From massive snakes to 100-ton sharks, here are 10 terrifying animals you’ll be glad are extinct!
Titanoboa means “titanic boa” and that is not an exaggeration. This ancient serpent could reach lengths of 40 feet (12 m) and weigh over a ton. It lived in South America, 58 million years ago in the Paleocene era, making it slightly younger than the dinosaurs. The swamp where it lived received twice as much rainfall as today’s Amazon. Not only were the trees larger but so were the animals. It makes sense that there would be a predator to eat turtles that were twice the size of manhole covers and crocodiles over a dozen feet long. The Titanoboa looked like a modern-day boa constrictor but acted more like a water-dwelling anaconda. The thickest part of its body would have been as tall as a man’s waist. It was also the largest snake ever to exist. To give you a little more perspective on how massive this creature was, it could swallow a crocodile whole. It was at the top of the food chain and probably attacked its prey in dramatic fashion, using its powerful jaws to crush the windpipe. For the Titanoboa, we would probably have been a delicious snack on its way to a better meal.
Cameroceras means “chambered horn”, which does not sound so bad, even though it’s not really clear what it is. The horn was a large shell inhabited by the largest cephalopod ever. Cephalopods include octopus, squid, and cuttlefish. These are all predators, but Cameroceras was the top ocean predator during its time. It lived in the middle Silurian period, about 24.6 million years ago. Its shell, the chambered horn, was around 6 meters (19 feet) long. Tentacles grew from the base of the head, much like a cuttlefish, and it would have used those to seize its prey. Its hard, keratinous beak would have bitten into the bodies of its prey, capable of crunching straight through hard shells and armored exoskeletons. Within the beaks of modern cephalopods, a ‘toothed’ tongue is used to rasp out soft tissue from within the prey’s shell. Though it is not known for certain if Cameroceras had this feature, scientists assume it did because the tentacles, size, and beak weren’t scary enough. Its fossils have been found in mainland China, Europe, and North America. So, during its heyday, there wasn’t a safe place to hide from this monster.
Ever wondered what a wingless dragon would look like? Look no further than Kaprosuchus. Discovered in 2009, this Cretaceous period reptile could have been 3-6 meters long (9-19ft). Its name means “boar crocodile” and comes from three sets of teeth that resemble boar’s tusks. All we have so far is the skull, so things like size and overall look can only be speculated. However, that speculation is pretty terrifying. It has a bulky nose, which suggests a horn or growth of some kind that could have been used as a battering ram. Its jaws have notches in the bone to allow this creature to close its mouth. Otherwise, it’s huge teeth would have forced it to keep its mouth open all the time. I’m not sure which image is more frightening. The only fossil of this creature has been found in Africa. Despite the lack of knowledge about this creature, the idea of it thoroughly captured the public’s imagination and you can encounter Kaprosuchus in the video game, ARK: Survival Evolved.
Arthropleura, whose name means “jointed ribs”, is not the kind of animal a bug hater would want to encounter. Living 323 to 299 million years ago in the Carboniferous era, it was a millipede. A seven-foot long (2.3m) millipede. This makes it the largest arthropod ever! At the time it lived, there was more oxygen in the atmosphere and larger amounts of precipitation in rain forests, helping animals to get larger and larger. Because of its size, it left deep trackways that have since fossilized which we can see today. Scientists have discovered it lived in eastern North America and modern day Scotland. Luckily, it was an herbivore most of the time, but probably also ate insects and other invertebrates. So, unless you’re made of leafy green vegetables, Arthropleura posed no threat to you. Unless it ran you over. And even if you survived that, the fact that so many legs crawled over you would be enough to fuel a thousand nightmares.
When we think of scorpions, we think of an insect with an exoskeleton that can be fierce but is rather small. Well, that wasn’t always the case. Enter the Pulmonoscorpius or the “breathing scorpion”. Like the Arthropleura, it lived in the giant rainforests of the Carboniferous era, where everything was bigger and scarier. This scorpion transitioned from an aquatic to a land creature, taking up the burrowing lifestyle of its present-day descendants. Unlike its descendants, the Pulmonoscorpius could reach lengths of 70 cm (3 feet)! No one is sure what this creature ate exactly but it isn’t much of a stretch to think it dined on other insects and tetrapods. Scientists feel safe in guessing this scorpion’s poison was very potent, given its size. Fossils of the Pulmonoscorpius have only been found in Scotland. What the heck? Who knew Scotland had so many scary bugs!