The wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo (1758)
Phylum : ChordataClass : AvesOrder : GalliformesFamily : PhasianidaeSubfamily : MeleagridinaeGenus : MeleagrisSpecies : M. gallopavoSubspecies : M.g. silvestris, M.g. osceola, M.g. intermedia, M.g. merriami, M.g. mexicana, M.g. gallopavo
Least concern
120 cm long and 5 kg (size)
North America (map)
Adult wild turkeys have long reddish-yellow to grayish-green legs. The body feathers are generally blackish and dark brown overall with a coppery sheen that becomes more complex in adult males. Adult males, called toms or gobblers, have a large, featherless, reddish head, red throat, and red wattles on the throat and neck. The head has fleshy growths called caruncles. Juvenile males are called jakes, the difference between an adult male and a juvenile is that the jake has a very short beard and his tail fan has longer feathers in the middle. The adult male’s tail fan will be all the same length. When males are excited, a fleshy flap on the bill expands, and this, the wattles and the bare skin of the head and neck all become engorged with blood, almost concealing the eyes and bill. The long fleshy object over a male’s beak is called a snood. When a male turkey is excited, its head turns blue; when ready to fight, it turns red. Each foot has three toes in front, with a shorter, rear-facing toe in back; males have a spur behind each of their lower legs.
Despite their weight, wild turkeys, unlike their domestic counterparts, are agile fliers. In ideal habitat of open woodland or wooded grasslands, they may fly beneath the canopy top and find perches. They usually fly close to the ground for no more than 400 m.
The wild turkey, throughout its range, plays a significant role in the cultures of many Native American tribes all over North America. Outside of the Thanksgiving feast, it is a favorite meal in Eastern tribes. Eastern Native American tribes consumed both the eggs and meat, sometimes turning the latter into a type of jerky to preserve it and make it last through cold weather. They provided habitat by burning down portions of forests to create artificial meadows which would attract mating birds, and thus give a clear shot to hunters. The feathers of turkeys also often made their way into the rituals and headgear of many tribes. Many leaders, such as Catawba chiefs, traditionally wore turkey feather headdresses. Significant peoples of several tribes, including Muscogee Creek and Wampanoag, wore turkey feather cloaks. The turkey clan is one of the three Lenape clans. Movements of wild turkeys inspired the Caddo tribe’s turkey dance.

The wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo (1758)

Phylum : Chordata
Class : Aves
Order : Galliformes
Family : Phasianidae
Subfamily : Meleagridinae
Genus : Meleagris
Species : M. gallopavo
Subspecies : M.g. silvestris, M.g. osceola, M.g. intermedia, M.g. merriami, M.g. mexicana, M.g. gallopavo

  • Least concern
  • 120 cm long and 5 kg (size)
  • North America (map)

Adult wild turkeys have long reddish-yellow to grayish-green legs. The body feathers are generally blackish and dark brown overall with a coppery sheen that becomes more complex in adult males. Adult males, called toms or gobblers, have a large, featherless, reddish head, red throat, and red wattles on the throat and neck. The head has fleshy growths called caruncles. Juvenile males are called jakes, the difference between an adult male and a juvenile is that the jake has a very short beard and his tail fan has longer feathers in the middle. The adult male’s tail fan will be all the same length. When males are excited, a fleshy flap on the bill expands, and this, the wattles and the bare skin of the head and neck all become engorged with blood, almost concealing the eyes and bill. The long fleshy object over a male’s beak is called a snood. When a male turkey is excited, its head turns blue; when ready to fight, it turns red. Each foot has three toes in front, with a shorter, rear-facing toe in back; males have a spur behind each of their lower legs.

Despite their weight, wild turkeys, unlike their domestic counterparts, are agile fliers. In ideal habitat of open woodland or wooded grasslands, they may fly beneath the canopy top and find perches. They usually fly close to the ground for no more than 400 m.

The wild turkey, throughout its range, plays a significant role in the cultures of many Native American tribes all over North America. Outside of the Thanksgiving feast, it is a favorite meal in Eastern tribes. Eastern Native American tribes consumed both the eggs and meat, sometimes turning the latter into a type of jerky to preserve it and make it last through cold weather. They provided habitat by burning down portions of forests to create artificial meadows which would attract mating birds, and thus give a clear shot to hunters. The feathers of turkeys also often made their way into the rituals and headgear of many tribes. Many leaders, such as Catawba chiefs, traditionally wore turkey feather headdresses. Significant peoples of several tribes, including Muscogee Creek and Wampanoag, wore turkey feather cloaks. The turkey clan is one of the three Lenape clans. Movements of wild turkeys inspired the Caddo tribe’s turkey dance.

