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The Gap Year Blog

Top 5 Prehistoric Creatures

8 Feb 2018 14:20 PM

We long to know the exact details about how our Earth came into being and what lived here before us. It is a complex and super intelligent system that has sustained life on it for nearly 300 million years! From plant life, to marine life, there are millions of creatures we wish we knew more about.

Due to fewer species existing way back in the day, we’re talking hundreds of millions of years ago, it is believed that animals were able to grow bigger in size due to the high levels of oxygen and how it was diffused through their bodies. There were also fewer species present in general, which meant a lack of predators, allowing the animals that did exist a lot of space to live out safely in the open, meaning a natural evolutionary inclination to be larger.  

The Earth was also filled with microbes and algae that no longer exist, which may have contributed to the differing size of animals them compared to now. In fact, it is also believed that Earth had a purple tinge which would have been visible from space due to the different microbes using something other than chlorophyll to harness the power of the sun. Considering all of this, it’s easy to understand why Earth was not yet suitable for humans.

We know about the infamous comet that wiped out dinosaurs and we’ve learned so much about the large reptiles but there were other creatures, even long before dinosaurs, that will definitely get the imagination going and deserve some of the spotlight.  Here are our top 5 prehistoric animals:

C. Megalodon

We all love the drama of giants on Earth and scenarios based on how we would survive if faced with a 50 metre shark that pop culture so often loves to reference. From Jaws to Sharknado to Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus, we love scaring ourselves at the thought of sharing the Earth with colossal predators.  These creatures are not just the fancies of fiction. The C. Megalodon existed 35,000,000 years after dinosaurs went extinct. It was basically a Great White shark, but twenty times the size. Judging by the vertebrae and teeth found, it is predicted that the shark could reach 20-25 metres, that’s 65-70 feet long! It is said to have fed on whales, which were abundant during the time of the Megalodon.

Photo credit: Flickr | Ryan Ozawa


Yep, we have another animal with the prefix ‘mega’, the Earth was filled with some extremely large animals, which look cool in the drawn interpretations, but would not be so cool if they were still around. The Meganeura was a giant griffinfly, which is very close to what we know as a dragonfly. They were about half a metre to a metre long with a wingspan of about the same length! We don’t know what we’d do it we saw one of these hovering over our heads, but luckily they only preyed upon other insects. They existed approximately 300 million years ago.

Photo credit: Flickr | Peter Handke


Now, we didn’t want to simply list all of the mega cool and mega sized beings that once roamed the Earth. Some animals that inhabited the planet were pretty cute, if not a bit weird. The Microraptor, also known as the one who seizes, was a small, feathered dinosaur who had two sets of wings. That’s right, four wings in total! Although they can agree Microraptors would have benefitted in their gliding due to the wings, Palaeontologists cannot decide exactly what the smaller set of wings were used for, or how, but they do know that they are a vital in understanding the link between dinosaurs and birds. Microraptors were believed to have lived in the forests of China, in which they could easily glide from tree to tree using their main wings and the rudimentary wings sprouting from their hind limbs. They were under a metre long and it is believed that their feathers were quite long, making them rather small, regal looking creatures!   

Photo credit: Wikipedia Commons | Fred Wierum


This bird type dinosaur brings in further questions about evolution and the relationships between different species. A Pterodaustro was basically and bird-dinosaur-whale. Its existence poses so many questions that we can’t yet answer.  It had large, featherless wings with a span of around four metres and long bristle-like teeth similar to that of a whale’s. Due to its teeth, it had a very elongated skull, making its mouth area look very similar to a whale’s too. It fed off crustaceans and plankton, again much like a whale! It existed approximately 105 million years ago.

Photo credit: Wikipedia Commons | ArthurWeasley~commonswiki



To finish off the list, we had to include a giant snake. We just had to. It wouldn’t be a top 5 prehistoric animals list without a massive, terrifying snake to get the mind reeling. The Titanoboa stripped the Gigantophis of its ‘largest-snake-to-ever-exist’ title.  The Gigantophis fossil was found in 1901, it was documented at 33ft long and suggested that the snaked weighed half a tonne! However, remnants of the Titanoboa were later found in 2009 which led scientists to the discovery that this snake was at 20 feet longer than the Gigantophis! That means that a Titanoboa could reach about 50ft long and weigh two tonnes! It’s not unbelievable, considering that the largest snake living now is an anaconda, which can reach 25ft and weigh half a tonne. These predators lived in the jungles of South Asia and Africa and fed of animals as large as crocodiles.

Photo credit: Flickr | Ryan Somma

We wish we could have seen some of these magnificent creatures with our own eyes (but we’re also kind of glad we didn’t), but remember that we still have so many amazing creatures living on Earth with us right now! Let’s make sure we do everything we can do support the several million species living today. Many of them are under threat and could soon be on one of these lists, but for all the wrong reasons that more often than not involve human interference and climate change.

By Hanna-Johara Dokal - Online Journalism Intern

Frontier runs terrestrial & marine conservation, community, teaching and adventure projects in over 50 countries - join us and explore the world!