The history of life on Earth stretches back billions of years, and animals have been around for at least the last 500 million years. From the time the lifeforms developed until the present, many interesting animals have existed. Today, we’re going to look at 25 extinct animals that once roamed the earth.
Some of these animals went extinct recently while others have been gone for millions of years. We’ll present each creature with a bit of information so that you can learn how diverse and interesting life has been on the planet.
What Are 25 Interesting Extinct Animals?
Many animals have gone extinct as a result of changing environments, competition with other creatures, or worldwide calamities. This list of 25 animals shows various animals that once existed and provides a blurb about what made them so special. Discover some of the coolest animals to ever live!
25. Tyrannosaurus rex
The Tyrannosaurus rex was a large dinosaur with an incredibly powerful bite. This dinosaur has captured the imaginations of people with its fossils and reconstructions. T. rex is widely known for its appearances in films as well. Unfortunately, this creature went extinct about 66 million years ago during an asteroid impact that wiped out all terrestrial dinosaurs.
24. Dire Wolf
Although they were popularized by the fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, dire wolves were real animals. However, they were closer in size to extant wolves rather than bears. These creatures went extinct about 13,000 to 10,000 years ago as a result of several factors including increased competition, low prey populations, and climate change.
23. Woolly Mammoth
The woolly mammoth was a large, hairy, elephant-like creature. They stood up to 11 feet tall at the shoulder and weighed upwards of 13,200 pounds. These creatures survived during the last ice age, but they went extinct about 10,000 years ago. The shifting climate was too much for them.
Pterodactylus was a genus of pterosaurs, flying reptiles that lived millions of years ago. Scientists believe that they first appeared about 215 million years ago. They went extinct at the end of the Cretaceous Period, probably around the same time as the terrestrial dinosaurs.
21. Cave Lion
The European cave lion was a large, powerful creature that hunted reindeer and other animals. This mammal grew about 7 feet long and stood about four feet tall, and they ranged across Europe and into Canada via the Bering land bridge. The oldest member of Panthera spelaea ever found was about 62,000 years old, and the creature went extinct about 13,000 years ago.
Plesiosaurus dolichodeirus, along with every other member of the genus, were marine reptiles. They were characterized by their large bodies, paddle-like flippers, and long necks. These creatures first appeared in the Triassic Period about 203 million years ago. Scientists believe they went extinct in the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event about 66 million years ago.
Mosasaurs, like Mosasaurus hoffmannii, were prehistoric marine reptiles that lived during the same time as the dinosaurs. These apex predators measured about 46 to 56 feet long. They went extinct around the same time as land dinosaurs.
18. Saber-Toothed Cats
Animals from the Smilodon genus were known as saber-toothed cats or saber-toothed tigers. These mammals weighed upwards of 620 pounds and stood over 3 feet tall. They had two massive incisors that measured several inches long. They went extinct around 10,000 years ago as a result of the loss of large prey.
Dickinsonia is a genus of extinct basal animals. On their own, these creatures aren’t that remarkable. However, the oldest animal fossils in existence may belong to this creature. These fossils are 558 million years old! The only oldest animal fossils ever found belonged to a type of sea sponge that lived about 890 million years ago.
Aurochs were a type of wild bovine that lived in Asia, North Africa, and Europe. They are believed to be the ancestor of all modern domesticated cattle! While they lived for thousands of years, they were eventually wiped out by humans in 1627.
15. The Dodo
The dodo was a flightless bird that lived in Southeast Asia. The extinct animal was a little over 3 feet tall and weighed about 20 to 40 pounds. The bird is often discussed when talking about animal extinctions at the hands of humans, and that’s the reason they’re mostly remembered these days. The last sighting of this creature was in 1662.
14. American Mastodon
Mastodons were elephant-like creatures that first appeared sometime between 5.4 and 2.4 million years ago. These mammals are known for their large size and long tusks. They could weigh as much as 24,000 pounds and stand up to 10.7 feet tall! Unfortunately, they also went extinct about 10,500 years ago. These animals may have been driven to extinction by human hunting.
13. Haast’s Eagle
Haast’s eagle is famous for being the largest eagle to ever live. This massive weighed about 33 pounds with a wingspan of about 10 feet. However, this animal hunted moa, flightless birds that weighed over 500 pounds! This eagle was also driven to extinction by humans when they arrived in New Zealand around 1400 A.D.
