur—this “terrible beast” (actually a kind of prehistoric elephant) was one of the largest non-dinosaur animals ever to roam the earth, rivaled only by contemporary “thunder beasts” like Brontotherium and Chalicotherium. Apart from its sizable weight, the most notable feature of Deinotherium was its short, downward-curving tusks, so different from the usual elephant appendages that puzzled 19th-century paleontologists reassembled them upside down. Still, Deinotherium wasn’t directly ancestral to modern-day elephants, instead inhabiting a side branch along with relatives like Amebeledon and Anancus.
A few species of Deinotherium managed to persist into historical times, until they either succumbed to changing climatic conditions or were hunted to extinction by early humans. Some experts have speculated that these giant beasts inspired ancient tales of, well, giants, though Deinotherium was far from the only plus-sized megafauna mammal to have inspired our ancient ancestors (for example, the single-horned Elasmotherium may have inspired the unicorn legend).

The terrible Beast, Deinotherium (1829)

Phylum : Chordata
Class : Mammalia
Order : Proboscidea
Suborder : Deinotheroidea
Family : Deinotheriidae
Genus : Deinotherium
Species : D. bozasi, D. giganteum, D. indicum

  • Middle Miocene/Early Pleistocene (22 - 1 Ma)
  • 7 m long, 4,5 m high and 5 000 kg (size)
  • Africa and Eurasia (map)

The “deino” in Deinotherium derives from the same root as the “dino” in dinosaur—this “terrible beast” (actually a kind of prehistoric elephant) was one of the largest non-dinosaur animals ever to roam the earth, rivaled only by contemporary “thunder beasts” like Brontotherium and Chalicotherium. Apart from its sizable weight, the most notable feature of Deinotherium was its short, downward-curving tusks, so different from the usual elephant appendages that puzzled 19th-century paleontologists reassembled them upside down. Still, Deinotherium wasn’t directly ancestral to modern-day elephants, instead inhabiting a side branch along with relatives like Amebeledon and Anancus.

A few species of Deinotherium managed to persist into historical times, until they either succumbed to changing climatic conditions or were hunted to extinction by early humans. Some experts have speculated that these giant beasts inspired ancient tales of, well, giants, though Deinotherium was far from the only plus-sized megafauna mammal to have inspired our ancient ancestors (for example, the single-horned Elasmotherium may have inspired the unicorn legend).


The large horn face, Megacerops (1870)
Phylum : ChordataClass : MammaliaOrder : PerissodactylaFamily : BrontotheriidaeGenus MegaceropsSpecies : M. coloradensis, M. curtus, M. hatcheri, M. kuwagatarhinus, M. osborni, M. platyceras
Late Eocene (38 - 33,9 Ma)
5 m long and 3 300 kg (size)
North America (map)

Brontotherium is one of those prehistoric megafauna mammals that has been “discovered” over and over again by paleontologists, as a result of which it’s been known by no less than four different names (the others are Megacerops, Brontops and Titanops). Lately, paleontologists have largely settled on Megacerops (“giant horned face”), but Brontotherium (“thunder beast”) has proven more enduring with the general public.
Brontotherium (or whatever you choose to call it) was very similar to its close contemporary, Embolotherium, albeit slightly bigger and sporting a different head display, which was bigger in males than in females. Befitting its similarity to the dinosaurs that preceded it by tens of millions of years (most notably the hadrosaurs, or duck-billed dinosaurs), Brontotherium had an unusually small brain for its size. Technically, it was a perissodactyl (odd-toed ungulate), which places it in the same general family as prehistoric horses and tapirs, and there’s some speculation that it may have figured on the lunch menu of the huge carnivorous mammal Andrewsarchus.

The large horn face, Megacerops (1870)

Phylum : Chordata
Class : Mammalia
Order : Perissodactyla
Family : Brontotheriidae
Genus Megacerops
Species : M. coloradensis, M. curtus, M. hatcheri, M. kuwagatarhinus, M. osborni, M. platyceras

  • Late Eocene (38 - 33,9 Ma)
  • 5 m long and 3 300 kg (size)
  • North America (map)

Brontotherium is one of those prehistoric megafauna mammals that has been “discovered” over and over again by paleontologists, as a result of which it’s been known by no less than four different names (the others are Megacerops, Brontops and Titanops). Lately, paleontologists have largely settled on Megacerops (“giant horned face”), but Brontotherium (“thunder beast”) has proven more enduring with the general public.

