The Animals and Creeping Things – Day 6, Part 1 & Prehistoric Creatures, Part 3 of 3

How about the animals and people: Did You zap them into existence with words too?

“And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping things, and beast of the earth after his kind.  And it was so.

And God made the beast of the earth after his kind and cattle after their kind, and everything that creepeth upon the earth after his kind.  And God saw that it was good” (Gen 1:24-25).

Prehistoric Creatures, Part 3 of 3
10 Terrifying Prehistoric Relatives
of Normal Animals

Today, man is the dominant predator on the planet. Yet we have occupied this position for a relatively short period of time—the earliest known man, Homo habilis, first appeared around 2.3 million years ago.

Although we dominate the animals of today, many of these animals have extinct relatives that were a lot larger and more vicious than what we’re familiar with. These animal ancestors look like creatures straight out of our worst nightmares.

The frightening aspect is that if mankind vanishes—or merely loses its dominance—these creatures, or something like them, could potentially return again to existence.

Megatherium

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Today, sloths are tree-climbing, slow, and non-threatening animals that reside in the Amazon. Their ancestors were the complete opposite. During the Pliocene era, Megatherium was a giant ground sloth found in South America; it weighed up to four tons and was twenty feet (6m) in length from head to tail.

Although it primarily moved on four legs, footprints show that it was capable of being bipedal, in order to reach leaves from the tallest trees. It was the size of a modern day elephant, and still wasn’t the largest animal in its habitat!

Archeologists theorize that Megatherium was a scavenger, and would steal dead carcasses from other carnivores. Megatherium was also one of the last giant Ice Age mammals to disappear.

Their remains appear in the fossil record as recently as the Holocene, the period that saw the rise of mankind. This makes man the most likely culprit in the extinction of Megatherium.

Gigantopithecus

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When we think of a giant ape we generally think of the fictional King Kong—but colossal apes really did exist, long ago.

Gigantopithecus was an ape that existed from roughly nine million to a hundred thousand years ago—placing it in the same time period as several hominid species.

The fossil record suggests that individuals of the species Gigantopithecus were the largest apes to ever exist, standing at almost ten feet (3m) tall, and weighing twelve hundred pounds (540kg). S

cientists have not been able to determine the cause of extinction for this large ape. However, some crypto-zoologists theorize that “sightings” of Big Foot and Yeti may relate to a lost generation of gigantopithecus.

Armored Fish

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Dunkleosteus was the largest of the prehistoric fish Placodermi. Its head and thorax were covered by articulated armored plates. Instead of teeth, these fish possessed two pairs of sharp bony plates, which formed a beak-like structure.

Dunkleosteus likely attacked other related placoderms that had the same kind of bony plates for protection; their jaws had enough driving power to cut and break through armored prey.

One of the largest known specimens found was thirty-three feet (10m) long and weighed four tons—making it one fish that you would not want to catch on a reel and rod!

This fish was anything but picky with its food; it ate fish, sharks and even its own kind.

But it seems to have suffered from indigestion, as its fossils are often associated with regurgitated, semi-digested remains of fish. Scientists at the University of Chicago concluded that dunkleosteus had the second most powerful bite of any fish.

These giant armored fish became extinct during the transition from Devonian to the Carboniferous periods.

Terror Bird

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Most flightless birds today—consider the ostrich or the penguin, for example—are harmless to human beings; however, there was once a flightless bird that terrorized the earth.

Phorusrhacidae, also known as “terror birds,” were a species of carnivorous and flightless birds that were the largest species of predators in South America, between sixty-two million and two million years ago.

They were roughly three to ten feet (1-3m) tall. The terror bird’s prey of choice were small mammals . . . and, incidentally, horses. They used their massive beaks to kill in two ways; by picking up small prey and slamming it to the ground, or by precision strikes on critical body parts.

Although archeologists have not yet fully determined the reason this species went extinct, the last of its fossils appear around the same time as the first humans.6

Haast’s Eagle

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Birds of prey have always left an imprint on the human psyche; luckily, we are far bigger than the largest eagle. That said, birds of prey that were large enough to hunt a human meal once existed.

The Haast’s eagle once lived on the South Island of New Zealand, and was the largest eagle known to exist, weighing up to thirty-six pounds (16.5kg) with a ten-foot (3m) wingspan.

Its prey consisted of the moa, three-hundred-pound flightless birds unable to defend themselves from the striking force and speed of these eagles, which reached speeds of up to fifty miles (8km) per hour.

