What Life Looked Like on Earth Before Humans, According to Paleontologists
Sure, dinosaurs roamed the earth before we humans came into existence, but did you know that many other unthinkable animals also lived before us? Thanks to paleontologists and fossil records, scientists have been able to reveal more about what walked the Earth long before we did — many of the creatures mentioned below in the article lived around 500 million years ago.
Bright Side has done some digging into life on Earth before we knew it to show you some truly weird and wonderful animals.
1. Elephant-like mammals roamed around.
The Gomphotheriidae is an extinct family of elephant-like animals that lived around 24 million to 10,000 years ago. Although they aren’t related to the elephant family, they certainly have some similarities. Scientists believe that they lived in grassy areas, with their fossils found across Central Asia and beyond.
2. The “tully monster” hunted the oceans.
As the name suggests, this sea creature has been considered to be a bit of a monster, with eyes situated on strange stalks on the side of its head and a jawless mouth. Scientists have discovered that they are the lost ancestor of the modern-day lampreys invading the Great Lakes of America. It is thought that they would hunt jellyfish and other small marine animals with their long “trunk,” which had several small teeth at the end.
3. Millipedes grew to the size of 2.6 meters.
Imagine the stress of living at the same time as these giant bugs that weighed the same as a large dog. Fossils preserved for millions of years tell us that they were the size of a car and lived in places like the UK and Germany over 300 million years ago. Scientists speculate that because the Earth’s atmosphere contained more oxygen back then, these millipedes were able to grow to huge sizes.
4. There were giant lobsters in the seas.
It was not just on land that we’d find giant ancient creatures, as fossils reveal these 7-foot-long Aegirocassis benmoulae, which swam the seas some 480 million years ago. Thanks to the discovery of well-preserved fossils found in the Sahara desert, we can recreate what these large lobster-like animals looked like.
5. Huge sloths roamed the forests.
While they may look similar to the sloths we see today, this prehistoric animal was actually as tall as a giraffe and even heavier than a grizzly bear. It’s not surprising then that it’s considered to be one of the largest mammals to have walked the Earth, where it once scavenged South America between 1.8 million and 12,000 years ago. Paleontologists also believe that they were meat-eaters, so it’s probably best to stay out of their way.
6. The hallucigenia worm walked the seafloor.
This small extinct caterpillar-like worm has been found preserved in fossils from Canada and China, and it looks pretty alien to us today. It’s so bizarre that, for a long time, scientists couldn’t work out its evolution. However, they do know that there are some similarities with modern-day velvet worms. To be honest, we wouldn’t mind meeting this little chap one day at the beach.
7. The largest known insects existed.
These dragonflies were buzzing around Earth in the Paleozoic period before dinosaurs existed — who would’ve guessed that dragonflies were older than dinosaurs? They were alive about 300 million years ago in the huge, warm forests that once covered France. They are one of the largest known insects with a 71-cm wingspan, which is pretty awesome, really.
8. A 5-eyed sea creature swam in our seas.
Saving the most bizarre for last, the Opabinia is truly a wonder to look at. With 5 eyes sticking out of its head on stalks and a long trunk, this is not your usual arthropod. It most likely used its trunk as a kind of arm to forage in the sea mud and catch prey over 500 million years ago. Although small (6 cm in length), it has captivated scientists for over a century with its wacky looks and behavior.
What do you think about bringing back extinct animals? Which animal would you like to see brought back to life?