Brontotherium (or whatever you choose to call it) was very similar to its close contemporary, Embolotherium, albeit slightly bigger and sporting a different head display, which was bigger in males than in females. Befitting its similarity to the dinosaurs that preceded it by tens of millions of years (most notably the hadrosaurs, or duck-billed dinosaurs), Brontotherium had an unusually small brain for its size. Technically, it was a perissodactyl (odd-toed ungulate), which places it in the same general family as prehistoric horses and tapirs, and there’s some speculation that it may have figured on the lunch menu of the huge carnivorous mammal Andrewsarchus.

The Jiang Feng’s one, Jianfengia (1984)
Phylum : ArthropodaGenus : JianfengiaSpecies : J. multisegmentalis
Early Cambrian (520 Ma)
2,5 cm long (size)
Chengjiang, China (map)
This unusual arthropod is known as Jianfengia multisegmentalis. The species is known from very few examples, with this one from the most famous location of all, Maotianshan, site of the discovery of the Chengjiang Biota by Hou Xian-guang in 1984. The diversity of soft-tissue fossils is astonishing: algae, medusiforms, sponges, priapulids, annelid-like worms, echinoderms, arthropods (including trilobites), hemichordates, chordates, and the first agnathan fish make up just a small fraction of the total. Numerous problematic forms are known as well, some of which may have represented failed attempts at diversity that did not persist to the present day.
The specimen is a member of the “great appendage arthropods” known as the opabinids after Opabinia from the Burgess Shale Fauna. Jianfengia was the most primitive of the opabinids. Other members from Chengjiang are Alalcomeaeus and Leanchoilia. The pointed endopods are thought to have been poorly suited for walking; perhaps this one swam just above the seafloor in a search for prey. The taxon is unknown outside the Chengjiang Biota. This is a truly exceptional specimen, one that few will ever be able to hold in a collection, whether private or that of a museum.

The Jiang Feng’s one, Jianfengia (1984)

Phylum : Arthropoda
Genus : Jianfengia
Species : J. multisegmentalis

  • Early Cambrian (520 Ma)
  • 2,5 cm long (size)
  • Chengjiang, China (map)

This unusual arthropod is known as Jianfengia multisegmentalis. The species is known from very few examples, with this one from the most famous location of all, Maotianshan, site of the discovery of the Chengjiang Biota by Hou Xian-guang in 1984. The diversity of soft-tissue fossils is astonishing: algae, medusiforms, sponges, priapulids, annelid-like worms, echinoderms, arthropods (including trilobites), hemichordates, chordates, and the first agnathan fish make up just a small fraction of the total. Numerous problematic forms are known as well, some of which may have represented failed attempts at diversity that did not persist to the present day.

The specimen is a member of the “great appendage arthropods” known as the opabinids after Opabinia from the Burgess Shale Fauna. Jianfengia was the most primitive of the opabinids. Other members from Chengjiang are Alalcomeaeus and Leanchoilia. The pointed endopods are thought to have been poorly suited for walking; perhaps this one swam just above the seafloor in a search for prey. The taxon is unknown outside the Chengjiang Biota. This is a truly exceptional specimen, one that few will ever be able to hold in a collection, whether private or that of a museum.

The Fruita tooth, Fruitadens (2010)
Phylum : Chordata Class : ReptiliaOrder : OrnithischiaFamily : HeterodontosauridaeGenus : FruitadensSpecies : F. haagarorum
Late Jurassic (154,7 - 147,7 Ma)
75 cm long and 0,75 kg (size)
Morrison formation, USA (map)
It happens more often than you think, but the fossil specimens of Fruitadens languished for over two decades in museum drawers before being meticulously examined by paleontologists. What they found made headlines worldwide: a tiny (one or two pounds max), late Jurassic dinosaur that probably fed opportunistically on bugs, plants, and any small critters that happened across its path. Fruitadens has proven difficult to classify; it has now been pegged as an ornithopod, and is believed to have been a close (albeit much smaller) relative of Heterodontosaurus. By the way, the name Fruitadens is often mistakenly translated as “fruit tooth,” but this wee dinosaur was actually named after the Fruita fossil region of Colorado, where its bones were excavated.

