Seven Of The Biggest Beasts Of All Time

We all know about the size of dinosaurs, of course, but how about a rodent the size of a bull, a sea scorpion bigger than a man, a frog as large as a beach ball, a penguin the size of a small adult human, a 1,000-pound ground-sloth-like marsupial, and a shark that may have grown longer than 50 feet and weighed up to 30 times more than the largest modern great white?

1. Biggest Snake Fossil Found in Colombia Coal Mine

Illustration of Titanoboa cerrejonensis by Jason Bourque/ Released by Nature
The biggest snake that ever lived (that we know about) was a massive anaconda-like beast that slithered through steamy tropical rainforests about 60 million years ago feasting on primitive crocodiles, National Geographic News reported today.”Fossils discovered in northeastern Colombia’s Cerrejon coal mine indicate the reptile was at least 42 feet (13 meters) long and weighed 2,500 pounds (1,135 kilograms),” contributor John Roach reported.he snake would have killed its prey by slow suffocation — wrapping around it and squeezing, just like a modern python or boa. Only this snake was twice the size of today’s largest constrictors

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Humans would stand no chance against one of these giant snakes, said Hans-Dieter Sues, paleontologist and associate director for research and collections at the National Museum of Natural History of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. “Given the sheer size, the sheer cross section of that snake, it would be probably like one of those devices they use to crush old cars in a junkyard.”
Precloacal vertebra of an adult Green Anaconda dwarfed by a vertebra of the giant boid snake Titanoboa cerrejonensis (photo credit Kenneth Krysko) and (lower photo) comparison of a vertebra of Titanoboa with the body of a live Python regius (photo credit Jason Head)

2. Bull-Size Rodent Discovered — Biggest Yet

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A one-ton “fossil rat” has been discovered in South America, scientists announced today. (See pictures of the giant rodent.) The prehistoric, bull-size creature—the world’s largest recorded rodent—has been identified from a well-preserved skull. The megarodent lived in lowland rain forests between two and four million years ago, perhaps using its massive teeth to fend off saber-toothed cats and giant, flightless, meat-eating birds, researchers say. The newfound species, called Josephoartigasia monesi, is reported today in a study led by Andrés Rinderknecht of the National Museum of Natural History and Anthropology in Montevideo, Uruguay.
The rodent weighed about 2,200 pounds (1,000 kilograms), based on an analysis of its 21-inch-long (53-centimeter-long) skull, according to the study, published in the new issue of the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society: B.

Found by an amateur paleontologist in a cliff face along Uruguay’s southern coast, the skull suggests that the species was twice as heavy as any other known rodent, Rinderknecht said in an email. “The future can bring big surprises. But at present J. monesi is the largest recorded rodent,” he said. A relative of rats, mice, and guinea pigs, the creature measured some ten feet (three meters) long, nose to tail. The ancient animal looked a lot like the capybara, the world’s largest living rodent, also from South America. (Watch video of an anaconda hunting a capybara.)

But the prehistoric mammal belonged to a rodent family with a single surviving member—the pacarana (see photo)—the study says. A rare species weighing up to 33 pounds (15 kilograms), the pacarana is confined to tropical forests in central South America.
J. monesi inhabited forests around river deltas or estuaries, the study suggests.
Fruit Feeder
“It probably fed on aquatic plants and fruits, because its molars are small and not good for grass or other abrasive [vegetation],” Rinderknecht said.

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But a mystery is the extremely broad incisors,” he added. “We are working on a biomechanical model to estimate the bite force of this giant.”

The rodent’s fearsome front teeth and large size may have been used to fight over females for breeding rights, assuming it was a male, he said. The may also have helped defend against predators, including carnivorous marsupials, saber-toothed cats, and so-called terror birds, which grew up to ten feet (three meters) tall (photo of a terror-bird model), he said. Larger mammals also have the advantage of access to low-quality food resources, such as wood, that smaller species are unable to digest, the researcher added.
“There are many advantages for a big mammal,” he said. “Some of these reasons could be the explanation” for J. monesi’s size.

The fossil discovery takes the title of rodent heavyweight champion away from another extinct South American species, Phoberomys pattersoni. Likened to a giant guinea pig, P. pattersoni weighed an estimated 1,500 pounds (700 kilograms). (See pictures of the prehistoric “giant guinea pig”.)

The previous record holder was described in 2003 from remains found in Venezuela by paleontologist Marcelo Sánchez-Villagra from the University of Zurich, Switzerland. Of the latest find, Sánchez-Villagra said, “This undoubtedly is the largest rodent that we know of. It’s quite remarkable. But I’m not envious—I think it’s great. “I suspected there would be larger rodents out there,” he said. “There are probably others that are bigger still.”

The latest find is further evidence of the incredible diversity seen in South American fossil rodents, Sánchez-Villagra said.

“There were many species with no equivalent today, especially in terms of size,” he added. The likely reason for such variety is that South America’s rodents evolved in isolation, the paleontologist said.
Rodent Island “For most of the last 65 million years, since shortly after the dinosaurs became extinct, South America was an island,” he said. But around three million years ago the Panama land bridge formed, linking North and South America. New types of mammals flooded in from the north, perhaps sending bizarre species such as J. monesi scurrying to extinction. Newcomers included predatory cats and bears that were previously absent in South America, Sánchez-Villagra said.

