6 Hilariously Stupid Prehistoric Versions of Modern Animals
Like every other long-term project ever attempted, the night before evolution was due, the office floor was littered with hastily scribbled blueprints, empty coffee cups, and reams and reams of crumpled up Post-it notes containing the stupidest ideas imaginable. Ideas like ...
Sharovipteryx, aka the Kite Lizard
Wings had to start somewhere, and that somewhere was apparently the unassigned area between the feet and ass. Meet the sharovipteryx, a clear case of a dinosaur evolving into a bird without ever actually seeing one. Its front forearms contained tiny little gliders, while the actual wings were attached to their very long hind legs, leaving scientists baffled as to how it could either fly or walk.
Quick: Picture every flying creature on Earth. Done? All right, how many of them fly with their legs? If you answered anything but zero, get out of the house now -- there's a gas leak. No flying animal has wing-feet. One theory is that bird legs are incredibly strong, and this strength allowed early birds to walk upright, which in turn allowed their increasingly strong breast muscles to develop into wings. That's why you never see kickin' little ankle-to-taint wings; the limbs would be too goddamned heavy to work.
However, it did give them prime twerking form.
So the sharovipteryx faced the ultimate in almost-bird dinosaur conundrums: If you walk with those legs, they become way too heavy and muscular to fly on, and if you fly with them, you're not walking anywhere. Some scientists, attempting to justify this thing's existence, theorize that the sharovipteryx actually had wing membranes between its legs and its arms, as well as membranes between its arms and its neck, making it more aerodynamic and shaped roughly like a kite -- hence the nickname.
They would then kill their prey with dive-bomb teabaggings.
Other scientists then promptly pointed out that this looks even stupider than before and then fell down laughing, having proven their hypothesis sound by drawing a stupid dinosaur face on a paper airplane and throwing it at the first scientists during Science Recess.
Stethacanthus and Edestus, aka Sharks Too Creepy Even for SyFy
Sharks as a predatory concept are elegant in their simplicity: basically, make murder come to life and give it the ability to swim. But Nature, clearly in the mood to experiment back in the day, came up with a couple of creative variations on the shark theme, neither of which stuck around much past the first draft stage.
We're just bummed we missed out on future anvilhead vs. hammerhead fights.
First, you had the stethacanthus, which took all the psychological terror of the iconic dorsal fin cutting through the water and flushed it right down the toilet. In its place was the business end of a meat tenderizer. If a normal shark is an aquatic jet fighter full of teeth, this was one of those goofy radar planes that look like they're wearing an oversized yarmulke. Feeling pretty good about the mallet shark, nature huffed herself some glue, then went and created the edestus, a shark with both an under and an overbite from hell that made it look like a perpetually braying donkey being ripped open by a chainsaw.
The species died out due to suicide after too many rejections at shark prom.
Notice how it looks distressed, like it doesn't understand what's happening to it and wants an adult to come help? That's not just a goofy drawing. That's how it looked all the time, because the edestus' teeth were so large, they didn't actually fit into its mouth. It was a biologically enforced duckface. And it gets worse: The edestus' teeth and gums didn't fall out as they got older, like sharks today. No, new teeth just grew behind the old ones, pushing them forward until they completely jutted out of its mouth. And it gets even worse! All of these teeth were in one row. No teeth-lining-the-entirety-of-the-jaw bullshit for this shark; just a protruding, gummy stick of teeth on top and a protruding, gummy stick of teeth on the bottom. The edestus is obviously extinct today, which is a shame, because with the help of a good orthodontist, it could've been a hell of a predator.
Uintatherium and Eobasileus, aka Bumpy-Headed Rhinos
These rhinos look like they're suffering from a terrible The Last of Us-style fungal infection that manifests itself in completely random growths of horn and paternal melodrama. Uintatherium and eobasileus were distant relatives of modern rhinos and sported up to six giraffe-style horns that seemingly served no purpose aside from confounding the haberdasher.
"Great, another douche who doesn't realize that he can't pull off a fedora."
