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15 Physical Comparisons of Extinct Animals to Their Current Relatives

An artist in his spare time and a naturalist at heart, Roman Uchytel very precisely draws the creatures that inhabited our planet many, many years ago. His Prehistoric Fauna project is one of the first sources dedicated solely to the reconstruction of little-known prehistoric animals (that is, we are not talking about dinosaurs), which is why it has become a guide for people to discover other wonders of Earth’s past.

O awesome.club decided to dive into the gallery of images of this innovative project and separated for you what the ancestors of 15 animals that today live on our planet were like.

1. The giant Galapagos tortoise alongside the extinct Megalochelys atlas

When it comes to prehistoric animals, size really does matter. With more than 2 m in length and a weight that varied between 1 and 3 tons, the M. Atlas were the largest land turtles in history, so they are compared to Volkswagen Beetle.

It is said that the species was herbivorous and that the giant Galapagos tortoise (the largest species today) is almost a toy next to it.

2. A modern hyena alongside the extinct Dinocrocuta

Dinocruta fossils can be found in Europe, Asia and North Africa. At approximately 2.10 m in length, 1.20 m in height and a weight of 150-250 kg, it is the largest variety of hyena ever found.

3. Today’s fossa (or pit) compared to its ancestor, the Barbourofelis

Barbourofelis fricki was the size of a modern lion, but heavier because of its physical size. He looked like a cross between a lion and a bear. The modern pit has an approximate size of 80 cm; Males weigh up to 10 kg and females 7 kg.

4. The modern walrus and its ancestor, the Pontolis magnus

Without the fangs (the canines) characteristic of its current relative, the extinct Pontolis magnus has a structure different from modern walruses. From 5 to 11 million years ago, this animal lived in marine and coastal zones in the region of California and Oregon, in the United States.

5. A modern penguin and a colossus penguin

With a height that exceeded 2 m and over 115 kg, the ancestor of the emperor penguin surpassed the stature of a human being. At least that’s what studies of fossils over 37 million years old have revealed. The emperor penguin, the largest species of these water birds, measures approximately 1.1 m and weighs less than 50 kg.

6. The modern giant panda and its ancestor

In 2021, fossils were found that demonstrated a new fact about the Chinese giant panda: its ancestor is not of eastern origin. This has sparked a debate about the origin of the panda’s lineage among biologists. Kretzoiarctos beatrix, the only species of the extinct panda genus, passed through the Iberian peninsula. It is estimated that the size of the animal was much smaller than its modern version.

7. The modern raccoon and its giant ancestor

Due to its size and bone structure, paleontologists and biologists thought that Chapalmalania was a species of bear. Nowadays, it is known that this animal, which could measure 1.5 m, is an ancestor of raccoons and lived in South America. Its size is comparable to that of the American black bear. A very noticeable difference is in size, as the modern raccoon only measures between 40 and 55 cm.

8. The modern buffalo and its ancestor

Looking very similar to its descendant, Pelorovis walked the Earth 2.5 million years ago. Known as one of the largest cattle that ever existed, it weighed 1.2 to 2 tons. The core of their horns measured approximately 1 m each, but with the keratin layer they could reach up to twice that size.

9. The modern kiwi and its giant ancestor

The South Island harpy eagle lived in the southern part of New Zealand, was an excellent runner and defended itself with its paws. This animal is considered one of the potential ancestors of the kiwi. However, unlike his descendant (modern kiwis measure approximately 45 cm and weigh around 3.3 kg), his height reached 3.5 m and he could weigh 350 kg. Because of these dimensions, it is considered one of the largest birds in history.

The species is said to have disappeared because it was hunted by Maori aborigines.

10. The white rhino compared to the Paraceratherium

The white rhinoceros is considered the fourth largest land animal and the fourth heaviest mammal on Earth. However, he looks extremely small when compared to Paraceratherium. With a height that surpassed 5 m at the shoulder and more than 2 m at the neck, it is considered one of the largest land mammals of all time, surpassing modern giraffes.

They could eat apartment plants on the third or fourth floor of a building, and are estimated to weigh the equivalent of five elephants; unlike modern rhinos, they did not have horns. In fact, the physiognomy is quite different from the physiognomy of modern rhinos; its discovery, made in June 2021, surprised paleontologists.

11. A modern wild boar and its ancestor, the Daeodon

The “terrible tooth” (meaning of the name Daeodon) walked the Earth’s surface 25-18 million years ago, in the North American region. It measured 3 m in length and weighed between 600 kg and 1 ton, much more than its current descendants, which weigh between 40 and 90 kg. Today, wild boars are considered a tremendously adaptable species, able to feed on almost anything; in addition, they are excellent runners and swimmers.

12. The modern blue whale and the extinct Indohyus

It is known that whales are descended from land animals, but one piece was still missing to finish assembling this evolutionary puzzle. This was concluded when paleontologists discovered Indohyus fossils.

This animal was the size of a cat or a raccoon and had some resemblance to deer. It is estimated that 48 million years ago it hid in the water to escape predators. In addition, he preferred to maintain a herbivorous diet, which goes against the grain of the idea that cetaceans entered the waters to look for food.

13. The extinct Titanohyrax ultimus compared with the modern Cape wrasse

Although the Cape Great Dane is the size of a hare, approximately 56 million years ago, its ancestor was nearly the height of a rhinoceros. Titanohyrax is a little-known herbivore, mainly because few fossils of it have been found. It is estimated that their extinction is related to access to resources and food.

14. The clouded leopard and the saber-toothed tiger

The saber-toothed tiger is a feline known for its canine teeth of approximately 20 cm. Their jaws could open at an angle of 90º, which, for some paleontologists, made their teeth more fragile than the teeth of current felines and cats.

Another big difference is in the size of these animals. It is estimated that the saber-toothed tiger could weigh up to 270 kg, while the clouded leopard, one of its descendants, weighs a maximum of 65 kg.

15. The Modern Giraffe and the Sivatherium

One of the most common examples used to teach evolution is the change that happened to giraffes. These animals had stout, short necks and went on to have long, slender necks. This is why if one were to see a Sivatherium, it would be difficult to consider it a relative of giraffes. Standing approximately 2.2 m tall, this mammal lived over 8,000 years ago. Its appearance was similar to a mixture of deer, antelope, giraffe and other animals.

Thanks to projects like Prehistoric Fauna we can know prehistoric animal species that are not always very widespread. What did you think of this initiative? And which of these animals surprised you the most?

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