The Cyrtograptus (1867)
Phylum : HemichordataClass : GraptolithinaOrder : GraptoiloideaSuborder : VirgellinaFamily : MonograptidaeGenus : CyrtograptusSpecies : C. murchisoni, C. egregius, C. rigidus, C. centrifugus, C. sakmaricus, C. kriki, C. lundgreni, C. ellesi, C. symmetricus
Silurian (430 Ma)
Oceans worldwide (map)

The Cyrtograptus (1867)

Phylum : Hemichordata
Class : Graptolithina
Order : Graptoiloidea
Suborder : Virgellina
Family : Monograptidae
Genus : Cyrtograptus
Species : C. murchisoni, C. egregius, C. rigidus, C. centrifugus, C. sakmaricus, C. kriki, C. lundgreni, C. ellesi, C. symmetricus

  • Silurian (430 Ma)
  • Oceans worldwide (map)
The Zhongyuan lizard, Zhongyuansaurus (2007)
Phylum : ChordataClass : ReptiliaOrder : OrnithischiaFamily : AnkylosauridaeSubfamily : AnkylosaurniaeGenus : ZhongyuansaurusSpecies : Z. luoyangensis
Early Cretaceous (130 - 125 Ma)
5 m long ? (size)
Henan province, China (map)
During the early Cretaceous period, about 130 million years ago, the very first armored dinosaurs began to evolve from their ornithischian forebears—and they gradually split into two groups, nodosaurs (small sizes, narrow heads, lack of tail clubs) and ankylosaurs (larger sizes, more rounded heads, lethal tail clubs). The importance of Zhongyuansaurus is that it’s the most basal ankylosaur yet identified in the fossil record, so primitive, indeed, that it even lacked the tail club that would otherwise be de rigueur for classification under the ankylosaur umbrella. (Logically enough, Zhongyuansaurus was first described as an early nodosaur, albeit one with a fair number of ankylosaur characteristics.)

The Zhongyuan lizard, Zhongyuansaurus (2007)

Phylum : Chordata
Class : Reptilia
Order : Ornithischia
Family : Ankylosauridae
Subfamily : Ankylosaurniae
Genus : Zhongyuansaurus
Species : Z. luoyangensis

  • Early Cretaceous (130 - 125 Ma)
  • 5 m long ? (size)
  • Henan province, China (map)

During the early Cretaceous period, about 130 million years ago, the very first armored dinosaurs began to evolve from their ornithischian forebears—and they gradually split into two groups, nodosaurs (small sizes, narrow heads, lack of tail clubs) and ankylosaurs (larger sizes, more rounded heads, lethal tail clubs). The importance of Zhongyuansaurus is that it’s the most basal ankylosaur yet identified in the fossil record, so primitive, indeed, that it even lacked the tail club that would otherwise be de rigueur for classification under the ankylosaur umbrella. (Logically enough, Zhongyuansaurus was first described as an early nodosaur, albeit one with a fair number of ankylosaur characteristics.)

The austrian finger, Austriadactylus (2002)
Phylum : ChordataClass : ReptiliaOrder : PterosauriaSuborder : EudimorphodontimorphaGenus : AustradactylusSpecies : A. cristatus
Late Triassic (215 - 200 Ma)
60 cm wingspan and 2 kg (size)
Tyrol, Austria (map)
Considering how many ancestral pterosaurs have been discovered in Germany’s Solnhofen fossil beds, it’s only fair that Germany’s southern neighbor Austria got into the act as well. Named in 2002, based on a single, incomplete specimen, Austradactylus was a classic “rhamphorhynchoid” pterosaur, with a disproportionately large head perched atop a tiny, long-tailed body. Its closest relatives seem to have been the better-attested Campylognathoides and Eudimorphodon, to the extent that some paleontologists classify it as a species of the latter genus.

The austrian finger, Austriadactylus (2002)

Phylum : Chordata
Class : Reptilia
Order : Pterosauria
Suborder : Eudimorphodontimorpha
Genus : Austradactylus
Species : A. cristatus

  • Late Triassic (215 - 200 Ma)
  • 60 cm wingspan and 2 kg (size)
  • Tyrol, Austria (map)

Considering how many ancestral pterosaurs have been discovered in Germany’s Solnhofen fossil beds, it’s only fair that Germany’s southern neighbor Austria got into the act as well. Named in 2002, based on a single, incomplete specimen, Austradactylus was a classic “rhamphorhynchoid” pterosaur, with a disproportionately large head perched atop a tiny, long-tailed body. Its closest relatives seem to have been the better-attested Campylognathoides and Eudimorphodon, to the extent that some paleontologists classify it as a species of the latter genus.

The balearian Mouse-Goat, Myotragus balearicus (1909)
Phylum : ChordataClass : MammaliaOrder : ArtiodactylaFamily : BovidaeSubfamily : CaprinaeGenus : MyotragusSpecies : M. balearicus
Late Pleistocene (2 Ma - 5 000 years)
50 cm long and 50 kg (size)
Mediterranean islands (map)
You might think it strange that a creature as ordinary and inoffensive as a prehistoric goat would make headlines around the world, but Myotragus merits the attention: according to one analysis, this smallish “Cave Goat” adapted to the sparse food of its island habitat by evolving a cold-blooded metabolism, similar to that of reptiles. (In fact, the authors of the paper compared fossilized Myotragus bones to those of contemporary reptiles, and found similar growth patterns.)
As you might expect, not everyone subscribes to the theory that Myotragus had a reptile-like metabolism (which would make it the first mammal in history to have ever evolved this bizarre trait). More likely, this was simply a slow, stubby, ponderous, small-brained Pleistocene herbivore that had the luxury of not having to defend itself against natural predators. An important clue is the fact that Myotragus had forward-facing eyes; similar grazers have wide-set eyes, the better to detect carnivores approaching from all directions.

