Prehistoric Man and His Petrifying Pets – WIF World

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Terrifying Animals

That Lived Alongside

Prehistoric Man

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Hunting the Cave Bear by Zdenek Burian

Our species, Homo sapiens, have only been around for about as long as a blink of an eye in terms of Earth’s history. It’s believed that the Earth formed over 4.6 billion years ago, and the first humans evolved about 200,000 years ago in Africa.

 In order to survive so that modern humans could flourish, our prehistoric ancestors had to fight off and hunt animals that were much bigger and far stronger than them. These are 10 horrifying animals that they may have encountered as humans migrated all over the world.

10. The Columbian Mammoth

Columbian mammoths were one of the biggest mammals to ever walk on Earth, and they were cousin to the more famous woolly mammoths. Columbian mammoths were found all the way from modern-day Canada to Mexico, while woolly mammoths, who were smaller, were found in northern Asia, Russia, and Canada. Another major difference is that Columbian mammoths had much less hair, so they looked closer to modern day elephants, but bigger with much longer tusks.

Columbian mammoths were 12 to 14 feet tall and weighed anywhere between 5.5 and 11 tons. The Columbian mammoth also had the biggest tusks out of the elephant family. They were, on average, 12 feet long, spiraled, and very strong. They would have been used to fight off predators, including humans.

9. The Ground Sloth

We know that this list is about terrifying animals, and sloths are anything but terrifying. However, their ancient ancestors, ground sloths, were a bit more intimidating than their modern day counterpart because they were some of the biggest mammals to ever live.

There were several different subspecies of ground sloths and the ones that lived in North America were the size of rhinos and humans most likely dined on them. However, the biggest ground sloths, the Megatherium, which lived in South America up until about 10,000 years ago, were as big as an elephant. From head to tail, they were 20 feet long and weighed up to four tons. Also, because they had sharp teeth and long claws, there is some speculation that they may have been carnivores.

Ultimately, the last species of ground sloths lived until about 4,200 years ago on theCaribbean islands. When humans arrived on the islands, it was the final death blow to the ground sloths.

8. Gigantopithecus

The biggest known primate to ever walk the earth was the Gigantopithecus, which is a relative of orangutans. They were 10 feet tall, and they weighed around 1,100 pounds.

One thing you may notice is that the Gigantopithecus looks a lot like the mythical Sasquatch. However, before anyone begins to speculate, the Gigantopithecus died out 100,000 years ago. So unless a group of 10-foot, half ton apes actively hid themselves from humans for one thousand centuries, it doesn’t seem likely that people have seen Gigantopithecus and thought it was Bigfoot.

The reason they died out after living on Earth for six to nine million years is because they needed a lot of food, like fruits, to sustain their giant bodies, which wasn’t a problem when their home in Southeast Asia was tropical forests. But then, because of weather changes their forests started to disappear and they became dry savannas, meaning there was less food and the giant primate just died out.

Of course, Gigantopithecus may be familiar to those people who saw the very excellent live adaptation of The Jungle Book, because King Louie is a Gigantopithecus.

7. The Cave Hyena

Cave Hyenas, also known as spotted coyotes, were about double the size of their relatives, the laughing coyote. They weighed up to 285 pounds, they were about three feet tall, and were nearly five feet long. According to calculations based on fossils, one cave hyena was strong enough to take down a 5-year-old mastodon that weighed a ton.

However, they lived in packs, sometimes consisting of 30 coyotes. These made them much more effective hunters, and they could take down a nine-year-old mastodon that weighed nine tons. Needless to say, a small family of humans would not want to come across a pack of hungry hyenas.

Their population started to dwindle about 20,000 years ago, before going extinct somewhere between 11,000 and 13,000 years ago. One reason may have been humans, because we competed with hyenas for cave space during the last ice age.

6. Smilodon

Saber-toothed cats are often given the very misleading title of saber-tooth tigers. It’s misleading because while they are part of the Felidae family, they weren’t closelyrelated to tigers.

Saber-toothed cats first appeared 42 million years ago. There were many species of them and most of them had died before humans first appeared. However, it’s believed that humans living in the Americas could have come across two different species of saber-toothed cats, Smilodon fatalis and Smilodon populator. They ranged in size and they could be as big as an African lion, which is the biggest wild lion living today. They also could weigh as much as the biggest subspecies of tiger, the Siberian tiger.

With their size came great strength. The smilodons could take down much bigger animals than themselves, like mammoths. Often, they would wait for prey to get close and then launch a surprise attack.

Out of the feline family, the smilodon didn’t have the strongest bite. According to calculations, it only had about one-third of the bite strength of modern lions. However, it had a really flexible jaw and could open its mouth 120 degrees, compared to a lion, which maxes out at 60 degrees.