The Fruita tooth, Fruitadens (2010)

Phylum : Chordata
 Class : Reptilia
Order : Ornithischia
Family : Heterodontosauridae
Genus : Fruitadens
Species : F. haagarorum

  • Late Jurassic (154,7 - 147,7 Ma)
  • 75 cm long and 0,75 kg (size)
  • Morrison formation, USA (map)

It happens more often than you think, but the fossil specimens of Fruitadens languished for over two decades in museum drawers before being meticulously examined by paleontologists. What they found made headlines worldwide: a tiny (one or two pounds max), late Jurassic dinosaur that probably fed opportunistically on bugs, plants, and any small critters that happened across its path. Fruitadens has proven difficult to classify; it has now been pegged as an ornithopod, and is believed to have been a close (albeit much smaller) relative of Heterodontosaurus. By the way, the name Fruitadens is often mistakenly translated as “fruit tooth,” but this wee dinosaur was actually named after the Fruita fossil region of Colorado, where its bones were excavated.

The giant Anteater, Myrmecophaga tridactyla (1758)
Phylum : ChordataClass : MammaliaSuperorder : XenarthraOrder : PilosaSuborder : VermilinguaFamily : MyrmecophagidaeGenus : MyrmecophagaSpecies : M. tridactyla
Vulnerable
2,2 m long and 40 kg (size)
South America (map)

Anteaters are edentate animals—they have no teeth. But their long tongues are more than sufficient to lap up the 35,000 ants and termites they swallow whole each day.
The anteater uses its sharp claws to tear an opening into an anthill and put its long snout and efficient tongue to work. But it has to eat quickly, flicking its tongue up to 160 times per minute. Ants fight back with painful stings, so an anteater may spend only a minute feasting on each mound. Anteaters never destroy a nest, preferring to return and feed again in the future.
These animals find their quarry not by sight—theirs is poor—but by smell.
Anteaters are found in Central and South America, where they prefer tropical forests and grasslands. There are four different species which vary greatly in size. The silky anteater is the size of a squirrel, while the giant anteater can reach 2.1 meters long from the tip of its snout to the end of its tail. Some anteaters, the tamandua and the silky anteater, ply their trade in the trees. They travel from branch to branch in search of tasty insects.
Anteaters are generally solitary animals. Females have a single offspring once a year, which can sometimes be seen riding on its mother’s back.
Anteaters are not aggressive but they can be fierce. A cornered anteater will rear up on its hind legs, using its tail for balance, and lash out with dangerous claws. The giant anteater’s claws are some four inches (ten centimeters) long, and the animal can fight off even a puma or jaguar.

The giant Anteater, Myrmecophaga tridactyla (1758)

Phylum : Chordata
Class : Mammalia
Superorder : Xenarthra
Order : Pilosa
Suborder : Vermilingua
Family : Myrmecophagidae
Genus : Myrmecophaga
Species : M. tridactyla

  • Vulnerable
  • 2,2 m long and 40 kg (size)
  • South America (map)

Anteaters are edentate animals—they have no teeth. But their long tongues are more than sufficient to lap up the 35,000 ants and termites they swallow whole each day.

The anteater uses its sharp claws to tear an opening into an anthill and put its long snout and efficient tongue to work. But it has to eat quickly, flicking its tongue up to 160 times per minute. Ants fight back with painful stings, so an anteater may spend only a minute feasting on each mound. Anteaters never destroy a nest, preferring to return and feed again in the future.

These animals find their quarry not by sight—theirs is poor—but by smell.

Anteaters are found in Central and South America, where they prefer tropical forests and grasslands. There are four different species which vary greatly in size. The silky anteater is the size of a squirrel, while the giant anteater can reach 2.1 meters long from the tip of its snout to the end of its tail. Some anteaters, the tamandua and the silky anteater, ply their trade in the trees. They travel from branch to branch in search of tasty insects.

Anteaters are generally solitary animals. Females have a single offspring once a year, which can sometimes be seen riding on its mother’s back.

Anteaters are not aggressive but they can be fierce. A cornered anteater will rear up on its hind legs, using its tail for balance, and lash out with dangerous claws. The giant anteater’s claws are some four inches (ten centimeters) long, and the animal can fight off even a puma or jaguar.

