There have been some really cool creatures on this planet in the past. Here are some of the weirdest, most wonderful things to ever stroll, stride, crawl or soar around the Earth.
Pinta Island Tortoise
Born in around 1910, Lonesome George was the very last Pinta Island Tortoise. He was first discovered in 1971, by which point all other members of his species were already gone. Over the next forty years, anthropologists tried to find George a mate from his own species, but these efforts failed as even breeding with related tortoise species proved unviable. Lonesome George finally died in 2012.
Pachydyptes Ponderosus were a specie of absolutely giant penguins that lived in the late Eocene era, over 30 million years ago. They were more or less identical to penguins that live today, except that the grew to around five feet tall and weighed as much as a grown human.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, Mammuthus Creticus was a teeny tiny species of mammoth which only grew to around three feet tall. It was the tiniest species of mammoth in history, and would have made an excellent pet if it hadn’t died out. It’s not yet clear at which point in history this particular mammoth lived.
Two horns are better than one. The Arsinoitherium lived around 30 million years ago, and looked a lot like a rhino, except it had a pair of horns on its head, next to each other.
Formosan Clouded Leopard
The Formosan clouded leopard, native to Taiwan, was already in decline before World War II, but when invading Japanese forces shot and killed several dozen of these beautiful animals, the species was dealt a fatal blow. Very recently, reported sightings have given anthropologists hope that there may be a few very rare members of this species hiding in the wild.
There were many different species of Ground Sloths over the course of history, as they originated around 30 million years ago and didn’t entirely die out until only a few thousand years ago. The coolest Ground Sloths, Megatheriidae, were the size of elephants.
Once upon a time, Passenger Pigeons were so common across North America that swarms of the birds could blot out the sun. The birds’ numbers dropped slowly throughout the 19th century, before nosediving in around 1870. The last wild Passenger Pigeon was shot in 1901, and the last captive bird died in 1914.
Japanese Honshu Wolf
The Japanese Honshu Wolf went extinct in around 1905. Its name comes from Japanese mythology, and it is a significant staple in much of the nation’s folklore.
Great Auks used to be a very common sight for sailors, living on rocks throughout the eastern side of the North Atlantic off the coast of countries including Spain, Ireland and even Iceland. Penguins were originally named after auks, despite not actually being related. Alas, the Great Auk was hunted to extinction by humans, and died out in around 1852.
The Caspian Tiger was once found throughout Central Asia, from Northern Afganistan to Western China. Humans in Russia hunted the animal for sport, decreasing its population, and by the 1970s wild Caspian Tigers were all gone.
Described as being “brownish with reddish stripes and as thick as a man’s wrist,” the only known sighting of a live Kawekaweau occurred in 1870 when it was killed by a Maori chieftain in New Zealand. None others have ever been seen, so it’s presumed that they are now no longer found in the wild.
Caribbean Monk Seal
The first historical mention of a Caribbean Monk Seal appears in the writings of Christopher Columbus (in, believe it or not, the Caribbean). As the time, it seems that the animal was not particularly uncommon, but excessive human fishing exhausted this animals’ natural food sources, and in 1952 it was declared extinct.
Ainsworth’s Salamander is believed to have been lived in Jasper County, Mississippi until around 1964. Limited specimens have ever been found so it’s hard to know for certain what this animal was like.
The Giant Moa was a large, flightless bird with a long neck that was native to New Zealand. It may well have been the tallest bird in history, but it died out in around 1500 as a result of human hunters. Other wildlife in the area would later not survive the arrival of European settlers who burned much of the countryside to create farmland.
Gunther’s Streamlined Frog
A native to Sri Lanka, Gunther’s Streamlined Frog was discovered in 1882, and named after the zoologist Albert Gunther (even though he didn’t actually discover the animal). Not much is known about this frog as not many were found, and what specimens remain have not been properly preserved.
Found on the Indonesian island of Java, the Javan Tiger was wiped out by hunting in around the 1970s. It was one of three species of tiger found on the Sunda Islands, having made its home there since the Last Glacial Period between 12,000 and 100,000 years ago.
The Tarpan was a subspecies of horse that died out in captivity in Russia in around 1909. It’s also worth bearing in mind that the Tarpan was the result of extensive efforts to breed a new horse, so it wouldn’t have existed to begin with if humans hadn’t been so interfering.
In spite of its name, the Carolina Parakeet was native to a wide area across the North American continent, which spanned New York, Kentucky, Colorado and the Gulf of Mexico. The bird was very pretty, so human demand for its feathers contributed to its decline, but deforestation of its natural habitat really didn’t help. The last Carolina Parakeet, named Incas, died in Cincinnati Zoo in 1918. Incidentally it lived in the same cage as Martha, the last Passenger Pigeon, before her death in 1914.