The smilodon also had fairly weak teeth, but researchers think to compensate for that, they developed the strongest forearms of all cats. It’s believed that they used this strength to hold down their prey and then stabbed their fangs through the prey’s neck. Another theory is that the Smilodon repeatedly stabbed the prey with their fangs after it was held down. No matter how they killed their prey, a human did not want to find itself under the forearms of a smilodon.

5. The Dire Wolf

Fans of Game of Thrones may recognize Dire Wolves, but unlike many other animals on the show, Dire Wolves were real.

They first appeared about a quarter of a million years ago. They were similar tomodern-day gray wolves but sturdier. The gray wolf, which is the largest living wolf, is about 4 feet to 6.6 feet long and weighs 40 to 170 pounds, while Dire Wolves were about 5 feet long and weighed up to 200 pounds.

Dire Wolves, which were found all over North and South America, had a bite force that was 29 percent stronger than gray wolves. Their diet consisted of mostly horses.

They became extinct like so a lot other carnivores, at the end of the last ice age about 10,000 years ago.

4. The American Lion

Like a lot of other animals on this list, the American Lion is horribly named because it’s not a lion at all. Its scientific name is Panthera atrox, and as it suggests, the American Lion is more closely related to panthers than lions. One part about their name that is correct is that they lived in modern-day America starting about 330,000 years ago.

One notable aspect that our ancient ancestors would have noticed right away if they encountered an American Lion is that it was huge. In fact, it is the biggest known wild cat in history. On average, they weighed 772 pounds, which is 25 percent larger thanan African Lion. The American Lion was also incredibly strong. They were powerful enough to bring down a bison, meaning a small group of humans would have been in trouble had they encountered one of these lions.

They died around 11,000 years ago around the end of the last ice age.

3. The Megalania

Megalania was a monitor lizard, which is the same lizard family as the Komodo dragon, and it lived in Australia until about 50,000 years ago; around the same time that humans migrated there.

The size of Megalania is a highly debated topic. Originally, it was thought to be 23 feet long, while other estimates put its size more in the range of 11 feet long.

Regardless, they were bigger than Komodo dragons, but like the Komodo dragon, the Megalania also had poisonous glands. It would simply bite its prey and if it didn’t die of blood loss, then it would be slowly poisoned to death and the Meaglania would feast on its carcass.

Today, Komodo dragons are considered a very dangerous animal. They are fast, strong, and poisonous. They are also on average 6.5 feet long. The Megalania could have been four times that size; not exactly something a human, either prehistoric or modern, would want to bump into.

2. The Short-Faced Bear

Bears first appeared about 40 million years ago, and several subspecies have evolved over the years. One that our prehistoric ancestors would have encountered is the short-faced bear.

Short-faced bears (Arctodus pristinus) were five feet tall at shoulder height, but when they stood up, they were 12 feet tall and with its arms raised it was 14 feet tall. It also had the ability to run on two legs. If that wasn’t terrifying enough, the short-faced bear also had long limbs, and could run faster than a grizzly, possibly reaching speeds of 40 miles per hour. That means even Usain Bolt, who was clocked in at 28 miles per hour, would be dinner for this beast.

The Giant Short-Faced Bear was one of the biggest carnivores in North America. They first appeared about 800,000 years ago and they became extinct about 11,600 years ago.

1. The Quinkana

According to fossils, the Quinkana first evolved about 1.6 million years ago and they lived in modern day Australia. They were huge members of the crocodile family and they could grow to be 23 feet long. Just for some perspective, the longest crocodile in captivity was Lolong and he was 20 feet long.

A major difference between the Quinkana and many other crocodiles is that they were land dwellers. Since they lived on land, there was two major physical traits that the Quinkana developed. The first was that it had long, powerful legs. It would hunt its prey by chasing after them for long distances. The second difference is that crocodiles use their teeth to latch on and drag their prey into the water and drown it. The Quinkanas’ teeth, on the other hand, were much sharper and they were used for cutting.

They died out about 50,000 years ago, about 10,000 years after humans first arrived in Australia.


Prehistoric Man and His Petrifying Pets

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10 Real-Life Counterparts of

Legendary Creatures & Beings

Our ancestors relied on the supernatural to explain certain phenomenon. Ancient civilizations that saw strange things would try to explain them by associating them with the gods or monsters.

This resulted in the creation of various myths which, as you’ll soon discover, have a bit of truth to them. They became myths thanks to exaggeration on the part of eyewitnesses or storytellers, but on some level they actually existed.

