Each month has a plethora of local to global range holidays to celebrate even the most miniscule of things. This month, September, is World Animal Remembrance month, in which people are encouraged during the month to honor animals, pets or not, that have passed and are no longer with us. And while the upstate NY and the Adirondack regions have had their fair share of extinct animals (such as mammoths & mastodons), we wanted to explore some rarely heard of animals from around the world. This month, we’d like to honor the animals that didn’t even roam the earth at the same time as us, and may or may not deserve to be remembered and treated with the same respect as our late pets. Below is our list of the wildest extinct animals that would definitely affect the way we live today if they were still around:
- Elephant Bird – The elephant bird’s name did not actually come from its size (which was quite large), but actually from Marco Polo whose 1298 journal entry accounts witnessing this bird grab a baby elephant in its talons and fly away with it. The birds’ appearance is similar to an ostrich or emu, but much larger and weighing close to 1,000 pounds on average. Scientists believe that these birds went extinct in the 1600’s due to hunting, and their eggs, which weighed about 22 pounds, were often stolen and eaten, while the shells could be big enough to be used as bowls. Real reconstructed elephant bird eggs can be found on display in select museums around the world.
- Megalodon – the pop culture adoration of sharks has made this extinct fish quite famous and even controversial. Discovered in 1835, the fossils of this shark averaged 33-34 feet long with its teeth up to seven inches, about three times the size of the largest living great white recorded (though the two come from different lineages, so don’t look alike). The megalodon, with its massive size, had to eat large sea creatures such as whales, dolphins and other sharks. Once the ice age began, the megalodon, along with many other prehistoric sea creatures, died out from the cold temperatures and others adapted to the fish we know now. Some argue the megalodon is alive, but scientists have assured us that it’s impossible. Absolutely no modern evidence suggests anything that large living in the ocean, especially deep down in the trenches.
- Yutyrannus huali – An early ancestor of the Tyrannosaurus Rex, this dinosaur looked like a smaller version but covered in feathers. Despite its almost funny, chicken-like appearance, this creature was still a predator and hunted other dinosaurs for food. The Yutyrannus huali was the largest bird in existence to have feathers, though weighing at 1.5 tons, it definitely wasn’t able to fly, and some anthropologists suggest the feathers were simply there to attract mates (those that believe the T-Rex had feathers have the same main theory as well). While the Yutyrannus huali didn’t necessarily go extinct, they evolved into multiple subspecies before all dinosaurs were wiped out in a mass extinction.
- Megatherium – the scientific name describes this prehistoric ground sloth well, as the creatures stood about 12 feet tall on their hind legs and weighed up to 8,000 pounds, ten times the modern day three toed sloth. While most people think sloths are cute and often use them in memes or decorations while hanging in trees, these megatherium were much more muscular and eerie looking, with their long tongues and claws. Experts believe that the megatherium existed up until 8,500 BCE, when a combination of habitat loss and hunting caused the species to go extinct.