Also known as the giant ground sloth, members of the Megatherium genus were large, South American sloths. The largest of these creatures could weigh as much as 8,800 pounds and grew almost 7 feet tall at the shoulder. These enormous extinct creatures disappeared about 10,000 years ago, most likely because of humans hunting them.
11. Steller’s Sea Cow
Steller’s sea cow was a large marine animal that grew up to lengths of 30 feet and weighed 22,000 pounds or more. These creatures are similar to modern dugongs in that they were large, blubbery swimming creatures. This sea cow was hunted to extinction in less than 20 years.
The Argentinosaurus was an enormous sauropod dinosaur that lived from about 99.6 million years ago to 89.9 million years ago. This dinosaur was among the largest dinosaurs to ever live, and it has the record for being the heaviest dinosaur. It’s the largest of the 25 extinct animals on this list! Scientists don’t know exactly why this dinosaur went extinct.
9. Irish Elk
The Irish elk was an especially large species of deer known for its massive rack of antlers. These mammals stood about 6 to 7 feet tall, measured 9 to 10 feet long, and weighed about 1,300 to 1,500 pounds at their largest. The species’ antlers could measure 12 feet across! Scientists believe the species died out about 11,000 years ago.
Supersaurus was the largest dinosaur ever. At least, that’s currently the dinosaur with the best case for being the largest. Supersaurus measured about 105 to 138 feet long and weighed between 70,000 and 80,000 pounds! This dinosaur went extinct about 153 to 145 million years ago, but scientists aren’t exactly certain what caused them and many other large herbivores to die off.
The Quetzalcoatlus genus contained the largest pterosaur. Specifically, Quetzalcoatlus northropi was the largest species to take to the skies. This reptile had a wingspan of about 36 feet and stood about 18 feet tall! Scientists may have found even larger pterosaurs, but Quetzalcoatlus has the most consistent measures proving its size supremacy.
Velociraptor, like T. rex, was mythologized in films. However, the true creature looks nothing like the 6-foot-tall killing machines present in the movies. Instead, Velociraptor species were about 4 to 6.8 feet long and weighed about 31 to 43 pounds while standing less than 3 feet tall. Small as they were, their long claws made the dinosaurs quite dangerous to creatures their size or smaller. Of all the 25 extinct animals on this list, this one is probably most often incorrectly imagined.
Deinosuchus has the honor of being one of the largest, if not the largest, crocodilians that ever graced the planet. This monstrous extinct animal measured about 26 to 33 feet long and could weigh upwards of 11,000 pounds! The creature lived between 82 and 73 million years ago.
The Arctodus, also called the short-faced bear, is another large mammal that lived in North America. Arctodus simus was the largest species, and it grew about 10 feet long, weighed 1,800 to 2,100 pounds, and stood almost 6 feet tall at the shoulder. This enormous bear lived from 2.5 million years ago until about 12,000 years ago, and interactions with humans may have spelled the end of these animals.
Megalodon was a massive shark that measured upwards of 50 feet long and weighed about 100,000 pounds. This enormous and deadly shark hunted prey in the oceans from about 20 million years ago until 3.5 million years ago. These extinct animals probably went extinct due to a lack of prey, a shrinking habitat, and global cooling.
Called a Terror Bird, Phorusrhacos longissimus was a flightless bird that hunted its prey. This large bird stood about 7 to 9 feet tall and weighed about 290 pounds. They had a very long, hooked beak and powerful sharp claws. This Terror Bird lived between 12 million years ago and went extinct about 2.5 million years ago. They may have been driven to extinction by the incursion of larger predators from North America.
Neanderthals are an extinct species or subspecies of human beings that thrived in Eurasia. They are the oldest extinct relatives of humans, and they lived from about 400,000 years ago to 40,000 years ago. Scientists have put forth many potential reasons for their disappearance. Disease, habitat loss, infighting, and interactions with other members of the Homo species could have caused their decline.
Final Thoughts on 25 Extinct Animals
Some of the extinct animals on this list disappeared because of human activity. Humans continue to protect some species from going extinct, like pandas, while contributing to the extinction of others, like rhinos.
We may be on the precipice of a sixth mass extinction, except this one is being caused by humans. Whether or not humans can avert a major crisis as a result of destroying food webs and environments remains to be seen.
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