The giant Moa, Dinornis (= terrible bird) (1843)
Phylum : ChordataClass : AvesSuperorder : PaleognathaeOrder : DinornithiformesFamily : DinornithidaeGenus : DinornisSpecies : D. novaezealandiae, D. robustus
Extinct in 1500
3,6 m high and 240 kg (size)
New Zealand (map)
Although Dinornis wasn’t the heaviest prehistoric bird that ever lived—that honor belongs to Aepyornis, or the Elephant Bird—it was definitely the tallest, with some individuals attaining 12 feet in height, about twice as tall as an adult human. Considering its size and bulk, though, Dinornis seems to have been a relatively gentle creature, subsisting entirely on vegetation, unlike its omnivorous or carnivorous giant bird cousins.
Like other giant birds of the Pleistocene epoch, Dinornis was doomed by the fact that it evolved in a relatively isolated environment (New Zealand) without any natural predators, and thus without the need to develop natural defenses. The arrival of human beings in about the 10th century AD spelled its doom, as individuals were easily hunted down (and their eggs stolen and eaten) over the ensuing centuries.

The giant Moa, Dinornis (= terrible bird) (1843)

Phylum : Chordata
Class : Aves
Superorder : Paleognathae
Order : Dinornithiformes
Family : Dinornithidae
Genus : Dinornis
Species : D. novaezealandiae, D. robustus

  • Extinct in 1500
  • 3,6 m high and 240 kg (size)
  • New Zealand (map)

Although Dinornis wasn’t the heaviest prehistoric bird that ever lived—that honor belongs to Aepyornis, or the Elephant Bird—it was definitely the tallest, with some individuals attaining 12 feet in height, about twice as tall as an adult human. Considering its size and bulk, though, Dinornis seems to have been a relatively gentle creature, subsisting entirely on vegetation, unlike its omnivorous or carnivorous giant bird cousins.

Like other giant birds of the Pleistocene epoch, Dinornis was doomed by the fact that it evolved in a relatively isolated environment (New Zealand) without any natural predators, and thus without the need to develop natural defenses. The arrival of human beings in about the 10th century AD spelled its doom, as individuals were easily hunted down (and their eggs stolen and eaten) over the ensuing centuries.

The Sharov’s wing, Sharovipteryx (1971)
Phylum : ChordataClass : ReptiliaOrder : ProtorosauriaFamily : SharovipterygidaeGenus : SharovipteryxSpecies : S. mirabilis
Late Triassic (230 - 225 Ma)
30 cm long and 1 kg (size)
Fergana valley, Kyrgyzstan (map)
Given its overall appearance—especially its long tail and the flaps of skin along its hind and (possibly) front limbs—it would be tempting to assume that the late Triassic Sharovipteryx lay at the root of pterosaur evolution. However, this is far from a universally accepted conclusion; for example, this archosaur wasn’t capable of powered flight, merely gliding from tree to tree, an adaptation that has arisen numerous times in the animal kingdom (and not only among reptiles, as witness the flying squirrel). This tiny creature also seems to have spent a fair amount of its time walking, judging by its relatively long legs.

The Sharov’s wing, Sharovipteryx (1971)

Phylum : Chordata
Class : Reptilia
Order : Protorosauria
Family : Sharovipterygidae
Genus : Sharovipteryx
Species : S. mirabilis

  • Late Triassic (230 - 225 Ma)
  • 30 cm long and 1 kg (size)
  • Fergana valley, Kyrgyzstan (map)

Given its overall appearance—especially its long tail and the flaps of skin along its hind and (possibly) front limbs—it would be tempting to assume that the late Triassic Sharovipteryx lay at the root of pterosaur evolution. However, this is far from a universally accepted conclusion; for example, this archosaur wasn’t capable of powered flight, merely gliding from tree to tree, an adaptation that has arisen numerous times in the animal kingdom (and not only among reptiles, as witness the flying squirrel). This tiny creature also seems to have spent a fair amount of its time walking, judging by its relatively long legs.