10. Giant Triassic Cephalopod –

Kraken

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Krakens are legendary sea monsters believed to be capable of devouring ships and whales. Fossils discovered by a paleontologist named Mark McMenamin and his team suggest that the legendary kraken might not be entirely mythical, as a giant Triassic cephalopod similar to how this legendary being looked and behaved might have existed millions of years ago.

It all started when McMenamin and his team presented an unusual “arrangement of vertebrae of the ichthyosaur Shonisaurus popularis” to the Geological Society of America in 2011. The bones were found by McMenamin in the Berlin-Ichtyosaur State Park in Nevada. The Shonisaurus was a marine reptile that lived about 200 to 250 million years ago during the Triassic period, and it’s the same size as a modern bus. When McMenamin and his team unearthed the bones, they noticed that they were arranged in a “strange linear pattern.” They theorized that the bones were arranged by an intelligent giant cephalopod, rationalizing that modern day octopuses “play” with their food in the form of creating middens from the shells and bones of their prey. McMenamin argues that this giant cephalopod was none other than the legendary kraken.

Furthermore, McMenamin later unearthed a fossil that might have been part of the beak of a giant Triassic cephalopod. This discovery further strengthened his theory, although not all paleontologists agree with McMenamin. David Fastovsky, a paleontologist at the University of Rhode Island, said, “A kraken isn’t really necessary. Everything can be explained by much less exotic means.”

9. Okapi –

Unicorn

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Also, known as the African Unicorn, the Okapi is a doe-eyed animal that’s a close relative of the giraffe. Its most distinct features are the zebra-like stripes it has on its rear and legs. The male okapi has two horns, but when viewed from the side it can look like one horn. This led explorers from the Victorian era to believe that they had found the legendary unicorn.

The myth that the Okapi was the unicorn proliferated due to the fact that this animal is very shy and usually moves around only with another Okapi. Sightings were rare, making it difficult for European explorers to study this animal and find out what it truly is. The myth and mystery surrounding the African Unicorn were finally dispelled during the 1900s thanks to Sir Harry Johnston. He was an animal collector, botanist, linguist and colonial administrator in Africa. He was able to acquire two skulls and a complete skin of the Okapi. He sent the samples to London where it was found out that the Okapi, much to the dismay of countless young girls, was not the legendary unicorn but a “forest-dwelling relative of the giraffe.”

8. Megalania –

Dragon

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Dragons have fascinated mankind for thousands of years. There’s something magical about these mythical creatures that just catches our interest, and evidence suggests that dragons almost as fierce as the ones depicted in myths once existed. No, we’re not talking about Komodo Dragons. We’re talking about creatures that are far more powerful, deadly and gigantic — the Megalania.

The Megalania may not have wings or breathe fire, but it sure was the king of its time. It was an apex predator during the Pleistocene epoch. Its most distinguishing features were its splayed legs and powerful jaws. Scientists believe that the Megalania may have measured somewhere between 12 and 25 feet and weighed anywhere between 500 and 4,000 pounds! The Komodo Dragon, which is considered to be largest living lizard, is nothing compared to the size and power of this beast.

7. Titanoboa –

Imoogi

The Imoogi is a dragon-like creature from Korean mythology. Its features were like that of a python, and it lived in caves or water. There are two accounts explaining what the Imoogi is. One account says that the Imoogi, being a dragon-like creature, was cursed and could not become a true dragon. The other account says that the Imoogi was a “proto-dragon,” meaning it had to live one millennium before it could become a genuine dragon.

Several years ago, scientists discovered fossils of a giant snake that resembled the Imoogi. This “prehistoric monster snake” is called the Titanoboa. It lived 58 million years ago. The Titanoboa was gigantic, measuring at approximately 50 feet and weighing more than a ton. It was so big it could swallow large reptiles like crocodiles without “showing a bulge”! Being a distant relative of the boa constrictor and the anaconda, the Titanoboa was not venomous. It killed its prey by crushing them with its amazing constricting force.

6. Vlad Tepes –

Count Dracula

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We all know who Count Dracula is, but how many of us know about Vlad Tepes,the historical leader that inspired Bram Stoker to create his famous vampire character? Tepes was a Romanian prince who lived during the 15th century. He was a cruel and inhuman leader who, just like Count Dracula, had a great liking towards blood. Unlike Count Dracula, Tepes didn’t need blood to stay alive, but one historical account does state that he drank his victims’ blood anyway.

What’s more horrifying is that Tepes would usually dine with his victims before murdering them. It’s estimated that he killed 40,000 people, many of which were tortured for hours or even days. Tepes killed his victims in various ways but his favorite, and the one he’s famous for, is impaling. With this method, an oiled spike was inserted into the “victim’s anus and pushed in until the other end emerged from the victim’s mouth.”