Legends from early settlers and native Maori had it that these eagles could pick up and devour small children.

But early human settlers in New Zealand preyed heavily on large flightless birds, including all moa species—eventually hunting them to extinction.

The loss of its natural prey caused the Haast’s eagle to become extinct around fourteen hundred years ago, when its natural food source was depleted.

Giant Ripper Lizard

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Today, the Komodo dragon is a fearsome reptile and the largest lizard on the planet—but its would have been dwarfed by its ancient ancestors. Themegalania, also known as the “Giant Ripper Lizard”, was a very large monitor lizard.

The exact proportions of this creature have been debated, but the most recent research revealed that the megalania’s length was around twenty-three feet (7m), and that it weighed approximately thirteen to fourteen hundred pounds (600-620kg), making it the largest terrestrial lizard known to have existed.

Its diet consisted of marsupials, such as giant kangaroos and wombats. Megalania belongs to the clade toxicofera, possessing toxin-secreting oral glands—making this lizard the largest venomous vertebrate known to have existed.

Although we couldn’t imagine a lizard of this size roaming in the Outback, the first Aboriginal settlers of Australia may have encountered living megalanias. The species most likely went extinct when early settlers hunted the megalania’s food sources.

Short-faced Bear

Arctodussimus

Bears are some of the largest mammals on Earth, with the polar bear even holding the title for the largest of all carnivores on land. Arctodus—also known as the short-faced bear—lived in North America during the Pleistocene.  

The short-faced bear weighed about one ton (900kg), and when standing on its hind legs it reached a height of fifteen feet (4.6m), making the short-faced bear the largest mammalian predator that ever existed.

Although the short-faced bear was a very large carnivore, archeologists have discovered that it was actually a scavenger. Being a scavenger, however, was not at all a bad thing—especially when you’re fighting saber-tooth cats and wolves for a meal.

Like many other large animals of the Pleistocene, the short-faced bear lost much of its food source with the arrival of humans.

Deinosuchus

Deinosuchus And Albertosaurus

Modern-day crocodiles are living relics of the dinosaurs—but there was a time when crocodiles hunted and ate said dinosaurs. 

Deinosuchus is an extinct species related to alligators and crocodiles, which lived during the Cretaceous eriod. The name deinosuchus translates to “terrible crocodile” in Greek.

This crocodile was far larger than any modern version, measuring up to thirty-nine feet (12m) and weighting almost ten tons.

In its overall appearance, it was fairly similar to its smaller relatives, with large robust teeth built for crushing, and a back covered with armored bone plates.

Deinosuchus’ main prey were large dinosaurs (how many can make thatclaim?) in addition to sea turtles, fish and other hapless victims.

Potential proof of the danger of deinosuchus comes from the fossils of an albertosaurus.

These specimens bore tooth marks from both deinosuchus and Tyrannosaurus Rex, which means that there is a great chance these two fierce predators once engaged in colossal battles.

Titanoboa

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No creature invokes more fear in the human psyche than snakes. Today the largest snake is the Reticulated Python, with an average growth of twenty-three feet (7m).

In 2009, archeologists made a shocking discovery in Columbia; by comparing shapes and sizes of its fossilized vertebrae to those of modern snakes, they estimated that the ancient snakes, titanoboa, reached a maximum length of forty to fifty feet (12-15m) and weighed up to 2,500 pounds—making it the largest snake to ever slide around the planet.

Because it’s a recent discovery, little is known about titanoboa; what is known is that a fifty-foot snake would scare the daylights out of anybody, phobia or not.

Megaladon

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Before 1975, most humans’ animal phobias came primarily from snakes and spiders. That all changed when the film Jaws was released; the film’s antagonist was a (fake) great white shark, which ended up scaring many people away from entering the ocean.

Today, the largest great white sharks are usually twenty feet (6m) in length and weigh five thousand pounds (2,275kg). However, there was once a shark that was double the size of the largest modern great white sharks.

Megaladon—meaning “big tooth”—was a shark that lived approximately twenty-eight to 1.5 million years ago. Everything about the megaladon was mega: its teeth were 7.1 inches (18cm); and fossil remains suggest that this giant shark reached a maximum length of 52-67 feet (16-20m).

While today great white sharks prey on seals, the megaladon’s meal of choice was whales. Scientists hypothesize that the species went extinct due to oceanic cooling, sea level drops, and a decline in food supply.

