Magnificens Six million years ago, in present day Argentina, Argentavis Magnificens prowled the skies. It is the largest flying bird ever discovered. While its name points to Argentina, it is possible it had a much larger range. This ancient bird’s wings spanned 23-30 ft (7-9 m). This is twice as big as an albatross or the California condor. Because of its size, scientists don’t think it flew in the traditional, flapping sense. It also couldn’t launch itself into the air through a running take-off. Scientists believe it used the same method albatrosses and hang gliders use today: sloping ground and headwind. Once airborne, these birds glided rather than flapped its wings. What did something this large eat? Because it has been extinct for millennia, it is hard to say but scientists believe it ate carrion as well as small animals. Small when compared to an Argentavis Magnificens, which would probably include us humans. It has been hypothesized that when Argentavis actively hunted, this monster bird scooped up its prey and ate it without stopping.
Deinosuchus is an extinct genus related to the alligator that lived 80 to 73 million years ago during the late Cretaceous period. The name translates as “terrible crocodile” and it certainly lived up to it. The first remains were discovered in North Carolina in the United States in the 1850s but the dinosaur was not named and described until 1909. Deinosuchus was far larger than any modern crocodile or alligator, with the largest adults measuring 35 feet (10.6 meters) in total length. However, it looked fairly similar to its smaller descendant, the present day alligator. Deinosuchus was an apex predator and among the largest of its time. It was probably capable of killing and eating large dinosaurs. Héctor Rivera-Sylva and colleagues described hadrosaur bones bearing Deinosuchus toothmarks from Mexico, and similar finds have been reported from Texas. It may have also fed upon sea turtles, fish, and other aquatic and terrestrial prey.
Prisca Megalania Prisca was a giant monitor lizard living in Australia between 4 million and 30,000 years ago. This could mean that the first human inhabitants of Australia encountered this gigantic lizard. No complete skeleton of Megalania has been found, only fragments. The first fragments were discovered in the 19th century by anatomist Richard Owen. He estimated that this giant lizard grew to be 20 feet (6 meters) long! It was nicknamed the “ripper” because scientists believe it tore into its prey and ripped it apart. However, some controversy exists regarding this lizard. Scientists today say that the bones resemble another giant lizard species. In fact, many now refer to Megalania as Varanas priscus and estimate its length to be about eleven feet. That’s still nothing to scoff at, especially since Megalania was most likely poisonous. What’s more, many people think Megalania might still live in some unexplored part of Australia’s bush because there are eyewitnesses who claim to have seen it. As if Australia wasn’t scary enough.
Interestingly, this creature’s name means “perfect teeth”. It existed 37 to 27 million years ago in the late Eocene to early Oligocene eras. While some people have taken to calling these creatures “killer pigs”, they are more like hippos than swine. So, how big was it? About the size of a modern day cow, about 9 feet (3m) long and taller than a man. Entelodons are widely regarded as omnivores that ate plants and scavenged dead animals, though it sometimes supplemented its diet with live prey. Its bite strength was phenomenal. Scientists discovered a pile of Oligocene camels that had been bitten in half. Skulls have been unearthed bearing evidence of head-butting matches with members of its own species. Somewhat confusingly, this animal has lent its name to a whole family of similar megafauna: the Entelodonts. The Entelodon belongs to this family. The reason why it gave its name to this megafauna is because the Entelodon was the first of its kind to be discovered.
This enormous, extinct shark species has become one of the most renowned prehistoric predators, perhaps second only to the T. rex. The biggest species of shark to have ever existed, the megalodon is generally thought to have looked similar to today’s great white. However, while a great white shark can grow to be 20 feet long (6m) and weigh over 7,000 pounds, the megalodon was estimated to be 60 feet in length, weighing anywhere from 50 to 100 metric tons. Its teeth were so massive that when people began finding fossilized Megalodon teeth, they thought they were dragon tongues. Megalodons died off about 1.6 million years ago, though some people like to wonder if it still wanders the ocean. If it did die off when scientists believe it did, this means that it often ate animals that are still around today—like giant sea turtles, porpoises, and even whales. Its fossils have been found all around the world, suggesting it had a wide range. There is no direct evidence that Megalodon still exists. There are fake documentaries and fake footage everywhere, so scientists are waiting to find either the carcass of the creature itself, a carcass bearing its tell-tale bite mark, or one of its teeth to wash ashore before they even consider the notion. Whenever a previously thought extinct animal is found, like in the case of the megamouth shark, people can be forgiven for letting their imaginations get away from them. You just never know…