Ever looked up, perhaps while getting busy with your laptop, coffee mug or book, and thanked the heavens for enabling us to enjoy our current moment without any fear of being stomped under a massive foot of a colossal creature? Well, probably you should. Because what we are about to make you read entails to the non-existence (although they do exist in the form of Well-Preserved Fossils) of some of the deadliest, lethal and unforgiving species that once made its presence felt to the entire world. Of course, these species and their remnants cease to exist in today’s world but just one look at their uncovered fossils would give us a glimpse into who called the shots back in the day.
1. Steneosaurus bollensis
Steneosaurus bollensis (meaning “narrow lizard”) was a Jurassic crocodile with long slender body, small forelimbs, thin sharp teeth and a long snout that used to aid in swimming. The crocodile had a long and large powerful tail with which it could propel itself through water. Well-Preserved Fossils of Steneosaurus have been found from the early Jurassic until the early Cretaceous in Europe and Morocco. (Source)
2. The fossilized tracks of a giant marine worm that lived some 475 million years ago
Fossilized tracks of Giant marine worms were unearthed in he Cabaneros National Park in central Spain in an area that was a seabed during the Lower Ordovician period.
According to the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), the giant worms were presumed to live in horizontal galleries of five metres in length and 15-20 centimetres in diameter under the seabed. Their preservation was possible because of the galleries that were lined with mucous secretions in order to harden them and prevent their collapse.
As per paleontologist Juan Carlos Gutierrez Marco- “They are the “oldest tracks of giant worms ever discovered, pre-dating those found in Devon, England, this year and which dated from 200 million years ago“.
If a regular worm gives you the heebie jeebies, then imagine what would a giant worm measuring up to three feet in length would do. I would leave this section with that thought. (Source)
3. Sue- one of the largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex Specimens
If the name “Sue-The T-Rex Dinosaur” does not give you the jeepers, then, perhaps you are okay to read further. “Sue” is the nickname given to FMNH PR 2081, which is the largest, most extensive and best preserved Tyrannosaurus rex specimen ever found. It measures a staggering 12.3 metres in length, stands 4 metres (13 ft) tall at the hips, and was estimated to have weighed more than 6.4 metric tons when walking on Planet Earth in skin and blood. However, after this specimen was discovered, its copyright issue ran into bad weather.
Sue Hendrickson, a paleontologist, was behind this sensational discovery in the summer of 1990 in South Dakota while she was excavating Edmontosaurus bones. As she was about to leave with her team, they ran into a flat tire and Sue decided to explore the nearby unchecked cliffs when she observed small bones leading to larger bones protruding from the cliff. Needless to say, the specimen was named after her. The fossil had been preserved for some 67 million years before it finally achieved its rendezvous moment with Human Beings. After the Well-Preserved Fossils were extracted, a dispute erupted over its legal owner. The Black Hills Institute, which Sue Hendrickson, Peter Larson (director of the Institute) and their group were associated with, claimed to have paid US$5000 to Maurice Williams, the owner of the land on which the excavation was performed. However, Williams later claimed that the amount was only meant for the purpose of excavation and not for the sale of the specimen.
After the ownership dispute was settled, the fossil was auctioned in October 1997, for US $7.6 million, the highest amount ever paid for a dinosaur fossil, and is now a permanent feature at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Illinois. (Source)
4. Glyptodon skeleton and shell in Berlin’s Museum Fur Naturkunde
Glyptodon was one of the most distinctive looking mammals of prehistoric times. Imagine an armadillo but with a massive, round, heavily armored carapace. It had a stubby, turtle-like legs, and a blunt head with a short neck. Its appearance has often been compared with Volkswagen Beetle. Once tucked inside its shell, Glyptodon was immue to any form of predation, unless some carnivore figured a way to gallop the tougher-than-nails carapace. The only feature that this sort-of-funny-looking mammal lacked was clubbed or spiked tail.
The first mention of the genus Glyptodon was in Europe in 1823, from the first edition of Cuvier’s “Ossemens Fossiles”. Although Darwin has been acknowledged as the founder of the first glyptodonts (the family), the discovery was believed to have belonged to Megatherium, a type of giant ground sloth. This belief stayed in existence until Professor E. D’Alton wrote a memoir to the Berlin Academy in 1833 comparing the extreme similarities of these mysterious fossils to that of the armadillo, that the scientific world seriously considered that the pieces of carapaces and fragments of bone could belong to some prehistoric version of Dasypus. D’Alton said that “all the peculiarities of the former [Dasypus] may be paralleled to the latter [fossil pieces]”. Since a full skeleton was not available at the time of discovery, Dr. Lund identified the remains as a new genus in his 1837 memoir.
This huge, slow-moving armadillo was probably hunted to extinction by early humans, who would have prized it not only for its meat but also for its roomy carapace. No hard feelings, armadillos! (Source)
5. Brown dinosaur feathers preserved in Canadian Late Cretaceous amber
Ever imagined a dinosaur sporting brightly-colored feathers? Yeah, me either! But, findings in Alberta, Canada have revealed feathers which were trapped in amber for 70 to 85 million years. The unusual findings reveal a wide array of plumed creatures populated the time period in which creatures sported modern feathers. So-called compression fossils found in China bear outlines of primitive “filament” feathers that are more akin to hair.
It is widely believed that by the Late Cretaceous, feathers had more or less reached the end of their evolution and discovering them as fossilized material in amber is nothing less than a perfect example of “serendipity”. One of the many interesting observation(s) in this finding is the myriad diversity of feathers that were present in non-avian dinosaurs around 65 million years ago.
According to Dr Norell – “If you were to transport yourself back 80 million years to western North America and walk around the forest… many of the animals would have been feathered”. Although I would gladly turn down this offer (if there was any). (Source)