Info Bites: 5 of the Most Remarkable Animals that Ever Lived

In this week’s Info Bites, we’ll be taking a brief look at some of the most remarkable animals that ever lived. The natural world, both past and present, is never lacking in creativity and strangeness. There are Mother Nature’s lethal killing machines right at the top of the food chain, huge lumbering beasts so enormous that they have no natural predators, and animals that can outlive two or even three human generations.

1 – Amphicoelias, the Largest Dinosaur

AmphicoeliasMeridas (V. Socha)

An life-size sculpture of amphicoelias in JuraPark Bałtów in Poland.

The era when dinosaurs ruled the Earth, between 231 and 66 million years ago was well known for its enormous land animals. When we think of large dinosaurs, the first animals which tend to come to mind are the famous Tyrannosaurus Rex and the lumbering herbivores, diplodocus and brachiosaurus. However, the beasts of the amphicoelias genus easily puts these creatures to shame when it comes to sheer weight and size. Widely thought to be the largest land animal to ever exist, the amphicoelias fragillimus weighed up to 122 metric tonnes. Little is known about this hefty beast, however, since few remains were ever discovered, and what was discovered was lost in the late nineteenth century. Its femur (thigh bone) alone was about fifty percent larger than an adult human.

2 – Blue Whale, the Largest Animal to Ever Exist

The blue whale, weighing in at 170 tonnes, and boasting a length of 100 feet, puts even amphicoelias fragillimus to shame when it comes to size. These magnificent kings of the oceans have no natural predators due to their immense size, but humans have managed to drive them near to extinction due to centuries of uncontrolled and irresponsible whaling. The total world population is unknown, but there are unlikely to be more than around 10,000 still in existence. The diet of the blue whale consists primarily of krill, which are around half an inch in length – after all, picking on something their own size is hardly an option. Due to increasing international cooperation to protect these animals, their numbers have been fairly stable in recent decades. They can live in oceans anywhere in the world.

3 – Aldabra Giant Tortoise, the Longest-Living Land Animal

Giant TortoiseYotcmdr

An adult Aldabra giant tortoise in Beauval Zoo, France

Although there are some sea animals, such as clams and sponges, which boast even longer lifespans, the longest lifespan of any terrestrial animal is that of the tortoise. In particular, the Aldabra giant tortoise, native to the Seychelles, is suspected to have a maximum lifespan of well over two-hundred years, at least in captivity. However, due to their lifespans being far longer than those of any human, it has proven difficult to verify many of the records. It is claimed that the oldest tortoise of the species died at an age of around 255 years. Named Adwaita, this venerable creature spent much of its life as a pet of the British East India Company’s General Robert Clive before later being transferred to a zoo. He died in 2006 of liver failure in Calcutta Zoo, India. The Aldabra giant tortoise is currently classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

4 – Quetzalcoatlus, the Largest Flying Animal to Ever Exist

QuetzalcoatlusAneta Leszkiewicz

A life-size quetzalcoatlus sculpture in JuraPark Bałtów, Poland.

The largest extant flying animal is the wandering albatross, with an average wingspan of just over ten feet. However, the largest variety of the long extinct pterosaur, the quetzalcoatlus northropi, had a wingspan of up to 36 feet, over three times larger than the wandering albatross. With a weight of up to 500 pounds, this flying monster was carnivorous, likely feeding on smaller terrestrial dinosaurs. Quetzalcoatlus lived around seventy-million years ago. Fossils were first discovered in Texas, and although no complete fossil samples have ever been found, numerous bones and other evidence of this beast’s existence have been. Quetzalcoatlus has been extensively featured in a number of television documentaries, including the highly successful BBC Walking with Dinosaurs.

5 – Cheetah, the Fastest Animal

CheetahHein waschefort

A cheetah in full sprint

The fastest animal is the peregrine falcon, with a top speed of a whopping 242 miles per hour. However, this speed is partly achieved due to downward motion. Perhaps even more impressive is the cheetah, the fastest-running animal in the world. Being not much larger than the largest dogs, cheetahs are rarely considered to be dangerous to humans, however, you would not want to upset one and hope to run away from it. Reaching speeds of up to 75 miles per hour, these spritely creatures will have no problem chasing down any other animal on Earth. This joyrider can even break most national motorway speed limits. They can accelerate faster than many powerful sports cars, reaching their top speed in little over three seconds. They can usually maintain this speed for up to a minute, making them some of the most voracious hunters on the planet.

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