A dragonfly bigger than your hand, and a massive sea scorpion with claws larger than a human head – giant creatures once filled the Earth, eons ago. Luckily for us, they passed out of existence, just in time for humankind to find their feet, survive, and eventually thrive.
Click start to play today’s Spell It, where you can find the ‘mastodon’, the ancestor of the elephant.
Here are five animals and insects that were enormous, prehistoric versions of their modern-day descendants:
1. Meganeura or giant dragonfly
Huge insects with wingspans the length of an average toddler (about 75cm), the meganeura is one of the largest known flying insects to ever exist. Although they looked like dragonflies, scientists usually refer to them as griffinflies. Their diet comprised other, smaller insects, and perhaps even small amphibians. Scientists believe the meganeura would have been unable to survive in today’s atmosphere, because the concentration of oxygen in the world, currently, is far too low for it to support its massive body. Thankfully, we don’t ever have to test our strength against the meganeura with a flimsy fly swatter or bug zapper – it would be a losing battle.
2. Jaekelopterus rhenaniae or giant sea scorpion
If its name doesn’t inspire terror, how about the fact that the giant sea scorpion is the largest bug ever to live on Earth? Paleontologists from the University of Bristol in the UK, unearthed the claw of one of these giant scorpions in a quarry in Germany in 2007. The claw was 46cm in length, and after calculating relative body proportions, they discovered the scorpion would have been more than eight feet long! The giant sea scorpion lived in freshwater lakes and streams. Luckily for us, they met their match in the form of large fish, with strong jaws and teeth, that lived in the same regions.
3. Carcharocles megalodon or giant shark
Another water creature that’s straight out of a horror movie, the carcharocles megalodon is the largest fish in history. About 15 to 18 metres in length, it was three times the size of the largest great white shark ever recorded on Earth – its mouth was so huge, it could have easily swallowed two adult people, side by side. According to the UK-based Natural History Museum, the giant shark’s jaws were lined with 276 teeth, and it would have had to eat big prey to support its size, so its diet comprised most sea creatures – from dolphins to humpback whales.
4. Titanoboa cerrejonensis, or giant snake
Existing over 60 million years ago, the Titanoboa, as it’s called by scientists, grew to anywhere between 40 and 50 feet (about five times bigger than today’s anacondas) and weighed about 1,134kg. At its thickest point, it was about three feet wide – that’s longer than a human arm. Incredibly, it survived the extinction event that killed the dinosaurs, and effectively staved off death for several more millennia before it disappeared.