6 Formerly Kickass Creatures Ruined by Evolution

6 Formerly Kickass Creatures Ruined by Evolution

Evolution isn't perfect. Just as the Kennedy family can produce a Ted, some noble species go down the wrong genetic path and what used to be the Tyrannosaurus Rex can wind up as a modern chicken.

Here are six kickass creatures that evolution apparently decided were just too awesome to exist and then, to add insult to injury, evolved them into the crappiest replacements possible.

Hyaenodon gigas

Used to be ...
The Hyaenodon gigas was the size of a horse, with jaws as long as an alligator's, specially designed to tear away flesh. They had an acute sense of smell unmatched in the prehistoric world and weighed upwards of a quarter of a ton. They were swift, effective killing machines which traveled in packs and could, as a group, take down anything.

Remember the Velociraptor from Jurassic Park? Give it a sophisticated mammalian brain, warm blood and add a substantial amount of pure animal muscle and you have the Hyaenodon.

The Crappy Evolutionary Spin-off:
The fuzzy little raccoon. Despite its adorable eyes and overall cuteness, this animal doesn't have a lot going for it (though if it was domesticated it'd probably be more popular then dogs, what with their adorable little people-hands).

Far from being the dominant predator on Earth, wandering in vicious packs, raccoons spend their days as minor annoyances who tip over garbage cans. Rather then savaging the carcass of a fresh kill, raccoons hunt for that last bit of orange dust at the bottom of a discarded bag of Cheetos.

How the hell did that happen?
The Hyenadon lost the mammalian evolutionary arms race to larger, more merciless killing machines with more teeth and more muscle, slowly leaving behind only the ones small enough and smart (and cowardly) enough to hide. That's how in the game of evolution, the loser winds up extinct or reduced to stealing doormats.


Used to be ...
Looking at that picture you'll come to two conclusions: This was a huge, badass prehistoric bird thing, and that it was cursed with flamboyant red and blue feathers. Still, this gi-fucking-gantic carnivorous bird took no prisoners in the time period when the Mammalians were just starting to come into their own. This thing devoured our evolutionary predecessors with a hook-shaped beak that could crunch bone like pretzels, and was a couple of late-night eating binges away from wiping hairy, warm-blooded animals off of the Earth.

The Crappy Evolutionary Spin-off:
Essentially anything from the Avian order Struthioniformes is a descendant of this thing, which includes animals as menacing as the Kiwi and the Rhea.

The Rhea is known to frequently run into walls

If you want to hear about dramatic irony, because of human expansion all species of Kiwi and Rhea are endangered. Didn't catch that? The mammalians that their great, epic ancestor once crushed now are wiping what's left of it off of the natural playing field by building strip malls. Take that, assholes!

How the hell did that happen?
At the end of the day, the Gastornis just couldn't make babies as fast as the mammals, which reproduced and evolved faster then the Gastornis could keep up with. Eventually the mammalians overcame the threat and what Gastornis weren't promptly killed by the more numerous mammals were confined to the tropical jungles. This, however, proved to be a poor long-term strategy when a minor event known as the Ice Age upset a few ecosystems and forced them into extinction. The more adapted, furry mammals moved on, leaving this warm-weather flightless bird to die a cold, cold death.

One Gastornis descendant who seems to remember this is the Ostrich, which, at the sight of a human, will go right for the neck.

Smilodons (Sabre-Toothed Tigers)

Used to be ...
Anyone who has seen 10,000 BC (and escaped with their IQ intact) knows about Smilodons. With eight-inch blade-like teeth, these cats were the top predators of the late Pliestocine, and were the last dominant predators before our ancestors came along. They traveled in packs, the sight of which would make our ancestors crap their pants from miles away.

And rightfully so--a pack of these 500-pound beasts would bring their prey to the ground, then unsheath the blades and, with a single coup d'gras, bite through the major blood vessels and the windpipe.

The Crappy Evolutionary Spin-off:
You're probably thinking tigers here, but actually marsupials are all that is left of the classic Sabre-Tooth Cat (the felines were another branch on the evolutionary tree) so, sadly, the closest genetic connection remains adorable Koala Bears, Kangaroos and Opossums. The most common of these is the Opossum, most often seen in their natural habitat (the local freeway) in their instinctive 'bloody smear along the road' stance.

Yes, confronted with powerful human engineering, most of what is left of Smilodons are crunchy speed bumps.

As part of "playing possum," opossums will frequently wear a fake cast on their leg to gain sympathy

How the hell did that happen?
Speaking of powerful human engineering, Homo sapiens have been using its superior brain to destroy the cats since we first met them. Dramatic climate change coupled with the growth of the human race spelled the end for these great predators. Their descendants, led by the Koala Bear, survived by evolving until they were simply too cute to kill.

Though there is one marsupial still holding its ground: the Tasmanian Devil. The usual response to a natural sighting of these godless killing machines tends to be "HOLY SHIT A TASMANIAN DEVIL LET'S GET THE HELL OUT OF HE-(screams of agony)." It feasts on the dead and dying and leaves nothing but crushed bone and echoes of blood-curdling screams in its path.