The cave Lion, Panthera leo spelaea (1810)
Phylum : Chordata Class : MammaliaOrder : CarnivoraFamily : FelidaeGenus : PantheraSpecies : P. leoSubspecies : P.l. spelaea
Late Pleistocene (500 000 - 2 000 years)
2,1 m long and 350 kg (size)
Eurasia (map)

One of the most feared predators of the late Pleistocene epoch, the Cave Lion (Panthera leo spelaea) is technically classified as a sub-species of Panthera leo, the modern lion, a verdict confirmed by genetic sequencing of the Cave Lion’s fossil remains. Essentially, this was a plus-sized cat that roamed the vast expanse of Eurasia, feasting on a wide array of mammalian megafauna including prehistoric horses and prehistoric elephants. The Cave Lion was also a voracious predator of the Cave Bear, in fact, this cat received its name not because it lived in caves, but because numerous intact skeletons have been found in Cave Bear habitats (Cave Lions preyed opportunistically on hibernating Cave Bears, which must have seemed like a good idea until their intended victims woke up! See this article for an analysis of a battle between a den of sleepy Cave Bears and a pack of hungry Cave Lions.)
As is the case with many prehistoric predators, it’s unclear why the Cave Lion vanished off the face of the earth about 2,000 years ago. It’s possible that it was hunted to extinction by the early human settlers of Eurasia, who would have had a vested interest in banding together and eliminating any Cave Lions in the immediate vicinity (these same humans regarded the Cave Lion with reverence and awe, as evidenced by numerous cave paintings). But it’s more likely that the Cave Lion succumbed to a combination of climate change and the disappearance of its usual prey; after all, small bands of Homo sapiens could more easily over-hunt prehistoric deer, pigs and other mammalian megafauna than these huge, fanged predators.

The cave Lion, Panthera leo spelaea (1810)

Phylum : Chordata
Class : Mammalia
Order : Carnivora
Family : Felidae
Genus : Panthera
Species : P. leo
Subspecies : P.l. spelaea

  • Late Pleistocene (500 000 - 2 000 years)
  • 2,1 m long and 350 kg (size)
  • Eurasia (map)

One of the most feared predators of the late Pleistocene epoch, the Cave Lion (Panthera leo spelaea) is technically classified as a sub-species of Panthera leo, the modern lion, a verdict confirmed by genetic sequencing of the Cave Lion’s fossil remains. Essentially, this was a plus-sized cat that roamed the vast expanse of Eurasia, feasting on a wide array of mammalian megafauna including prehistoric horses and prehistoric elephants. The Cave Lion was also a voracious predator of the Cave Bear, in fact, this cat received its name not because it lived in caves, but because numerous intact skeletons have been found in Cave Bear habitats (Cave Lions preyed opportunistically on hibernating Cave Bears, which must have seemed like a good idea until their intended victims woke up! See this article for an analysis of a battle between a den of sleepy Cave Bears and a pack of hungry Cave Lions.)

As is the case with many prehistoric predators, it’s unclear why the Cave Lion vanished off the face of the earth about 2,000 years ago. It’s possible that it was hunted to extinction by the early human settlers of Eurasia, who would have had a vested interest in banding together and eliminating any Cave Lions in the immediate vicinity (these same humans regarded the Cave Lion with reverence and awe, as evidenced by numerous cave paintings). But it’s more likely that the Cave Lion succumbed to a combination of climate change and the disappearance of its usual prey; after all, small bands of Homo sapiens could more easily over-hunt prehistoric deer, pigs and other mammalian megafauna than these huge, fanged predators.

The foot feather, Pedopenna (2005)
Phylum : ChordataClade : AvialaeGenus : PedopennaSpecies : P. daohugouensis
Late Jurassic (164 - 152 Ma)
1 m long (size)
Daohugou beds, China (map)
Pedopenna is a genus of small, feathered, maniraptoran dinosaur from the Daohugou Beds in China. It is possibly older than Archaeopteryx, though the age of the Daohugou Beds where it was found is debated. A majority of studies suggest that beds probably date from between the late Middle Jurassic and early Late Jurassic Period.
The name Pedopenna refers to the long pennaceous feathers on the metatarsus; daohugouensis refers to the locality of Daohugou, where the holotype was found.Pedopenna daohugouensis probably measured 1 meter or less in length, but since this species is only known from the hind legs, the actual length is difficult to estimate. Pedopenna was originally classified as a paravian, the group of maniraptoran dinosaurs that includes both deinonychosaurs and avialans (the lineage including modern birds), but some scientists have classified it as a true avialan more closely related to modern birds than to deinonychosaurs.

The foot feather, Pedopenna (2005)

Phylum : Chordata
Clade : Avialae
Genus : Pedopenna
Species : P. daohugouensis

  • Late Jurassic (164 - 152 Ma)
  • 1 m long (size)
  • Daohugou beds, China (map)

Pedopenna is a genus of small, feathered, maniraptoran dinosaur from the Daohugou Beds in China. It is possibly older than Archaeopteryx, though the age of the Daohugou Beds where it was found is debated. A majority of studies suggest that beds probably date from between the late Middle Jurassic and early Late Jurassic Period.