The balearian Mouse-Goat, Myotragus balearicus (1909)

Phylum : Chordata
Class : Mammalia
Order : Artiodactyla
Family : Bovidae
Subfamily : Caprinae
Genus : Myotragus
Species : M. balearicus

  • Late Pleistocene (2 Ma - 5 000 years)
  • 50 cm long and 50 kg (size)
  • Mediterranean islands (map)

You might think it strange that a creature as ordinary and inoffensive as a prehistoric goat would make headlines around the world, but Myotragus merits the attention: according to one analysis, this smallish “Cave Goat” adapted to the sparse food of its island habitat by evolving a cold-blooded metabolism, similar to that of reptiles. (In fact, the authors of the paper compared fossilized Myotragus bones to those of contemporary reptiles, and found similar growth patterns.)

As you might expect, not everyone subscribes to the theory that Myotragus had a reptile-like metabolism (which would make it the first mammal in history to have ever evolved this bizarre trait). More likely, this was simply a slow, stubby, ponderous, small-brained Pleistocene herbivore that had the luxury of not having to defend itself against natural predators. An important clue is the fact that Myotragus had forward-facing eyes; similar grazers have wide-set eyes, the better to detect carnivores approaching from all directions.

The Allenypterus (1969)
Phylum : ChordataClass : SarcopterygiiFamily : HadronectoridaeGenus : AllenypterusSpecies : A. montanus
Carboniferous (354 - 290 Ma)
15 cm long (size)
Bear Gulch Limestone, USA (map)
Allenypterus is a genus of a prehistoric lobe-finned fish which lived during the Carboniferous period. Fossils have been discovered in Montana, USA.

The Allenypterus (1969)

Phylum : Chordata
Class : Sarcopterygii
Family : Hadronectoridae
Genus : Allenypterus
Species : A. montanus

  • Carboniferous (354 - 290 Ma)
  • 15 cm long (size)
  • Bear Gulch Limestone, USA (map)

Allenypterus is a genus of a prehistoric lobe-finned fish which lived during the Carboniferous period. Fossils have been discovered in Montana, USA.

The Goliath birdeater, Theraphosa blondi (1804)
Phylum : ArthropodaClass : ArachnidaOrder : AraneaeSuborder : MygalomorphaeFamily : TheraphosidaeGenus : TheraphosaSpecies : T. blondi
Least concern
28 cm leg span and 170 g (size)
Northern South America (map)
These spiders can have a leg span of up to 28 cm and can weigh over 170 g. Birdeaters are one of the few tarantula species that lack tibial spurs, located on the first pair of legs of most adult males.

In response to threats, Goliath birdeaters stridulate by rubbing setae on their pedipalps and legs. Also when threatened, they rub their abdomen with their hind legs and release hairs that are a severe irritant to the skin and mucous membranes. These urticating hairs can be harmful to humans, and the species is considered by some to have the most harmful tarantula urticating hair of all.

Like all tarantulas, T. blondi have fangs large enough to break the skin of a human. They carry venom in their fangs and have been known to bite when threatened, but the venom is relatively harmless and its effects are comparable to those of a wasp’s sting. Tarantulas generally bite humans only in self-defense, and these bites do not always result in envenomation (known as a “dry bite”).

The Goliath birdeater, Theraphosa blondi (1804)

Phylum : Arthropoda
Class : Arachnida
Order : Araneae
Suborder : Mygalomorphae
Family : Theraphosidae
Genus : Theraphosa
Species : T. blondi

  • Least concern
  • 28 cm leg span and 170 g (size)
  • Northern South America (map)

These spiders can have a leg span of up to 28 cm and can weigh over 170 g. Birdeaters are one of the few tarantula species that lack tibial spurs, located on the first pair of legs of most adult males.

In response to threats, Goliath birdeaters stridulate by rubbing setae on their pedipalps and legs. Also when threatened, they rub their abdomen with their hind legs and release hairs that are a severe irritant to the skin and mucous membranes. These urticating hairs can be harmful to humans, and the species is considered by some to have the most harmful tarantula urticating hair of all.

Like all tarantulas, T. blondi have fangs large enough to break the skin of a human. They carry venom in their fangs and have been known to bite when threatened, but the venom is relatively harmless and its effects are comparable to those of a wasp’s sting. Tarantulas generally bite humans only in self-defense, and these bites do not always result in envenomation (known as a “dry bite”).

