Top 5 Bizarre Prehistoric Animals
Posted on Sep 28, 2011

5. Helicoprion

Known as the Spiral Saw, the Helicoprion is said to have lived during the Carboniferous period and was one of the few creatures able to live through the Permian-Triassic extinction event (‘The Great Dying’). Eventually the Helicoprion went extinct during the Triassic period. Though not many fossils have been found, archaeologists have found the tooth-whorl as well as jaw bones. With these, researchers have pieced together ideas of what the Helicoprion may have looked like. One thing we know for sure is that the creature had teeth that are very much like a circular saw, which was connected on the lower jaw. It had so many teeth because as new teeth grew, the older teeth were pushed out and into the middle to create the spiral. Length-wise the creature was said to be 10-15 feet.

Ancient Ancestors

The Helicoprion was said to be extremely shark-like, having cartilage, fins, and razor sharp teeth. In fact, some believe that the creature was a shark itself, but there is not enough evidence to prove this.

4. Quetzalcoatlus

The Quetzalcoatlus is said to be one of the largest, if not the largest creature, to ever roam the skies. The name comes from a reference to an Aztec god, Quetzalcoatl, who was known for being a feathered serpent. Known for living in the Late Cretaceous period, the pterodactyloid pterosaur was King of the Skies, spreading its wings to a span of up to 36 feet and standing almost 32 feet. The creature had a very pointy beak, which was used for collecting food, despite the fact that it had no teeth. The fossils were discovered and collected in Big Bend Park in Texas in 1971. It’s said that when on the ground, the animal was a quadruped, and that it had so much power that it could go straight into flight.

Ancient Ancestors

Comparing a huge creature like this to those in today’s world is definitely difficult. Since it was a pterosaur, the animal has no clear relatives living today. However, in its time it was most related to the Pteranodon, and today it can be compared to all living birds, most closely comparable is the Marabou stork. Many have compared the two due to the fact of it’s larger than normal wingspan, and the fact that both are said to scavenge for food.

3. Dimorphodon

The Dimorphodon was a pterosaur of medium size said to live during the early Jurassic Period. Its fossils were found in Lyme Regis in Dorset U.K. in 1828. The pterosaur’s name comes from Greek words that mean “two-form tooth.” Richard Owen crafted the name for the creature, in hopes to focus on its rare distinction within the entire reptilian family. The creature had two different types of teeth in its jaws, which is rarely heard of when examining reptiles. The Dimophodon stood about 3.3 feet tall, with a small neck but large head, and had a wingspan of 4.6 feet. It had a tail that included 33 vertebrae which may or may not have been used as a balancing mechanism when walking, but was definitely used during flight. Scientists still debate whether or not it walked on four legs or just two. Painting by Luis Ray.

Ancient Ancestors

Today there are no closely linked ties as to what the Dimorphodon resembles or may be related to. In fact, scientists say that the Dimophodon, because it was a pterosaur, was barely related to the dinosaurs that we all know. It’s a possibility that it was related to the insect-eating anurognathid, but many disagree. It can be said that the creature is related to birds of all types due to it having wings.

2. Jaekelopterus

First found fossilized in Klerf Formation Lagerstätte of Willwerath near Prüm, Germany, the Jaekelopterus is one of the largest arthropods that have been discovered thus far. It is said that the creature was about 8.2 feet tall and lived in fresh water lakes and rivers. Though exact measurements aren’t clear, scientists did have measurements of the chelicera, which are claws in front of the head used to grip food; and from there estimated the entire size of the creature. The chelicera itself was 18 inches long.

Ancient Ancestors

It is said that the ancient ancestors are most related to the horseshoe crab, arachnids, and scorpions, and fits into a group called the Merostomata. There is proof in both shape and size that the Jaekelopterus is probably related to these present day creatures. But, many see the most resemblance in scorpions and the Merostomata, so the Jaekelopterus is sometimes called the sea scorpion.

1. Hallucigenia

Hallucigenia fossils were first found in British Columbia, Canada; and more recently, in China. The name Hallucigenia comes from Simon Conway Morris, who was one of the first to take another look at the specimens that were already found by Charles Walcott. The name was derived from the idea that these creatures are extremely bizarre and have a dream-like quality to them, much like a hallucination. The creature was said to be from 0.5-3cm long and was very wormlike with a head that didn’t include most sensory organs we’d find today, such as the eyes and nose. Instead the Hallucigenia had seven pincer-tipped tentacles on each side of its body, and then three pairs of tentacles behind those. Some of these tentacles were paired with spines and it’s said that one had the main purpose of feeding the creature. Recent studies have shown both male and female species, the males having a more rounded head and neck while the females had the opposite.

Ancient Ancestors

It is said that Hallucigenia is a long time ancestor of modern day arthropods. Despite the fact that many believed the species was unrelated to any species today, it’s been said that they have very close ties to present-day arthropods as well as the Onychophora, also known as velvet worms.


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