5 (Thankfully) Extinct Giant Versions of Modern Animals
As we've pointed out before, a lot of the animals we see today used to be much larger in olden times. Like, a LOT larger. Also, a lot meaner, hungrier, and ripped-straight-from-our-nightmares-ier. So, in case you've been sleeping well these past few months, here's a brand-new set of prehistoric colossi to help you stare at the ceiling all night, being thankful that mankind showed up so late in the evolutionary parade. Otherwise you could unexpectedly run into ...
Megapiranha paranensis, the Giant Piranha
Modern piranhas are scary enough in their own right. If you have no sense of self-preservation and decide to swim in one of their rivers, these bastards will teach you never to do so again, at the not-unreasonable cost of toes, genitals, or whatever other chunks of flesh look appetizing. But not all that many people have actually died at the hands of the tiny, modern version of these ravenous machines.
That's why the idea of taking these little balls of hate and turning them into humongous slimy chainsaws with bites powerful enough to crush bone is a popular trope among direct-to-video horror movies. Which is funny, because nature beat us to the punch a good long time ago. Behold:
We can't be the only ones who insert the sound of angels singing when we see a big scary mouth open like that.
That is Megapiranha, which lived 8 to 10 million years ago in the rivers of South America and grew to a meter in length, four times that of the cow skeletonizers of today. And if it ever finds out we gave it a lazy-ass name like "megapiranha," it'll find a way to revive itself and tear us to shreds in one or two bites.
Pretty sure this diagram is mistaken on the whole "swimming with man-eaters" thing.
See, not only was Megapiranha huge, but its bite was among the strongest in history, with a force-to-body-weight ratio unmatched by even the mightiest dinosaur. Whereas modern-day piranhas peak at a bite force of 70 pounds, a Megapiranha is estimated to have bitten with a force of 1,000 pounds.
To further illustrate how insane that is, a T. rex could deliver a bite force of just over 3,000 pounds, roughly three times that of a Megapiranha. Only thing is, the T. rex weighed seven tons. The Megapiranha? Twenty pounds, maybe 25 if it started slacking off at the gym. If it were as big as T. rex, it probably could've chewed up an Apatosaurus and swallowed it whole, while barely breaking a sweat.
And here's our friend's bite when compared to other feared creatures of the sea:
There were 47 more entries, but the Megapiranha ate them all.
See how no other fish comes close? Precisely. It's a damn good thing humans hadn't been invented yet, because we probably wouldn't have lasted two years before evolving into steaming chunks of piranha shit.
Giant Birds of Prey
One thing we rarely have to worry about today is giant birds of prey swooping down and flying away with our children. That's mainly because there are no Haast's eagles around. But that is a very recent development.
This guy is building one from memory.
The average Haast's eagle had a 10-foot wingspan. Its gigantic claws would impale, rip, and tear anything it deemed delicious; that something was usually quite big and meaty, like the moa bird. If the below picture doesn't look impressive to you, try to keep in mind that the moa it's about to munch on are 10 to 12 feet tall:
My God, it's already eaten their arms off!
What else did it eat? Apparently, us. The Haast's eagle definitely lived among humans, up until 1400 or so. So yes, a mere 600 years ago, these things roamed the skies, snatching our babies, and maybe even our mommies and daddies. Here's a comparison between the Haast's talons and a modern eagle, if you want to imagine them clamping down on your neck:
Damn, it's more than 10 cinnamon long!
New Zealand folk tales speak in hushed whispers of giant man-eating birds ruling the land, and these stories have all but been proven to be about Haast's eagle. It was only after the Maori tribe hunted its primary food source -- the moa -- to extinction that Haast's eagle met its own demise.
Of course, if you keep rewinding the clock by millions of years, you find murderous birds getting bigger, and stranger. You could, for instance, step out of your time machine and find yourself running from Gastornis:
Or finding a way to kill it, because just one hot wing from that bastard would feed a whole Super Bowl party.
That ridiculous dinosaur/dodo hybrid stood over 6 feet tall, could in no way fly with those stupid little stump wings, and had a keen taste for meat.
Giant birds like these were among the Earth's top predators after the extinction of the dinosaurs, gulping down our poor mammalian ancestors in the forests of Europe some 50 million years ago. If they'd tried bringing one of these bastards back to life in Jurassic Park, the audience would have been laughing their asses off, right up until this Gastornis severed Jeff Goldblum's head with one effortless snap of its beak.
OK, we'd still be laughing, but in a horrified sort of way.