Cape Verde Giant Skink
The Cape Verde Giant Skink once lived in (surprise surprise) Cape Verde, until its extinction some time before 1940. The lizard was killed off partially by drought and human demand for “skink oil,” but what really sunk the nail into its coffin was a period during which starving prisoners were kept on Cape Verde and ate the majority of the Giant Skink population to stay alive.
Saddle-backed Rodrigues Giant Tortoise
The Saddle-backed Rodrigues Giant Tortoise was so named because of its odd flat shell that looked like a saddle. Naturally curious and unafraid of humans, they met their doom when our species took advantage of their friendly nature and ate the lot of them. The last one died out in around 1800.
Martinique Giant Ameiva
The Martinique Giant Ameiva was never observed in the wild and is only known of thanks to museum specimens collected by early European explorers who ventured to Martinique in the West Indies. It’s believed that the species, which died off in around 1839, was mostly killed by a hurricane.
Looking very much like a “Super Mario Bros” enemy, the Meiolania was a horned, shelled creature that was found in 1886 on Lord Howe Island. This extinction, at least, was nothing to do with humans, as the creature was long dead before we arrived, possibly due to rising sea levels following the melting of glaciers.
Exceptionally common during colonial times, the Heath Hen lived on scrubland across the North American coast. It proved a convenient source of food for pilgrims, and as a result, the bird was extinct by 1932.
The Laysan Rail was a small flightless bird that was native to the Hawaiian island of Laysan. It was known for mating cries that sounded a lot like a mechanical alarm clock. The bird’s population dropped off rapidly during the first half of the 20th century – it was believed to be extinct as early as 1923, but any remaining birds ultimately suffered during World War II, and a final sighting occurred in 1944.
Gastric Brooding Frog
The Gastric Brooding Frog’s name explains its big gimmick – mothers would swallow their eggs soon after fertilization and allow them to grow within their stomachs. Then, once the babies had grown all the way from tadpoles into adult frogs, she would vomit them out, one by one. Sadly, this incredible species went extinct some time in the 1970s due to a poisonous fungus that overtook its native habitat.
Fawkland Islands Wolf
The Fawkland Islands Wolf was the only mammal that was native to the Fawkland Islands. It died off in 1876, and was the first canine to go extinct in the modern era. It’s possible that, due to its lack of natural predators, it wasn’t prepared for the arrival of British settlers and their pets in 1764.
The Tecopa Pupfish once lived in the outflows from hot springs in the Mojave Desert. When humans discovered the joys of bathing in hot springs, they altered the natural landscape, changing water flows, and ultimately dooming the Pupfish. It went extinct in around 1970.
The Pyrenean Ibex has had a complicated relationship with extinction. It first went extinct in 2000, but human scientists were able to briefly resurrect the species through cloning in 2003. Alas, cloning is still challenging, and the clone died minutes after birth due to a lung defect.
Named after Sir Robert H. Schomburgk, British consul in Bangkok at the time of its discovery, Schomburgk’s Deer lived in long grass on swampy plains in Thailand. As demand for rice grew, much of the deer’s habitat was turned into farmland, and as a result, the animal went extinct some time around 1938.
A very recent loss, Spix’s Macaw is most famous as the rare endangered bird that features in the animated movie “Rio.” It seems a boost in awareness of animal conservation wasn’t enough to save this parrot, as several environmental bodies declared it extinct in 2018.
Wallace’s Giant Bee
Finally, some good news – Wallace’s Giant Bee is the largest known species of bee, and was thought to be extinct as of around the 1980s. Sightings of this bee have always been incredibly rare ever since its first discovery in 1859, but it was assumed that all of them had finally disappeared. Then, early in 2019, another Wallace’s Giant Bee was spotted in the wild. It’s nice to remember that, if we change our behavior immediately, there’s still hope that we can save many species that are suffering from humanity’s greed.
The last known Thylacine, also known as the Tasmanian Tiger, was captured in 1933. It was a marsupial that was native to Tasmania in New Guinea, Australia.
The Glyptodon lived around two million years ago, during a relatively recent Ice Age. It had a thick, round bone shell that looked like an egg, and it was approximately the size of a Volkswagen bug.
A breed of African zebra, the Quagga was notable for having brown and white stripes only on the front half of its body. The rest of the animal was plain brown in color. The last known wild Quagga died in 1878.
The Andrewsarchus was a large carnivore with a long toothy snout that lived in Mongolia and China around 45 million years ago. It was named after Roy Andrews, an explorer, which is why its name is so funny.
Once the largest species of lion, the North African Barbary Lion could measure as large as 9 feet 2 inches from nose to tail, making them absolutely huge and very formiddable. Alas, a bounty on the creatures rapidly reduced their population during the first half of the 20th century, and it's believed that the last Barbary Lion died in around the 1960s at the latest.