The name Pedopenna refers to the long pennaceous feathers on the metatarsus; daohugouensis refers to the locality of Daohugou, where the holotype was found.Pedopenna daohugouensis probably measured 1 meter or less in length, but since this species is only known from the hind legs, the actual length is difficult to estimate. Pedopenna was originally classified as a paravian, the group of maniraptoran dinosaurs that includes both deinonychosaurs and avialans (the lineage including modern birds), but some scientists have classified it as a true avialan more closely related to modern birds than to deinonychosaurs.

The septum Horn, Phragmoceras (1957)
Phylum : MolluscaClass : CephalopodaSubclass : NautiloideaOrder : DiscosoridaFamily : PhragmoceratidaeGenus : PhragmocerasSpecies : P. australis, P. mauritianus
Late Silurian (425 Ma)
15 cm long (size)
Europe (map)
Phragmoceras, type genus, is known by it moderately large, strongly curved, rapidly enlarging, endogastric and compressed shell with a vertically constricted aperture that opens up at either end. The siphuncle is close to the concave ventral margin, segments broadly expanded, connecting rings thick, bullettes identifiable.

The septum Horn, Phragmoceras (1957)

Phylum : Mollusca
Class : Cephalopoda
Subclass : Nautiloidea
Order : Discosorida
Family : Phragmoceratidae
Genus : Phragmoceras
Species : P. australis, P. mauritianus

  • Late Silurian (425 Ma)
  • 15 cm long (size)
  • Europe (map)

Phragmoceras, type genus, is known by it moderately large, strongly curved, rapidly enlarging, endogastric and compressed shell with a vertically constricted aperture that opens up at either end. The siphuncle is close to the concave ventral margin, segments broadly expanded, connecting rings thick, bullettes identifiable.

The frightful Lizard, Daspletosaurus (1970)
Phylum : ChordataClass : ReptiliaOrder : SaurischiaSuborder : TheropodaFamily : TyrannosauridaeSubfamily : TyrannosaurinaeGenus : DaspletosaurusSpecies : D. torosus
Late Cretaceous (80,6 - 72 Ma)
9 m long and 2 500 kg (size)
Oldman formation, Canada (map)
Daspletosaurus is one of those names that sounds better in English translation than in the original Greek—“frightening lizard” is both scarier and more pronounceable! Other than its position near the top of the late Cretaceous food chain, there’s not much to say about this tyrannosaur: like its close cousin, Tyrannosaurus rex, Daspletosaurus combined a massive head, a muscular body, and many, many sharp, pointy teeth with a ravenous appetite and puny, comical-looking arms. It’s likely that this genus included many similar-looking species, not all of which have been discovered and/or described.

The frightful Lizard, Daspletosaurus (1970)

Phylum : Chordata
Class : Reptilia
Order : Saurischia
Suborder : Theropoda
Family : Tyrannosauridae
Subfamily : Tyrannosaurinae
Genus : Daspletosaurus
Species : D. torosus

  • Late Cretaceous (80,6 - 72 Ma)
  • 9 m long and 2 500 kg (size)
  • Oldman formation, Canada (map)

Daspletosaurus is one of those names that sounds better in English translation than in the original Greek—“frightening lizard” is both scarier and more pronounceable! Other than its position near the top of the late Cretaceous food chain, there’s not much to say about this tyrannosaur: like its close cousin, Tyrannosaurus rex, Daspletosaurus combined a massive head, a muscular body, and many, many sharp, pointy teeth with a ravenous appetite and puny, comical-looking arms. It’s likely that this genus included many similar-looking species, not all of which have been discovered and/or described.