The chinese beautiful feather, Sinocalliopteryx (2007)
Phylum : ChordataClass : ReptiliaOrder : SaurischiaSuborder : TheropodaFamily : CompsognathidaeGenus : SinocalliopteryxSpecies : S. gigas
Early Cretaceous (124,6 Ma)
2,4 m long and 20 kg (size)
Yixian formation, China (map)
As an example of how big Sinocalliopteryx was, compared to other dino-birds of the early Cretaceous period, a fossilized specimen has been found with the remains of a raptor in its gut—proving that some feathered dinosaurs hunted and ate other feathered dinosaurs. While 7 feet long and 75 pounds may not sound very impressive, in terms of later dinosaurs, these measurements were apparently enough to put Sinocalliopteryx near the top of the Eurasian food chain. (The closest competitor of this dinosaur appears to have been another large dino-bird, Huaxiagnathus.)


Not only was Sinocalliopteryx big, but it sported big feathers, too. The remains of this theropod bear the imprints of tufts as long as four inches, as well as shorter feathers around its feet. And a new study shows that Sinocalliopteryx put its size to good use: an individual has been identified harboring the remains of no less than three fossilized specimens of Confuciusornis, a much smaller dino-bird that may actually have been capable of powered flight.

The chinese beautiful feather, Sinocalliopteryx (2007)

Phylum : Chordata
Class : Reptilia
Order : Saurischia
Suborder : Theropoda
Family : Compsognathidae
Genus : Sinocalliopteryx
Species : S. gigas

  • Early Cretaceous (124,6 Ma)
  • 2,4 m long and 20 kg (size)
  • Yixian formation, China (map)

As an example of how big Sinocalliopteryx was, compared to other dino-birds of the early Cretaceous period, a fossilized specimen has been found with the remains of a raptor in its gut—proving that some feathered dinosaurs hunted and ate other feathered dinosaurs. While 7 feet long and 75 pounds may not sound very impressive, in terms of later dinosaurs, these measurements were apparently enough to put Sinocalliopteryx near the top of the Eurasian food chain. (The closest competitor of this dinosaur appears to have been another large dino-bird, Huaxiagnathus.)

Not only was Sinocalliopteryx big, but it sported big feathers, too. The remains of this theropod bear the imprints of tufts as long as four inches, as well as shorter feathers around its feet. And a new study shows that Sinocalliopteryx put its size to good use: an individual has been identified harboring the remains of no less than three fossilized specimens of Confuciusornis, a much smaller dino-bird that may actually have been capable of powered flight.

The North China lizard, Huabeisaurus (2000)
Phylum : ChordataClass : ReptiliaOrder : SaurischiaSuborder : SauropodomorphaFamily : EuhelopodidaeGenus : HuabeisaurusSpecies : H. allocotus
Late Cretaceous (95 - 72 Ma)
20 m long and 15 000 kg (size)
Province of Shanxi, China (map)
Paleontologists are still trying to figure out the evolutionary relationships of the numerous sauropods and titanosaurs of the later Mesozoic Era. Discovered in northern China in 2000, Huabeisaurus won’t allay any of the confusion: the paleontologists who described this dinosaur maintain that it belongs to an entirely new family of titanosaurs, while other experts note its similarity to controversial sauropods like Opisthocoelicaudia. However it winds up being classified, Huabeisaurus was clearly one of the bigger dinosaurs of late Cretaceous Asia, which probably used its extra-long neck to nibble the high leaves of trees.

The North China lizard, Huabeisaurus (2000)

Phylum : Chordata
Class : Reptilia
Order : Saurischia
Suborder : Sauropodomorpha
Family : Euhelopodidae
Genus : Huabeisaurus
Species : H. allocotus

  • Late Cretaceous (95 - 72 Ma)
  • 20 m long and 15 000 kg (size)
  • Province of Shanxi, China (map)

Paleontologists are still trying to figure out the evolutionary relationships of the numerous sauropods and titanosaurs of the later Mesozoic Era. Discovered in northern China in 2000, Huabeisaurus won’t allay any of the confusion: the paleontologists who described this dinosaur maintain that it belongs to an entirely new family of titanosaurs, while other experts note its similarity to controversial sauropods like Opisthocoelicaudia. However it winds up being classified, Huabeisaurus was clearly one of the bigger dinosaurs of late Cretaceous Asia, which probably used its extra-long neck to nibble the high leaves of trees.

The Fossa, Cryptoprocta ferox (1833)
Phylum : ChordataClass : MammaliaOrder : CarnivoraFamily : EupleridaeGenus : CryptoproctaSpecies : C. ferox
Vulnerable
80 cm long and 8 kg (size)
Madagascar (map)
The fossa is active during both the day and the night and is considered cathemeral; activity peaks may occur early in the morning, late in the afternoon, and late in the night. The animal generally does not reuse sleeping sites, but females with young do return to the same den. The home ranges of male fossas in Kirindy Forest are up to 26 km2 large, compared to 13 km2 for females. These ranges overlap—by about 30% according to data from the eastern forests—but females usually have separated ranges. Home ranges grow during the dry season, perhaps because less food and water is available. In general, radio-collared fossas travel between 2 and 5 kilometres per day, although in one reported case a fossa was observed moving a straight-line distance of 7 km in 16 hours. The animal’s population density appears to be low: in Kirindy Forest, where it is thought to be common, its density has been estimated at one animal per 4 km2 in 1998. Another study in the same forest between 1994 and 1996 using the mark and recapture method indicated a population density of one animal per 3.8 km2 and one adult per 5.6 km2.