With a name that means “The Horned Dawn King,” the Eobasileus was a large, rhino-like creature that existed 30-40 million years ago, and which is distinct for its lumpy, crown-shaped horns. It’s interesting to think that the modern rhino traces its roots back to a time when many more similar creatures existed.
The Helicoprion swam in oceans around the world approximately 290 million years ago. It’s notable for having a lower jaw that coiled around, making it look (and function) a lot like a modern buzzsaw.
500 million years ago, the tiny Opabinia was a carnivorous sea creature that was just a couple of inches long. It’s theorized that the Opabinia swam by timing the movement of its legs to create “Mexican Waves” that propelled it forward.
The Callichimaera was a type of crab that existed nearly a hundred million years ago. This crab swam through the sea, rather than scuttling on the seabed, and its large eyes helped it see further in the dark. Because of its odd design, scientists refer to it as the “platypus of crabs.”
The Therizinosaurus was a dinosaur with absolutely enormous talons. Its name literally means “reap lizard,” in reference to the fact that its claws look like scythes. It lived around 70 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous, so it’s possible that a T-Rex looked at this fellow dinosaur with severe claw envy.
The Hallucigenia existed 500 million years ago, and is thusly named because it literally looks like a hallucination. It was a long worm-like creature with pointed horns all across its spine, and long legs which terminated in pincers.
Also known as the sea scorpion, the Eurypterid existed between 250 and 400 million years ago. It was the largest arthropod to ever live – the biggest fossil that has ever been found is over 8 feet long – a lot larger than modern scorpions.
Discovered in a coal mine in Columbia, the Carbonemys was one of the largest turtle species to ever live. Its shell measured well over 5 feet long, and it’s believed that it was carnivorous. It lived around 50 million years ago.
An early ancestor of the modern whale, Rodhocetus makes it clear to see how mammals evolved to live underwater. The Rodhocetus, which existed around 40 million years ago, had webbed feet, a long snout, and a ridge on its back that would eventually become a fin in some of its descendants.
Longisquama had long fan-like ridges all along its back. Despite this looking a lot like the plumage of some modern birds, scientists believe that this is a coincidence, considering that it lived during the late Triassic period 235 million years ago, and birds wouldn’t evolve similar ridges until much later.
The Sharovipteryx, or “foot wing,” looked a lot like a hang glider. Where most flying or gliding animals catch air below their front arms for lift, this reptile (which existed 225 million years ago) instead had webbed back legs that allowed it to glide.
Named for the Mesoamerican winged serpent god Quetzalcoatl, the Quetzalcoatlus existed 68 million years ago, and was enormous. Its long neck made it approximately as tall as a giraffe, and its impressive wingspan helped it to dominate the skies.
Literally named the “chest spine,” the Stethacanthus lived 350 million years ago and is notable for its unusual flat dorsal fin, which almost resembled a surfboard on the top of its head. Some scientists speculate that this fin was used in mating rituals.
No list of extinct creatures is ever complete without the Dodo. The most recent creature on this list, it’s believed that the Dodo probably died off in around 1662. The poor creature had no natural predators on its island, and its extinction was triggered by the arrival of human beings and their dogs. Since then, the Dodo has become a universal symbol of humanity’s potential for environmental destruction, because we suck.
Living between 200 and 250 million years ago, the Nothosaur was an aquatic creature which was around eight feet long from nose to tail. It had paddle-like webbed feet, and palaeontologists believe that it lived much like modern seals, swimming in water to catch prey but living on rocks and beaches.
An unusually long rodent-like mammal, the Leptictidium existed 50 million years ago, and its notable for its elongated legs and tail. It was around 30 inches long and 8 inches tall, and most of its body length was made up of its tail, which it used for balance as it hopped around like a modern kangaroo.
A relative of the Helicoprion, the Edestus Giganteus lived between 300 and 400 million years ago, and had its own very weird mouth. The Edestus Giganteus had a single row of teeth on both its upper and lower jaw, leading scientists to describe its mouth as being like pruning shears or a pair of scissors.
Discovered by the phenomenal Mary Anning (who essentially created the science of palaeontology), the Plesiosaurus existed in the early Jurassic period, nearly 200 million years ago. There were many other long-necked sea creatures at around this period in history, and they have created the basis for the modern myth of the Loch Ness Monster.
Don’t believe everything you see in “Jurassic Park,” a movie which deliberately misrepresented the noble Velociraptor. Living in the Late Cretaceous period around 70 million years ago, true Velociraptors were about the size of a modern turkey, and covered in feathers. Some people might be disappointed by this news, but look on the bright size: it means that if “Jurassic Park” is ever made real, Velociraptors would make the perfect family pet.