So what were they there for, exactly? Well, if you ever figure it out, let science know, because they have no clue. Hell, they're not even sure what the horns looked like -- some think they stuck out of the skull like cleats on a football shoe, while others are holding out hope that the horns extended into some bitchin' sword-like protrusion, and that part is just missing from the fossils we have.
"What? It could happen ... oh, you assholes have no imagination."
Although we half suspect that eobasileus started that rumor himself to stop his classmates from making fun of him in Rhino High School.
Ceratogaulus, aka Horned Gophers
Well, aren't these the most precious little things? They're like giant stoned hamsters. They just look so happy and fuzzy and cuddly, you almost forget about those awkward devil horns sprouting from their heads.
We have no idea why, but back in prehistory, some gophers absolutely had horns. Both male and female ceratogaulus had them, so it's unlikely they had anything to do with mating. Digging? That was probably a no as well, since a built-in shovel would presumably point outward from the end of its nose, rather than stick straight up above it. So maybe it was pure defense; if threatened, the adorably bite-size ceratogaulus could have defended itself by simply jabbing upward and waiting for the predator to step on it, like a prehistoric carpet LEGO.
"This specimen took out dozens of sleepy cave dads alone."
Deinotherium, aka the Bearded Elephant
Nature had a vision from the start: She wanted to make a giant gray beast with a long floppy nose and big ol' ears. It would be adorable from a distance and kind of terrifying up close. She would call it the elephant, and she almost nailed it right off the bat. Except for the mouth. Mouths are hard -- just look at edestus. Mouths are nature's design kryptonite, like feet to Rob Liefeld.
Or mouths to Rob Liefeld ... or anatomy ... or-
This, then, is deinotherium, which translates to "terrible beast." The name makes perfect sense: If we drew something like this in art class, our teacher would indeed immediately declare it terrible and give us the frowniest of faces for a grade. It's popularly nicknamed the bearded elephant because, well, it's got a giant flesh-and-horn Scott Ian-style goatee. Science is winning the name game for once.
Keep your chin up, buddy. Uh, figuratively and literally.
Nobody definitively knows what the deinotherium used these chin tusks for, especially since they face the elephant itself, so they likely weren't used for attacking. One older school of thought suggests that it lived in the water, since those tusks were likely too damn heavy to lug about on land. While in the water, it would use the tusks to secure itself to the shore, keeping its head above the surface as it slept. Yep: It had a face anchor.
Today's researchers largely agree that the tusks probably functioned like a built-in pick to break rocks, scrape at tree bark, or dig for food and minerals. Luckily for the elephants, evolution woke up and realized its mistake: If you've got a gun on your face, maybe you don't point it at yourself.
Seconds before he'd sadly sneeze himself to death.
Chalicotherium, aka the Giant Masked Wrestling Horse
That's a horse. A giant goddamned ape horse. A giant goddamned ape horse sporting a Mexican wrestling mask. Because sometimes Nature gets bored with vanilla settings and starts installing some pretty ridiculous mods.
"Look, it was either luchadores or giant walking dicks."
The chalicotherium -- a distant ancestor of the horse with a gorilla-like stride -- was absolutely enormous. Standing over 9 feet tall and weighing up to 1,000 pounds, we don't see this guy having many issues with predators. Especially since, unlike either modern-day horses or gorillas, it also had massive friggin' claws that could rip its adversaries apart.
Or defend itself from whatever the prehistoric version of bronies were.
But don't expect to see the chalicotherium as the antagonist of Jurassic Park 5: Jurassic Parker. It was strictly an herbivore. So what did they do with those oversized butcher knives strapped to their feet? Paleontologists think that the chalicotherium may have had a lifestyle similar to that of a panda, where they would use those claws to grip and pull down branches from trees, greedily munching on whatever grew there. They might also have used the claws to dig up roots from the ground, which is basically the equivalent of owning a rail gun and using it to shuck corn.
Related Reading: Think these guys are weird? Wait'll you see the giant trunk-mouthed elephant. On the flipside of things, we have prehistoric sloths- which where building-sized pain factories. Need more crazy-ass prehistoric precursors to modern critters? Click on.