The african wild Ass, Equus africanus (1866)
Phylum : ChordataClass : MammaliaOrder : PerissodactylaFamily : EquidaeGenus : EquusSpecies : E. africanusSubspecies : E.a. africanus, E.a. somaliensis, E.a. asinus, † E.a. atlanticus
Critically endangered
2 m long and 250 kg (size)
Northeastern Africa (map)
The African wild ass is primarily active in the cooler hours between late afternoon and early morning, seeking shade and shelter amongst the rocky hills during the day. The Somali wild ass is also very agile and nimble-footed, capable of moving quickly across boulder fields and in the mountains. On the flat, it has been recorded reaching speeds of 70 km/h. In keeping with these feats, its soles are particularly hard and its hooves grow very quickly.
Mature males defend large territories around 23 square kilometres in size, marking them with dung heaps - an essential marker in the flat, monotonous terrain. Due to the size of these ranges, the dominant male cannot exclude other males. Rather, intruders are tolerated—recognized and treated as subordinates, and kept as far away as possible from any of the resident females. In the presence of estrous females, the males bray loudly. These animals live in loose herds of up to fifty individuals.
Wild asses can run swiftly, almost as fast as a horse. However, unlike most hoofed mammals, their tendency is to not flee right away from a potentially dangerous situation, but to investigate first before deciding what to do. When they need to, they can defend themselves with kicks from both their front and hind legs. Equids were used in ancient Sumer to pull wagons circa 2600 BC, and then chariots on the Standard of Ur, circa 2000 BC. These have been suggested to represent onagers, but are now thought to have been domestic asses.

The african wild Ass, Equus africanus (1866)

Phylum : Chordata
Class : Mammalia
Order : Perissodactyla
Family : Equidae
Genus : Equus
Species : E. africanus
Subspecies : E.a. africanus, E.a. somaliensis, E.a. asinus, † E.a. atlanticus

  • Critically endangered
  • 2 m long and 250 kg (size)
  • Northeastern Africa (map)

The African wild ass is primarily active in the cooler hours between late afternoon and early morning, seeking shade and shelter amongst the rocky hills during the day. The Somali wild ass is also very agile and nimble-footed, capable of moving quickly across boulder fields and in the mountains. On the flat, it has been recorded reaching speeds of 70 km/h. In keeping with these feats, its soles are particularly hard and its hooves grow very quickly.

Mature males defend large territories around 23 square kilometres in size, marking them with dung heaps - an essential marker in the flat, monotonous terrain. Due to the size of these ranges, the dominant male cannot exclude other males. Rather, intruders are tolerated—recognized and treated as subordinates, and kept as far away as possible from any of the resident females. In the presence of estrous females, the males bray loudly. These animals live in loose herds of up to fifty individuals.

Wild asses can run swiftly, almost as fast as a horse. However, unlike most hoofed mammals, their tendency is to not flee right away from a potentially dangerous situation, but to investigate first before deciding what to do. When they need to, they can defend themselves with kicks from both their front and hind legs. Equids were used in ancient Sumer to pull wagons circa 2600 BC, and then chariots on the Standard of Ur, circa 2000 BC. These have been suggested to represent onagers, but are now thought to have been domestic asses.

The leopard Seal, Hydrurga leptonyx (1820)
Phylum : ChordataClass : MammaliaOrder : CarnivoraSuborder : PinnipediaFamily : PhocidaeSubfamily : MonachinaeGenus : HydrurgaSpecies : H. leptonyx
Least concern
3,5 m long and 600 kg (size)
Antarctica (map)

The leopard seal is a solitary creature and comes together in small groups only when it is time to mate. During the mating season, males and females make acoustic calls to each other over distances, with at least the males having individual variability in their vocalising sequence patterns. After a 9-month gestation, the female digs a hole in the ice, and gives birth to a single pup during the Antarctic summer. She protects the pup until it is able to fend for itself.

Leopard seals are not very vocal, although they occasionally make some grunting and growling noises.
The leopard seal is bold, powerful and curious. In the water, there is a fine line between curiosity and predatory behaviour, and it may ‘play’ with penguins it does not intend to eat. There are also records of leopard seals attacking divers. Paul Nicklen, a National Geographic magazine photographer, captured pictures of a leopard seal bringing live, injured, and then dead penguins to him, possibly in an attempt to teach the photographer how to hunt.

The leopard Seal, Hydrurga leptonyx (1820)

Phylum : Chordata
Class : Mammalia
Order : Carnivora
Suborder : Pinnipedia
Family : Phocidae
Subfamily : Monachinae
Genus : Hydrurga
Species : H. leptonyx

  • Least concern
  • 3,5 m long and 600 kg (size)
  • Antarctica (map)

The leopard seal is a solitary creature and comes together in small groups only when it is time to mate. During the mating season, males and females make acoustic calls to each other over distances, with at least the males having individual variability in their vocalising sequence patterns. After a 9-month gestation, the female digs a hole in the ice, and gives birth to a single pup during the Antarctic summer. She protects the pup until it is able to fend for itself.