5. Giant Oarfish –

Sea Serpent

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Sea serpents are mythical creatures that look like gigantic snakes. This legendary being has both terrified and fascinated people for hundreds of years. The discovery of an enormous marine creature in Santa Catalina Island off the coast of Southern California proved that sea serpents do exist, although they’re not scary monsters — simply fish. To be more specific, they’re giant oarfish.

In 2013, a giant oarfish was discovered by a marine science instructor named Jasmine Santana while snorkeling in Santa Catalina Island. It was so big that she needed the help of 15 people to drag it to shore. Unfortunately, it was already dead when Santana found it. It was 18 feet long, and it’s believed that oarfish can grow to be as much as 50 feet. Giant oarfish are rarely seen on the surface since they usually dive more than 3,000 feet deep, and so little is known about them. Since sightings of this gigantic creature are rare and because it’s enormous and snake-like, the oarfish has been dubbed scary and magical.

4. Flamingos –

Phoenix

James's Flamingo

The phoenix is a mythical bird that’s believed to be immortal and has healing powers it can bestow to people. This legendary being is prominent in Chinese and Egyptian mythologies. In the former it’s called Fenghuang, while in the latter it’s Bennu. According to myth, the phoenix would engulf itself in fire but instead of dying a young phoenix would emerge. The phoenix has therefore become a symbol of rebirth or transformation.

Many experts believe that the origin of the mythical phoenix might have come from a beautiful bird found in Africa — the flamingo. Of course, the flamingo isn’t immortal and it sure isn’t capable of engulfing itself in fire. However, a certain behavior displayed by it is identical to one prominent characteristic of the phoenix, leading experts to believe that this bird is the origin of the myth.

Flamingos usually build their nests on salt flats. Even though the temperature of these salt flats is high, mature flamingos can survive them. However, when female flamingos give birth they need to build tall mounds since young chicks can’t survive the heat. The nest located on top of the mounds is where the flamingo lay its eggs. When seen from afar, “the haze of heat that surrounds” the flamingo’s nest resemble the haze that we usually see around fire. This phenomenon might have led people to believe that the flamingo can engulf itself on fire, giving birth to the myth of the phoenix.

3. Dwarf Elephants – Cyclops

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According to Greek mythology, Cyclopes are a giant race of people with one gigantic eye in the middle of their foreheads. They are believed to have inhabited the island of Sicily. The most famous account about them can be found in Homer’s Odyssey, where Odysseus encounters a Cyclops named Polyphemus and later escapes from him.

There’s a reason Sicily was called the land of the Cyclopes — numerous remains of a mysterious creature can be found there. Ancient Greeks who saw the mysterious remains couldn’t figure out what kind of animal would have a big hole in the middle of its forehead. They relied on the supernatural in order for them to make sense of the mysterious remains, and this resulted in the birth of the Cyclopes myth.

However, science tells us that the bones found in Sicily belong to a certain animal species called dwarf elephants. They lived during the Ice Age, and the gigantic holes found in the middle of their foreheads are their nostrils. Their eye sockets are located “deep down on the sides” of their skulls.

2. Protoceratops – Griffin

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Griffins are legendary beings from Greek mythology. They guard treasures of gold and bear the head of an eagle and the body of a lion. In the 1900s it was proven that this mythical creature did once roam the Earth, but it had no wings and it certainly wasn’t a hybrid animal.

The Gobi Desert of Mongolia was once home to the protoceratops. More than two thousand years ago, the Gobi Desert was mined for its gold by a group of people called the Scythians. As they were mining, they found numerous fossils of the protoceratops. As paleontology wasn’t yet established they turned to the supernatural to explain this dinosaur, and  that resulted in the birth of the legendary griffin.

1. Gigantopithecus – Bigfoot

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Also known as Sasquatch, Bigfoot is a popular mythical creature believed to inhabit the forests of the Pacific Northwest. It’s a cryptid believers think is covered in dark reddish or dark brown hair and weighs around 500 pounds. This legendary being is also believed to be somewhere between six to 10 feet tall.

Many people regard Bigfoot as nothing more than a figment of our imagination. However, a certain creature that existed thousands of years ago in South Asia might be the real Sasquatch that Bigfoot enthusiasts are searching for. This creature, called the Gigantopithecus, unfortunately went extinct 300,000 years ago. Just like Bigfoot, the Gigantopithecus was gigantic. It weighed approximately 1,200 pounds and achieved a staggering height of 10 feet. Experts learned about the existence of the Gigantopithecus in 1935, thanks to a German paleoanthropologist named Ralph von Koenigswald. He was in Hong Kong and out of mere luck he saw a big primate molar at a pharmacy. Since then, hundreds of this creature’s remains have been unearthed in India, China and Vietnam.

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