If the megaladon were still alive, there is a great chance that man would have been a landlocked species.

Still, in the giant oceans there may be a titanic great white shark lurking in the abyss—so there’s always a chance that something like the megaladon could return to the world.

God Speaks and Things Happen & Prehistoric Creatures, Part 2 of 3

“So when You say something things happen.  Is that correct?”

By the word of the LORD were the heavens made and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.  He gathereth the waters of the sea together as a heap.  He layeth up the depth in storehouses” (Ps 33:6-7).

“Let them praise the name of the LORD: for he commanded, and they were created” (Ps 148:5).

“Let all the earth fear the LORD: Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.  For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast” (33:8-9).

“Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (Heb 11:3).

“For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water” (2 Pet 3:5).

“So shall my word be that goeth forth out of   my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Is 55:11).

25 Strangest Prehistoric Creatures

Archaeopteryx

 The Greek name for a little bird, also translated as “early wing” or “first bird,” it supposedly existed during the Jurassic Period. A fossilized feather was discovered in 1861 in Solnhofen, Germany, where high-quality lime deposits were mined for over a century.

Deinocheirus

This dinosaur is a bit of any enigma for paleontologists as the only known evidence for its existence are a handful of fossil remains, including two forelimbs and some bits of vertebrae.

The fossilized remains were found on July 9, 1965 in Mongolia and were given the name Deinocheirus or “terrible hands.”

Deinotherium

Also called a “hoe tusker” or “terrible beast,” the remains of these prehistoric mammals that resemble modern-day elephants were discovered at major hominid excavation sites at Lake Turkana in Kenya.

Dimorphodon

Its name means “two-form tooth” which is the result of having two distinct types of teeth in its jaw. These creatures supposedly had great eyesight and formidable claws to hunt fish, squid or lizards.

Dunkleosteus

Also called “Dunkle’s Bone,” this was one of the largest armored jaw fishes to have ever roamed the Earth. Considered one of the fiercest predators in the ocean it could measure up to 10 meters and weighed 3.6 tons.

Elasmosaur

Elasmosaur, which means “thin plate,” could have been around 30 feet in height and 46 feet in length. Most of its length was in its neck, which was roughly 25 feet long, or 4 times larger than the neck of a giraffe.

When it was first reconstructed, scientists made the mistake of putting its head on the wrong end due to its funny shape.

Epidendrosaurus

Though Archaopteryx was credited as the “first bird,” Epidendrosaurus or “lizard of the tree” was the first reptile to be closer to a bird than a dinosaur.

It was about six inches long and used its long arms and clawed hands to pry on insects from tree bark.

Epidexipteryx

A small-feathered dinosaur that existed once in the Inner Mongolia region of China, Epidexipteryx or “display feather” is the earliest known representation of ornamental feathers in the fossil record.

Hallucigenia

A relative of modern arthropods, Hallucigenia is one of the strangest creatures in the fossil record. Less than 3 millimeters long, it has a bulbous round head connected to its cylindrical trunk.

Though it was previously thought that it stood on its spines, it was later discovered that the tentacles are actually feet, making the Hallucigenia the ancestor of today’s velvet worms.

Helicoprion

Also known as “spiral saw,” this shark-like cartilaginous fish first arose in the oceans of the late Carboniferous era. However, the only surviving evidence of its existence was a tight curled-up coil of triangular teeth.

This bizarre structure was attached to the bottom part of its jaw, though how it was used still remains a mystery today. Some speculations are that it was used to grind shells, while others believed that the coil could be unfurled like a whip to spear unfortunate prey.

Jaekelopterus

This extinct species of sea scorpions had an estimated length of 2.5 meters, one of the largest arthropods ever discovered. Although it was dubbed a “sea scorpion,” it supposedly lived in the freshwater rivers and lakes of present day Germany.

Josephoartigasia

Related to the modern pacarana and very closely resembling a capybara, these creatures were the biggest rodents on the planet weighing up to 1000kg.

Liopleurodon

Also known as “smooth-sided tooth,” this marine predator lived on a diet of fish, squid, and other sea reptiles. Bigger than a sperm whale, its skull was 16 ft or nearly 1/4 of its body.

Longisquama

Known as the first archosaur to have been able to glide or parachute, its famous for the elongated pair of scales along its back, with the anterior ones resembling feathers.