Leopard seals are not very vocal, although they occasionally make some grunting and growling noises.

The leopard seal is bold, powerful and curious. In the water, there is a fine line between curiosity and predatory behaviour, and it may ‘play’ with penguins it does not intend to eat. There are also records of leopard seals attacking divers. Paul Nicklen, a National Geographic magazine photographer, captured pictures of a leopard seal bringing live, injured, and then dead penguins to him, possibly in an attempt to teach the photographer how to hunt.

The thick-headed Lizard, Pachycephalosaurus (1931)
Phylum : ChordataClass : ReptiliaOrder : OrnithischiaFamily : PachycephalosauridaeGenus : PachycephalosaurusSpecies : P. wyomingensis
Late Cretaceous (69,9 - 66 Ma)
4,5 m long and 450 kg (size)
Niobara county, USA (map)

As befits a dinosaur named after its massive skull—which was 10 inches thick on the front and forward side of its head—most of what we know about Pachycephalosaurus is based on skull specimens. Still, that hasn’t kept paleontologists from making educated guesses: it’s believed that Pachycephalosaurus had a squat, thick trunk, five-fingered hands, and an upright stance. This dinosaur has given its name to an entire breed of odd-looking boneheads, the pachycephalosaurs, other famous examples of which include Dracorex hogwartsia and Stygimoloch (the “horned demon from the river of hell”).
Why did Pachycephalosaurus have such a thick skull? As with most such anatomical quirks in the animal kingdom, the popular explanation is that the males of this genus (and possibly the females as well) evolved big skulls because they head-butted each other for dominance and the right to mate; they may also have gently, or not so gently, butted their heads against the tender flanks of menacing tyrannosaurs and raptors. Whatever the case, Pachycephalosaurus’ block-shaped bean clearly didn’t protect it from extinction; this was one of the last dinosaurs on earth when a meteor impact 65 million years ago rendered the entire breed extinct.
As with another family of ornamented dinosaurs, the ceratopsians, there’s a fair amount of confusion about pachycephalosaurs in general (and Pachycephalosaurus in particular) at the genus and species level. It may well be the case that many “diagnosed” genera of pachycephalosaurs actually represent the growth stages of already-named species; for example, both Dracorex and Stygimoloch may well turn out to belong under the Pachycephalosaurus umbrella (which will no doubt be a major disappointment to Harry Potter fans!).

The thick-headed Lizard, Pachycephalosaurus (1931)

Phylum : Chordata
Class : Reptilia
Order : Ornithischia
Family : Pachycephalosauridae
Genus : Pachycephalosaurus
Species : P. wyomingensis

  • Late Cretaceous (69,9 - 66 Ma)
  • 4,5 m long and 450 kg (size)
  • Niobara county, USA (map)

As befits a dinosaur named after its massive skull—which was 10 inches thick on the front and forward side of its head—most of what we know about Pachycephalosaurus is based on skull specimens. Still, that hasn’t kept paleontologists from making educated guesses: it’s believed that Pachycephalosaurus had a squat, thick trunk, five-fingered hands, and an upright stance. This dinosaur has given its name to an entire breed of odd-looking boneheads, the pachycephalosaurs, other famous examples of which include Dracorex hogwartsia and Stygimoloch (the “horned demon from the river of hell”).

Why did Pachycephalosaurus have such a thick skull? As with most such anatomical quirks in the animal kingdom, the popular explanation is that the males of this genus (and possibly the females as well) evolved big skulls because they head-butted each other for dominance and the right to mate; they may also have gently, or not so gently, butted their heads against the tender flanks of menacing tyrannosaurs and raptors. Whatever the case, Pachycephalosaurus’ block-shaped bean clearly didn’t protect it from extinction; this was one of the last dinosaurs on earth when a meteor impact 65 million years ago rendered the entire breed extinct.

As with another family of ornamented dinosaurs, the ceratopsians, there’s a fair amount of confusion about pachycephalosaurs in general (and Pachycephalosaurus in particular) at the genus and species level. It may well be the case that many “diagnosed” genera of pachycephalosaurs actually represent the growth stages of already-named species; for example, both Dracorex and Stygimoloch may well turn out to belong under the Pachycephalosaurus umbrella (which will no doubt be a major disappointment to Harry Potter fans!).