Megalania prisca, the Giant Lizard
Komodo dragons of today are not to be fucked with, reaching 10 feet in length and weighing up to 150 pounds. Also, they're quite poisonous and can very much kill you. Now take one of those things and double its size. Then make it anywhere from five to 30 times as heavy. That's the Megalania, aka the giant ripper lizard. And us modern-day humans just missed them.
What a shame; they looked playful.
As recently as 40,000 years ago, Megalania patrolled the Australian Outback, living up to its "ripper" name with little difficulty. And while anyone who knows their history laughs at the idea of humans and dinosaurs walking the Earth at the same time, your Australian ancestors experienced something pretty damned close -- it's likely the earliest human settlers in the area ran into these monsters, and then promptly ran away. As well they should have.
And unlike today's Komodo dragons, whose saliva may or may not be somewhat poisonous, Megalania were absolutely venomous, and it was potent as hell. If the soft marsupials of the time ever questioned who ruled the roost, Megalania and its toxic spit was more than happy to remind them. Again and again, if need be.
And, as shown here, they could live for tens of thousands of years without skin or internal organs.
Now remember: All of this occurred 40,000 measly years ago. As far as history is concerned, we crashed the party a mere millisecond after these gigantic fuck-yous from Mother Nature stepped out for a smoke. They were here so recently, in fact, that some people think they still exist. Those people better hope to God that they're wrong. With the seemingly infinite number of murderous creatures that Australia currently sports, do we really need a real-life poisonous Smaug making some grand return to ensure our final days on Earth are completely unpleasant?
Basilosaurus, the Giant Whale
OK, yes -- today's whales are plenty huge. We're aware of this; we're also aware that they used to be a lot bigger. And meaner.
That's the Basilosaurus, otherwise known as the Joker's favorite fish. At over 80 feet long, it dwarfed the killer whales of today, which only average 25 feet or so in length. So yeah, you'd need three Shamus, plus your terrified, piss-stained ass, to equal the Basilosaurus in stature.
When its remains were discovered in Louisiana in 1832, it was mistakenly identified as a sea monster, and given a name that literally translates to "king of the reptiles." They forgot to tell people that this thing went extinct quite a while ago, and so local fishermen shat themselves over the thought of a gigantic monster lurking in the same waters they used to find ingredients for catfish gumbo.
They wanted 25 cents to see that thing? What a ripoff. Wasn't that like the price of a house back then?
Luckily for them, Basilosaurus doesn't exist anymore; if it did, the fishermen would be the gumbo. That jawline would make Basilosaurus a top predator in any time period. Set the time machine forward 20 million years, and it would be duking it out with Livyatan melvillei and Megalodon, no slouches themselves. Another 15 million years, and it would be chewing up Jaws like Jaws would chew up a mackerel.
Even today, it would take one look at the 100-foot, 170-ton blue whale, realize it's just a big teddy bear unless you're, say, a piece of plankton, and swim off all smug-like, knowing the delicious dishes of the sea are still available, and still all for him.
"Mmmm. After-dinner mint."
Sarcosuchus imperator, the Giant Crocodile
The Cretaceous Period was evolution's experimental phase, where it decided to stick just a fuck-ton of big, evil, monstrous creatures on Earth at once, just to see what would happen. Even by that period's standards, Sarcosuchus imperator stuck out. Its name translates to "flesh crocodile emperor," and that might actually be an understatement. This was a 40-foot-long, 10-ton monstrosity that regularly ate dinosaurs. We're going to repeat that last part, because it bears repeating. IT ATE DINOSAURS. BIG ONES.
Like modern crocodiles, they spent most of their time half-submerged in water, waiting for something edible to come by. Unlike modern crocs, they had to find a way to submerge 40 feet of scaly flesh under that water. This wasn't always easy, so much of Sarcosuchus' diet consisted of easy-to-catch fish. However, if a dumbass dinosaur just happened to roll along, it wasn't about to let such an incredible feast pass by unscathed.
It's one step from burying itself in the sand vertically, like Sarlacc from Star Wars, and waiting for shit to fall in.
Unfortunately, an epic Sarcosuchus/T. rex battle exists only in the minds of SyFy original movie writers (if it didn't, it does now), as Sarcosuchus died out about 40 million years before Barney and friends arrived. Fret not, though, as Spinosaurus, the largest land predator of all time, lived right alongside our giant croc friend; the two of them almost certainly did battle at one point or another.
Sadly, everybody forgot their camera that day, so we can only imagine how the fight went down, and how quickly this pornographically huge crocodile made the silly Spinosaurus his breakfast.
If we had to guess at a time frame, though, we'd bank on "pretty fucking fast."
For more reasons you don't want a time machine, check out 7 Thankfully Extinct Giant Versions of Modern Animals and 8 Prehistoric Creatures Ripped Directly from Your Nightmares.