“Large herbivores from North America probably competed with the big rodents,” he added.

Climate change likely also contributed to the demise of massive rodents, the paleontologist said. The new discovery should provide important new clues to the growth processes that produced such massive rodents, he said. Rinderknecht, the study author, said the team is now investigating the fossil skull to work out the animal’s hearing and smelling capabilities.

3. Giant “Frog From Hell” Fossil Found in Madagascar

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The bad-tempered Beelzebufo, or “devil frog” was a “rather intimidating animal the size of a beach ball, 16 inches (41 centimeters) high and weighing about 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms).”
Paleontologist David Krause of Stony Brook University in New York and his colleagues began unearthing the the 70-million-year-old frog as a specimen in bits and pieces more than a decade earlier. “Over the years a 75-piece puzzle emerged that was only recently put together by fossil-frog expert Susan Evans of University College London,” National Geographic’s story said.Evans, lead author of a paper detailing the find, said that, like its closest modern-day relatives — a group of big-mouthed frogs in South America called ceratophyrines — the devil frog also probably had a very aggressive temperament.”These ceratophyrines are really aggressive, ambush predators. They are round with big mouths, and they will sit there and grab onto anything that walks past.”

“They’re sometimes called Pac-Man frogs,” she added, “and even the little ones will go for you. It’s a frog with attitude, even today. And at two or three times the size of the largest living ceratophyrines, Beelzebufo would have had quite a lot more attitude.”The animal sported a protective shield and powerful jaws that may have enabled it to kill hatchling dinosaurs, National Geographic News reported.

4. Giant Penguins Once Roamed Peru Desert, Fossils Show

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Penguins about the size of humans roamed South America some 35 million years ago, and they didn’t need ice to survive, National Geographic News reported in June 2007.The study by North Carolina State University paleontologist Julia Clarke and her colleagues unveiled two new species of giant penguins from fossils unearthed in Peru’s Atacama Desert, pushing the date of penguin migration to equatorial regions back more than 30 million years, to one of the warmest periods of the last 65 million years.The artist’s illustration above shows the approximate sizes of two recently discovered Peruvian giant penguin species.

“The fearsome five-foot (1.5-meter) Icadyptes salasi (right) lived about 36 million years ago, while Perudyptes devriesi (left) lived about 42 million years ago. The two extinct animals are shown to scale with Peru’s only living penguin species, Spheniscus humbolti (center),” our story said.

5. Giant Sea Scorpion Discovered; Was Bigger Than a Man
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Scientists said this 18-inch (46-centimeter) fossil claw (bottom) belonged to the world’s largest known bug: an 8.2-foot (2.5-meter), 390-million-year-old sea scorpion called Jaekelopterus rhenaniae, National Geographic News reported in November 2007.”The size of a large crocodile, the 390-million-year-old sea scorpion was the top predator of its day, slicing up fish and cannibalizing its own kind in coastal swamp waters, fossil experts say,” our report said.

Jaekelopterus rhenaniae measured some 8.2 feet (2.5 meters) long, scientists estimate, based on the length of its 18-inch (46-centimeter), spiked claw.”The find shows that arthropods — animals such as insects, spiders, and crabs, which have hard external skeletons, jointed limbs, and segmented bodies — once grew much larger than previously thought,” said paleobiologist Simon Braddy of the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom. “We have known for some time that the fossil record yields monster millipedes, supersized scorpions, colossal cockroaches, and jumbo dragonflies,” he added. “But we never realized, until now, just how big some of these ancient creepy-crawlies were.”
The fossilized claw of the sea scorpion was uncovered in a quarry near Prüm in Germany.

6. Ancient Giant Shark Had Strongest Bite Ever, Model Says

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Prehistoric megalodon — literally “megatooth” — sharks had the most powerful bite of any creature that has ever lived, National Geographic News reported in August 2008″Its bite was strong enough to crush an automobile and far exceeded that of the great white shark and even Tyrannosaurus rex.”Known mostly from the large teeth it left behind, Carcharodon megalodon first appeared in Earth’s seas about 16 million years ago (in the Neogene period) and dined on giant prehistoric turtles and whales, we reported.”Megalodon’s killing strategy was to bite the tails and flippers off large whales, effectively taking out their propulsion systems,” said study leader Stephen Wroe of the University of New South Wales in Australia.

The prehistoric shark may have grown to lengths of over 50 feet (16 meters) and weighed up to 30 times more than the largest great white. “A great white is about the size of the clasper, or penis, of a male megalodon,” said Peter Klimley a shark expert at the University of California at Davis, who was not involved with the current research.


7. Giant Prehistoric “Kangaroos” Killed Off by Humans

Tasmanian-megafauna-pictue

Hunting on the Australian island Tasmania exterminated several prehistoric animals, including the kangaroo-like beasts, marsupial “hippopotamuses,” and leopard-like cats, National Geographic News reported in August last year.The 1,000-pound (500-kilogram) prehistoric ground-sloth-like marsupial depicted here — Palorchestes azael — was among a handful of Tasmanian megafauna species driven to extinction by human activity more than 40,000 years ago, our story said.

The study challenged previous research suggesting an ice age killed off the giant creatures before humans arrived on the island.Other species included in the research were “three kangaroos that would have been in the 220-pound (100-kilogram) size range,” said team member Tim Flannery of Australia’s Macquarie University.

(source)

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