Megalania

Sometimes called the giant ripper lizard, Megalania fed on a diet of mammals, snakes, other reptiles, and birds. The nearest modern day relative is the Komodo dragon that inhabits the Flores Islands in Indonesia.

Microraptor

Microraptor or “one who seizes” was a very small dinosaur and paleontologists have long debated the use of its four wings – whether they were for parachuting from trees or taking off from the ground.

Nyctosaurus

An ancient genus of the Pterosaur, its fossils were found in the mid-western sections of the US covered under the shallow water of the sea.  The name, which means ‘naked reptile,’ was given by Othniel Marsh in 1876.

Opabinia

Considered one of the strangest creatures to have ever lived, it had 30 legs, 30 flippers, a nose like an elephant’s trunk, and a lobster-like claw.

Phorusrhacidae

Colloquially known as “terror bird,” this was the largest flightless predatory bird to have ever lived. It fed on small rodents and mammals and could supposedly run at speeds of up to 40 mph.

Pterodaustro

Also known as Pterosaurs, it had a wingspan of 4 feet and may have weighed between 5 to 10 lbs. Its long, curved beak with numerous bristle-like teeth allowed it to feed on a diet of plankton and small crustaceanas.

Quetzalcoatlus

The biggest pterosaur to ever take to the skies, it supposedly did not have any feathers. Though it had a wing span that exceeded 30 feet, it took off using both its hind and front legs and flew without flapping its wings.

Sharovipteryxe

Greek for “Sharov’s wings,” this gliding reptile that inhabited the woodlands of Central Asia was about one foot long and mostly fed on insects. Not capable of powered flight, it would merely glide from tree to tree something like a flying squirrel.

Stethacanthus

An extinct genus of prehistoric sharks, Stethacanthus or ‘chest spike,” was about 6 feet long with a strange looking back growth on males. This small protrusion or ‘ironing board,’  could have been used to frighten larger predators.

Tanystropheus

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The Greek word for “long necked one,” this prehistoric reptile was easily over 20 feet long, with a narrow neck that could extend out for up to half its length.

Therizinosauridae

The “reaper lizards” may have roamed Mongolia, China, and the United States and due to their long neck, pot belly, four-toed feet, and beaky mouth, scientists at first thought they may be not one but several creatures.

Fish, Birds, and Creatures – Day 5 & Prehistoric Creatures, Part 1 of 3

Did You make the animals or people first?

“And God said, Let the waters bring forth  abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.  And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind.  And God saw that it was good.

And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let  fowl multiply in the earth.  Andthe evening and the morning  were the fifth day” (Gen 1:20-23).

Prehistoric Creatures, Part 1 of 3

Most people think of dinosaurs as big, ferocious and extinct reptiles. That’s largely true, but there are some misconceptions. Dinosaurs came in all shapes and sizes.

The name Tyrannosaurus rex means “king of the tyrant lizards”: “tyranno” means tyrant in Greek; “saurus” means lizard in Greek, and “rex” means “king” in Latin. In 1905, Henry Fairfield Osborn, president of the American Museum of Natural History at the time, named Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Dinosaurs were the largest land animals of all time, but a great number of dinosaurs were smaller than a turkey.

Dinosaurs first appeared about 230 million years ago. They ruled the Earth for about 135 million years until an extinction event 65 million years ago wiped out all but bird-like dinosaurs.

Scientists don’t agree entirely on what happened, but the extinction likely was a double or triple whammy involving an asteroid impact, choking chemicals from erupting volcanoes, climate change and possibly other factors.

Flying On

Yet only the big, classic dinosaurs are extinct. Birds are living dinosaurs, most experts believe. Think of that next time a pigeon strafes you.

Paleontologists view Archaeopteryx as a transition between dinosaurs and modern birds.

Fossils show that some of the more advanced dinosaurs had feathers or feather-like body covering, but many of them didn’t fly and probably didn’t even glide. 

Archaeopteryx, which was for a long time considered to be the first bird (although this status is not certain), is the most famous example. Instead, feathers, rather than being an adaptation for flight, helped these bird-like non-birds stay warm as juveniles.

Many people think extinct flying reptiles called pterosaurs were dinosaurs. They were dinosaurs’ closest relatives but technically not dinosaurs.

Pterosaurs had hollow bones, relatively large brains and eyes, and, of course, the flaps of skin extending along their arms, which were attached to the digits on their front hands.