Except for mothers with young and occasional observations of pairs of males, animals are usually found alone, so that the species is considered solitary. A 2009 publication, however, reported a detailed observation of cooperative hunting, wherein three male fossas hunted a 3 kg (6.6 lb) sifaka (Propithecus verreauxi) for 45 minutes, and subsequently shared the prey. This behavior may be a vestige of cooperative hunting that would have been required to take down larger recently extinct lemurs.
Fossas communicate using sounds, scents, and visual signals. Vocalizations include purring, a threatening call, and a call of fear, consisting of “repeated loud, coarse inhalations and gasps of breath”. A long, high yelp may function to attract other fossas. Females mew during mating and males produce a sigh when they have found a female. Throughout the year, animals produce long-lasting scent marks on rocks, trees, and the ground using glands in the anal region and on the chest.They also communicate using face and body expression, but the significance of these signals is uncertain. The animal is aggressive only during mating, and males in particular fight boldly. After a short fight, the loser flees and is followed by the winner for a short distance. In captivity, fossas are usually not aggressive and sometimes even allow themselves to be stroked by a zookeeper, but adult males in particular may try to bite.

The Fossa, Cryptoprocta ferox (1833)

Phylum : Chordata
Class : Mammalia
Order : Carnivora
Family : Eupleridae
Genus : Cryptoprocta
Species : C. ferox

  • Vulnerable
  • 80 cm long and 8 kg (size)
  • Madagascar (map)

The fossa is active during both the day and the night and is considered cathemeral; activity peaks may occur early in the morning, late in the afternoon, and late in the night. The animal generally does not reuse sleeping sites, but females with young do return to the same den. The home ranges of male fossas in Kirindy Forest are up to 26 km2 large, compared to 13 km2 for females. These ranges overlap—by about 30% according to data from the eastern forests—but females usually have separated ranges. Home ranges grow during the dry season, perhaps because less food and water is available. In general, radio-collared fossas travel between 2 and 5 kilometres per day, although in one reported case a fossa was observed moving a straight-line distance of 7 km in 16 hours. The animal’s population density appears to be low: in Kirindy Forest, where it is thought to be common, its density has been estimated at one animal per 4 km2 in 1998. Another study in the same forest between 1994 and 1996 using the mark and recapture method indicated a population density of one animal per 3.8 km2 and one adult per 5.6 km2.

Except for mothers with young and occasional observations of pairs of males, animals are usually found alone, so that the species is considered solitary. A 2009 publication, however, reported a detailed observation of cooperative hunting, wherein three male fossas hunted a 3 kg (6.6 lb) sifaka (Propithecus verreauxi) for 45 minutes, and subsequently shared the prey. This behavior may be a vestige of cooperative hunting that would have been required to take down larger recently extinct lemurs.

Fossas communicate using sounds, scents, and visual signals. Vocalizations include purring, a threatening call, and a call of fear, consisting of “repeated loud, coarse inhalations and gasps of breath”. A long, high yelp may function to attract other fossas. Females mew during mating and males produce a sigh when they have found a female. Throughout the year, animals produce long-lasting scent marks on rocks, trees, and the ground using glands in the anal region and on the chest.They also communicate using face and body expression, but the significance of these signals is uncertain. The animal is aggressive only during mating, and males in particular fight boldly. After a short fight, the loser flees and is followed by the winner for a short distance. In captivity, fossas are usually not aggressive and sometimes even allow themselves to be stroked by a zookeeper, but adult males in particular may try to bite.

The wounding tooth, Troödon (1856)
Phylum : ChordataClass : ReptiliaOrder : SaurischiaSuborder : TheropodaFamily : TroodontidaeGenus : TroödonSpecies : T. formosus, T. inequalis, T. asiamericanus?
Late Cretaceous (75 - 65 Ma)
2,4 m long and 50 kg (size)
Judith river formation, USA (map)
One of the last theropods to evolve and prosper before the K/T Extinction 65 million years ago, Troodon was unusually brainy by dinosaur standards: paleontologists think it may even have been as smart as small, primitive mammals like opossums (that may not sound like much of a compliment, but you have to remember that most dinosaurs of the Mesozoic Era, especially the plant-eaters, were about as bright as tree stumps). Troodon doubtless owed its advanced brain to its equally advanced predatory arsenal, which included a fast, bipedal gait, stereo vision, and probably a sharp sense of smell.
A relatively slender theropod closely related to the small, feathered dino-birds of the late Cretaceous period (most notably Saurornithoides), the human-sized Troodon lacked the brawn to match its brain—which may explain why it occasionally resorted to feeding on the eggs of other dinosaurs. As to its own reproductive habits, there’s voluminous evidence that Troodon cared for its own hatchlings after birth, a behavior shared by a few known species of hadrosaurs, or duck-billed dinosaurs (the most prominent examples being Maiasaura and Hypacrosaurus).
Troodon has been the subject of an amusing bit of speculation by paleontologist Dale Russell, who wondered if this dinosaur might have evolved advanced intelligence if it had managed to survive the K/T Extinction. Russell even created a model of an eerily human-looking “reptoid” derived from the Troodon lineage—sort of a snapshot of what Troodon might have evolved into if it had managed to live to the present day.