Some sample comments from that video:

"I know from experience these "cute rats" are not teddy bears in any form. They will leave you with many bloody stitches and infections if bitten."

"one is biting me as we speak"

"i wanna be a tasmanian devil only thing is they don't spin like the cartoons"

Hey, it's YouTube.


Used to be ...
Megatherium was the size of an African Elephant and, while a herbivore, still was able to fend off attacks from almost anything in the ancient world, including an entire pack of those sabre-toothed tigers. It had eight-inch claws on its foot for the dual purposes of defense and, we can only assume, bloody murder.

It often stood on its hind legs, rendering it twice as tall as the African Bull elephant. The folks at Wikipedia describe its skeleton as "Robust." We here at Cracked prefer the phrase "holy shit gigantic." Recent research suggests that Megatherium may have used its powerful claws to actually fight Smilodon for their kills when simple trees were not enough to sustain its monstrous appetite and apparent occasional craving for mammalian flesh.

The Crappy Evolutionary Spin-off:
The common tree sloth. These adorable guys are about as threatening as Switzerland. They are entirely herbivorous, and spend most of the day relaxing, reclining and generally not scavenging for flesh. They are mostly famous for being slow, and you know you've reached an evolutionary low when your species is famous for sucking at motion.

In certain conditions, even the plants they hunt can outrun the sloth

They suck so much at movement that the Catholic Church has actually named a deadly sin after their species. Isn't that wonderful? Modern sloths suck so much that even God thinks they suck. Seriously, watch this one try to cross the road.

How the hell did that happen?
This one is our bad, again. Megatherium vanished from the continent the minute Homo sapiens crashed the party and slaughtered them. Though ... you can't help but wonder if the sloth got the last laugh. Sure, they have no redeeming qualities. But their life consists of eating more then their size requires, sleeping 15 to 18 hours a day and pooping.

That's basically the American dream. You have to applaud them for that.


Used to be ...
Entelodon was a seven-foot-tall monster who achieved the dubious honor of 'Best Scavenger of the Oligocene' by being an enormous, festering, smelly mess. It feasted on rotten carrion killed by more effective murderers and frankly was unwelcome at parties due to hygiene that could offend filth itself.

What's so impressive about this thing? After all, it's just a scavenger, right? Well, it did have a full set of sharp teeth designed for ripping flesh from bone and a jaw which could, actually, crush the bone, too. It had most of its dental bases covered in that regard, really. They also traveled in packs, so a rotting corpse had to defend itself from a dozen or so Entelodonts at a time.

OK, we saved the real reason for last. If another, larger animal wanted to fight over the festering carrion, it was common etiquette for the Entelodont to take a crap on the food just to make sure nobody could enjoy it. Why aren't there more high school football teams named after these things?

The Crappy Evolutionary Spin-off:
The modern pig is all that is left of the proud Entelodont line. Instead of feasting on the decaying flesh of a day old kill, modern pigs eat a vitamin enriched feed consisting of fiber and other wheat products. Sort of a step up, but still, there is that whole "You will be processed and eventually sold by Oscar Meyer" thing for modern pigs, so the prestige is really just gone.

How the hell did that happen?
Larger predators ate all of their food. They could no longer overcome other predators and steal their food, so they eventually died off due to the fact that they had no real ability to acquire food for themselves. Their punishment? This:


Used to be ...
Andrewsarchus mongolianis is the stuff of nightmares. Remember in Lord of the Rings when the horsemen from Rohan get ambushed by gigantic wolves called Wargs? Picture those things, only with a jaw twice as powerful, a body quite a bit larger, and a soul twice as evil.

Larger then a grizzly bear one and a half times over, Andrewsarchus was the most sophisticated killing machine since the Velociraptor. It was the largest mammalian terrestrial carnivore in the history of life on Earth. It was almost 15-feet long, and the first three feet of that was teeth. It was quick, agile and even had a pretty sophisticated brain for its era.

The Crappy Evolutionary Spin-off:
That finely-tuned killing machine's closest modern relative is anything from a sheep to a goat. The Andrewsarchus' Order, Mesonychia, has close ties to the modern Order Artiodactyla, to which Ovis aries and Capa aegagrus are a modern example of. Yes, that pitiful thing that smelled like its own feces when you awkwardly encountered it at that petting zoo is all that's left of the most powerful mammalian predator in history.

Goat-built fortresses are considered among the worst

How the hell did that happen?
The Ice Age essentially wiped Andrewsarchus out of the mammalian gene pool. All that's left are these warm, fuzzy remnants. This includes what has to be the utter bottom rung of evolutionary failure, the fainting goat:

Yeah, real nice animal there, evolution.

Walter Lawrence, when not writing about evolutionary failures, devotes most of his time to working on his nascent website, Internet-Explorers.net.

If you enjoyed that, check out our rundown of The 10 Lamest Dinosaur Names. Then, enjoy a video about a now extinct species that enjoyed dinosaurs more than most in our video explanation of the strange premises behind classic video games. Then check out what the crazy drug addled minds who came up with that video are up to these days over on the blog.

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