The family includes Pterodactyls, with elaborate, bony head crests and lack of teeth. Pterosaurs survived up until the mass die-off 65 million years ago, when they were went the way of the dodo along with marine reptiles and other dinosaurs.

Pterodactyl is the common term for the winged reptiles properly called pterosaurs.

Hip Check

Dinosaur fossils were first recognized in the 19th century. In 1842, paleontologist Richard Owen coined the term dinosaur, derived from the Greek deinos, meaning “terrible” or “fearfully great,” and sauros, meaning “lizard” or reptile.”

Scientists classify dinosaurs into two orders — Saurischians and Ornithischians — based on the structure of the bones in their hips.

Most of the well-known dinosaurs — including Tyrannosaurus rexDeinonychus and Velociraptor — fall into the order known as Saurischian dinosaurs (pronounced sor-ISK-ee-en). 

Velociraptor roamed the Earth about 85.8 million to 70.6 million years ago during the end of the Cretaceous Period.

These “reptile-hipped” dinosaurs have a pelvis that points forward, similar to more primitive animals. They are often long-necked, have large and sharp teeth, long second fingers, and a first finger that points strongly away from the rest of the fingers.

Saurischians are divided into two groups – four legged herbivores called sauropods and two-legged carnivores called theropods (living birds are theropods).

Theropods walked on two legs and were carnivorous. “Theropod” means “beast-footed” and they are some of the fearsome and most recognizable dinosaurs — including Allosaurus and T. rex.

Scientists have wondered whether large theropods — such as Giganotosaurus and Spinosaurus — actively hunted their prey, or simply scavenged carcasses.

Spinosaurus was the biggest of all the carnivorous dinosaurs, larger than Tyrannosaurus and Giganotosaurus. It lived during part of the Cretaceous period, about 112 million to 97 million years ago, roaming the swamps of North Africa.
Two Spinosaurus species have been named based on the regions where they were discovered: Spinosaurus aegyptiacus Egyptian spine lizard) and Spinosaurus maroccanus (Moroccan spine lizard).
Spinosaurus means “spine lizard,” an appropriate descriptor, as the dinosaur had very long spines growing on its back to form what is referred to as a “sail.” The distinctive spines, which grew out of the animal’s back vertebrae, were up to 7 feet (2.1 meters) long and were likely connected to one another by skin.

The evidence points to the animals working together as opportunistic hunters: they would bring down prey, but also eat animals that were lying around.

When fossil-hunters found bones with bite marks on them, they wondered if theropods engaged in cannibalism. It appears now that the animals may have scavenged their own kind, but they didn’t hunt down their own.

Sauropods were herbivores with long heads, long necks and long tails. They were among the largest land animals ever, but they likely had small brains. The gentle giants like leaf-eating ApatosaurusBrachiosaurus and Diplodocus are part of this family.

Ornithischia

Archaeologists have found the remains of a dinosaur that could reshape our understanding of the natural history of planet Earth.
The “triceratops-style” beast was discovered after its tooth was dug out of rock in Missippipi.
The ceratopsid dinosaur is believed to have roamed across North America between 66 and 68 million years ago.
Until now, scientists believed ancient North America was entirely split by an enormous sea.
But the discovery of the horned dinosaur has suggested there was a bridge between the two sides of America.

Ornithischian (pronounced or-neh-THISK-ee-en) dinosaurs, a group that includes horned and frilled Triceratops, spiked  Stegosaurus  and armored Ankylosaurus, are more mild-mannered, plant eaters.

These dinosaurs were beaked herbivores. Smaller than the sauropods, the ornithischia (meaning “bird-hipped”) often lived in herds and were prey to the larger species of dinosaurs.

Interestingly, the ornithischia shifted from a two-legged to a four-legged posture at least three times in their evolutionary history and scientists think they could adopt both postures early in their evolutionary history.

Marine reptiles

During the age of the dinosaurs, a lot was happening below the surface of the world’s oceans.  The “fish flippers,” or ichthyopterygia, includes Ichthyosaurus — the streamlined, tuna- and dolphin-shaped ocean-going

Stegosaurus was a large, plant-eating dinosaur that lived during the late Jurassic Period, about 150.8 million to 155.7 million years ago, primarily in western North America. It was about the size of a bus and carried around two rows of bony plates along its back that made it appear even bigger.

predators.

This abundant family of marine reptiles largely went extinct at the end of the Jurassic Period.