More about Troödon

The wounding tooth, Troödon (1856)

Phylum : Chordata
Class : Reptilia
Order : Saurischia
Suborder : Theropoda
Family : Troodontidae
Genus : Troödon
Species : T. formosus, T. inequalis, T. asiamericanus?

  • Late Cretaceous (75 - 65 Ma)
  • 2,4 m long and 50 kg (size)
  • Judith river formation, USA (map)

One of the last theropods to evolve and prosper before the K/T Extinction 65 million years ago, Troodon was unusually brainy by dinosaur standards: paleontologists think it may even have been as smart as small, primitive mammals like opossums (that may not sound like much of a compliment, but you have to remember that most dinosaurs of the Mesozoic Era, especially the plant-eaters, were about as bright as tree stumps). Troodon doubtless owed its advanced brain to its equally advanced predatory arsenal, which included a fast, bipedal gait, stereo vision, and probably a sharp sense of smell.

A relatively slender theropod closely related to the small, feathered dino-birds of the late Cretaceous period (most notably Saurornithoides), the human-sized Troodon lacked the brawn to match its brain—which may explain why it occasionally resorted to feeding on the eggs of other dinosaurs. As to its own reproductive habits, there’s voluminous evidence that Troodon cared for its own hatchlings after birth, a behavior shared by a few known species of hadrosaurs, or duck-billed dinosaurs (the most prominent examples being Maiasaura and Hypacrosaurus).

Troodon has been the subject of an amusing bit of speculation by paleontologist Dale Russell, who wondered if this dinosaur might have evolved advanced intelligence if it had managed to survive the K/T Extinction. Russell even created a model of an eerily human-looking “reptoid” derived from the Troodon lineage—sort of a snapshot of what Troodon might have evolved into if it had managed to live to the present day.

More about Troödon

The woolly Mammoth, Mammuthus primigenius (1799)
Phylum : ChordataClass : MammaliaOrder : ProboscideaFamily : ElephantidaeGenus : MammuthusSpecies : M. primigenius
Pleistocene/Early Holocene (15 000 - 4 000 years ago)
5,4 m long and 6 000 kg (size)
Eurasia (map)
The earliest known proboscideans, the clade which contains elephants, existed about 55 million years ago around the Tethys Sea. The closest known relatives of the Proboscidea are the sirenians and the hyraxes. The family Elephantidae existed six million years ago in Africa and includes the modern elephants and the mammoths. Among many now extinct clades, the mastodon is only a distant relative of the mammoths, and part of the separate Mammutidae family, which diverged 25 million years before the mammoths evolved.
Adult woolly mammoths could effectively defend themselves from predators with their tusks, trunks and size, but juveniles and weakened adults were vulnerable to pack hunters such as wolves, cave hyenas and large felines. The tusks may also have been used in intra-species fighting, such as territorial fights or fights over mates. Because of their curvature, the tusks were not suitable for stabbing, but may have been used for hitting, as indicated by injuries to some fossil shoulder blades. As in modern elephants, the sensitive and muscular trunk worked as a limb-like organ with many functions. It was used for manipulating objects, and in social interactions. The very long hairs on the tail probably compensated for the shortness of the tail, enabling its use as a flyswatter, similar to the tail on modern elephants. As in reindeer and musk oxen, the haemoglobin of the woolly mammoth was adapted to the cold, with three mutations to improve oxygen delivery around the body and prevent freezing. This feature may have helped the mammoths to live in high latitudes.


Like modern elephants, woolly mammoths were likely very social and lived in matriarchal family groups. This is supported by fossil assemblages and cave paintings showing groups. It is therefore probable that most of their other social behaviour was similar to those of modern elephants. Accumulations of modern elephant remains have been termed “elephants’ graveyards”, as these sites were erroneously thought to be where old elephants went to die. Similar accumulations of woolly mammoth bones have been found; it is thought these are the result of individuals dying near or in the rivers over thousands of years, and their bones eventually being brought together by the streams, or due to animals being mired in mud. Some accumulations are also thought to be the remains of herds that died together at the same time, perhaps due to flooding.
Trackways made by a woolly mammoth herd 11,300–11,000 years ago, have been found in the St. Mary Reservoir in Canada, showing that there were in this case almost equal numbers of adults, sub-adults and juveniles. The adults had a stride of 2 m, and the juveniles ran to keep up. The well-preserved foot of the adult male “Yukagir mammoth” shows that the soles of the feet contained many cracks that would have helped in gripping surfaces during locomotion. Like modern elephants, woolly mammoths walked on their toes and had large, fleshy pads behind the toes.
Evidence of several different bone diseases has been found in woolly mammoths. The most common of these diseases was osteoarthritis, found in 2% of specimens. One specimen from Switzerland had several fused vertebrae as a result of this condition. The “Yukagir mammoth” had suffered from spondylitis in two vertebrae, and osteomyelitis is also known from some specimens. Several specimens have healed bone fractures, showing that the animals had survived these injuries. Parasitic flies and protozoa were identified in the gut of the calf “Dima”.

The woolly Mammoth, Mammuthus primigenius (1799)

Phylum : Chordata
Class : Mammalia
Order : Proboscidea
Family : Elephantidae
Genus : Mammuthus
Species : M. primigenius

  • Pleistocene/Early Holocene (15 000 - 4 000 years ago)
  • 5,4 m long and 6 000 kg (size)
  • Eurasia (map)

The earliest known proboscideans, the clade which contains elephants, existed about 55 million years ago around the Tethys Sea. The closest known relatives of the Proboscidea are the sirenians and the hyraxes. The family Elephantidae existed six million years ago in Africa and includes the modern elephants and the mammoths. Among many now extinct clades, the mastodon is only a distant relative of the mammoths, and part of the separate Mammutidae family, which diverged 25 million years before the mammoths evolved.

Adult woolly mammoths could effectively defend themselves from predators with their tusks, trunks and size, but juveniles and weakened adults were vulnerable to pack hunters such as wolves, cave hyenas and large felines. The tusks may also have been used in intra-species fighting, such as territorial fights or fights over mates. Because of their curvature, the tusks were not suitable for stabbing, but may have been used for hitting, as indicated by injuries to some fossil shoulder blades. As in modern elephants, the sensitive and muscular trunk worked as a limb-like organ with many functions. It was used for manipulating objects, and in social interactions. The very long hairs on the tail probably compensated for the shortness of the tail, enabling its use as a flyswatter, similar to the tail on modern elephants. As in reindeer and musk oxen, the haemoglobin of the woolly mammoth was adapted to the cold, with three mutations to improve oxygen delivery around the body and prevent freezing. This feature may have helped the mammoths to live in high latitudes.

Like modern elephants, woolly mammoths were likely very social and lived in matriarchal family groups. This is supported by fossil assemblages and cave paintings showing groups. It is therefore probable that most of their other social behaviour was similar to those of modern elephants. Accumulations of modern elephant remains have been termed “elephants’ graveyards”, as these sites were erroneously thought to be where old elephants went to die. Similar accumulations of woolly mammoth bones have been found; it is thought these are the result of individuals dying near or in the rivers over thousands of years, and their bones eventually being brought together by the streams, or due to animals being mired in mud. Some accumulations are also thought to be the remains of herds that died together at the same time, perhaps due to flooding.

Trackways made by a woolly mammoth herd 11,300–11,000 years ago, have been found in the St. Mary Reservoir in Canada, showing that there were in this case almost equal numbers of adults, sub-adults and juveniles. The adults had a stride of 2 m, and the juveniles ran to keep up. The well-preserved foot of the adult male “Yukagir mammoth” shows that the soles of the feet contained many cracks that would have helped in gripping surfaces during locomotion. Like modern elephants, woolly mammoths walked on their toes and had large, fleshy pads behind the toes.

Evidence of several different bone diseases has been found in woolly mammoths. The most common of these diseases was osteoarthritis, found in 2% of specimens. One specimen from Switzerland had several fused vertebrae as a result of this condition. The “Yukagir mammoth” had suffered from spondylitis in two vertebrae, and osteomyelitis is also known from some specimens. Several specimens have healed bone fractures, showing that the animals had survived these injuries. Parasitic flies and protozoa were identified in the gut of the calf “Dima”.

The Excalibur lizard, Excalibosaurus (1986)
Phylum : ChordataClass : ReptiliaOrder : IchthyosaurusSuborder : EurhinosauriaFamily : LeptopterygidaeGenus : ExcalibosaurusSpecies : E. costini
Early Jurassic (196,5 - 189,6 Ma)
7 m long and 1 000 kg (size)
England (map)
Like another early ichthyosaur (“fish lizard”), Eurhinosaurus, Excalibosaurus possessed an asymmetrical jaw: the upper part projected about a foot beyond the lower part, and was studded with outward-pointing teeth. Extrapolating from the modern animal which it most resembles—the swordfish—it’s likely that Excalibosaurus used its “sword” to stir up food on the ocean bottom, or to spear fish or (possibly) rival marine reptiles. By the way, the name Excalibosaurus derives from King Arthur’s mythical sword, Excalibur, which he supposedly pulled from a rock to claim his rightful place as ruler of the British Isles. Not only does the snout of this Jurassic ichthyosaur resemble a sword, but its fossils have (so far) been discovered only in England.

The Excalibur lizard, Excalibosaurus (1986)

Phylum : Chordata
Class : Reptilia
Order : Ichthyosaurus
Suborder : Eurhinosauria
Family : Leptopterygidae
Genus : Excalibosaurus
Species : E. costini

  • Early Jurassic (196,5 - 189,6 Ma)
  • 7 m long and 1 000 kg (size)
  • England (map)

Like another early ichthyosaur (“fish lizard”), Eurhinosaurus, Excalibosaurus possessed an asymmetrical jaw: the upper part projected about a foot beyond the lower part, and was studded with outward-pointing teeth. Extrapolating from the modern animal which it most resembles—the swordfish—it’s likely that Excalibosaurus used its “sword” to stir up food on the ocean bottom, or to spear fish or (possibly) rival marine reptiles. By the way, the name Excalibosaurus derives from King Arthur’s mythical sword, Excalibur, which he supposedly pulled from a rock to claim his rightful place as ruler of the British Isles. Not only does the snout of this Jurassic ichthyosaur resemble a sword, but its fossils have (so far) been discovered only in England.

The american Flamingo, Phoenicopterus ruber (1758)
Phylum : ChordataClass : AvesOrder : PhoenicopteriformesFamily : PhoenicopteridaeGenus : PhoenicopterusSpecies : P. ruber
Least concern
1,45 m high and 2,8 kg (size)
Southern North America and nothern South America (map)
The American flamingo is a homeothermic endotherm, which is an animal that basically keeps a consistent temperature that is regulated within its body. Like all flamingos, it lays a single chalky white egg on a mud mound, between May and August; incubation until hatching takes from 28 to 32 days; both parents brood the young for a period of up to 6 years when they reach sexual maturity. Their life expectancy of 40 years is one of the longest in birds.

Adult American flamingos are smaller on average than greater flamingos but are the largest flamingos in the Americas. They measure from 120 to 145 cm tall. The males weigh an average of 2.8 kg, while females average 2.2 kg. Most of its plumage is pink, giving rise to its earlier name of rosy flamingo and differentiating adults from the much paler greater flamingo. The wing coverts are red, and the primary and secondary flight feathers are black. The bill is pink and white with the legs are entirely pink. The call is a goose-like honking.
For the most part flamingos are not all that different from other salt water wading birds. They will fast when migrating to a new habitat or the chicks may not receive food daily depending on food availability.

The american Flamingo, Phoenicopterus ruber (1758)

Phylum : Chordata
Class : Aves
Order : Phoenicopteriformes
Family : Phoenicopteridae
Genus : Phoenicopterus
Species : P. ruber

  • Least concern
  • 1,45 m high and 2,8 kg (size)
  • Southern North America and nothern South America (map)

The American flamingo is a homeothermic endotherm, which is an animal that basically keeps a consistent temperature that is regulated within its body. Like all flamingos, it lays a single chalky white egg on a mud mound, between May and August; incubation until hatching takes from 28 to 32 days; both parents brood the young for a period of up to 6 years when they reach sexual maturity. Their life expectancy of 40 years is one of the longest in birds.

Adult American flamingos are smaller on average than greater flamingos but are the largest flamingos in the Americas. They measure from 120 to 145 cm tall. The males weigh an average of 2.8 kg, while females average 2.2 kg. Most of its plumage is pink, giving rise to its earlier name of rosy flamingo and differentiating adults from the much paler greater flamingo. The wing coverts are red, and the primary and secondary flight feathers are black. The bill is pink and white with the legs are entirely pink. The call is a goose-like honking.

For the most part flamingos are not all that different from other salt water wading birds. They will fast when migrating to a new habitat or the chicks may not receive food daily depending on food availability.

Le long-tailed Chinchilla, Chinchilla lanigera (1829)
Phylum : ChordataClass : MammaliaOrder : RodentiaFamily : ChinchillidaeGenus : ChinchillaSpecies : C. lanigera
Critically endangered
26 cm long and 450 g (size)
Chile (map)
The long-tailed chinchilla, is one of two species of rodents from the genus Chinchilla, the other species being Chinchilla chinchilla. Wild populations of C. lanigera occur in Aucó, near Illapel, IV Región, Chile , in Reserva Nacional Las Chinchillas and in La Higuera, about 100 km  north of Coquimbo Chilean chinchillas were reported from Talca , Chile, reaching north to Peru and eastward from Chilean coastal hills throughout low mountains. By the mid-19th century, Chilean chinchillas were not found south of the Choapa River.
The Chilean chinchilla is endangered, with the second-highest conservation priority among Chilean mammals.

Le long-tailed Chinchilla, Chinchilla lanigera (1829)

Phylum : Chordata
Class : Mammalia
Order : Rodentia
Family : Chinchillidae
Genus : Chinchilla
Species : C. lanigera

  • Critically endangered
  • 26 cm long and 450 g (size)
  • Chile (map)

The long-tailed chinchilla, is one of two species of rodents from the genus Chinchilla, the other species being Chinchilla chinchilla. Wild populations of C. lanigera occur in Aucó, near Illapel, IV Región, Chile , in Reserva Nacional Las Chinchillas and in La Higuera, about 100 km  north of Coquimbo Chilean chinchillas were reported from Talca , Chile, reaching north to Peru and eastward from Chilean coastal hills throughout low mountains. By the mid-19th century, Chilean chinchillas were not found south of the Choapa River.

The Chilean chinchilla is endangered, with the second-highest conservation priority among Chilean mammals.