There seems to be no end to the odd creatures that scientists find by digging up fossils. Here we celebrate some of the coolest extinct fish, mammals, dinosaurs, birds and other beasts discovered in recent years by showcasing the artistic representations that reveal what they might have looked like.
This fleshed-out rendering by artist Michael Skrepnick best represents what a dinosaur called Hagryphus looked like.
This artist s rendering reveals what an ancient marine reptile called a plesiosaur discovered in Antarctica may have looked like. The plesiosaur described in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, though not the same species, also sported four fins and a long neck. Analyses of shark teeth embedded in the reptile s bones suggest a feeding frenzy of sorts once the reptile died.
This flesh rendering of the predator Aerosteon shows its lungs (red) and air sacs (other colors) as they might have been in life about 85 million years ago. This huge carnivorous dinosaur that lived about 85 million years ago had a breathing system much like that of today s birds, a new analysis of fossils reveals, reinforcing the evolutionary link between dinos and modern birds.
An artist s rendering of Megapiranha paranensis, a 3-foot-long ancestor of the modern piranha.
An artist impression of a camarasaurus, an extinct sauropod dinosaur thought to have lived 100 million years ago in what is now the Sahara Desert.
Drawing of a woolly mammoth. These beasts were bigger than mastodons and and curved rather than straight tusks. They died off around 10,000 years ago, and scientists aren t yet sure if climate change was to blame -- as the Ice Age ended -- or if human hunting pressure played the larger role. Some even think a comet did them in.
This prehistoric fish, Dunkleosteus terrelli, was big, mean, and it could bite a shark in two. Scientists say Dunkleosteus terrelli might have been "the first king of the beasts." The prehistoric fish was 33 feet long and weighed up to four tons. The creature lived 400 million years ago. Art by Karen Carr in the Field Museum s Evolving Planet exhibit.
This ancient whale, extinct 25 million years, was a vicious hunter, scientists figure. Though likely an ancestor of modern baleen whales, gentle giants of today’s seas this beast had monstrous teeth and huge eyes thought to have been good for hunting.
A 7-foot-tall prehistoric bird with a monster-size noggin arrived in North America from South America long before a land bridge connected the two continents, a new study reveals. The flightless, carnivorous terror birds—that s what scientists call them—likely hopped to North America via islands that came to form what is today the Isthmus of Panama. Artist rendering of what North Florida may have looked like during about 2 million years ago. The terror bird is shown at the bottom left.
The extinct giant snake (shown in an artist s reconstruction) would have sent even Hollywood s anacondas slithering away. Researchers conservatively estimate the snake weighed about 2,500 pounds (1,140 kg) and measured nearly 43 feet (13 meters) from nose to tail tip. It was a type of non-venomous constrictor like anacondas and boas and lived in South America s rainforests some 60 million years ago.
A half-shell turtle species that swam in China s coastal waters 220 million years ago is the oldest turtle known to date. It had a belly shell, but its back was basically bare of armor. The ancient aquatic turtle, Odontochelys semitestacea, swam in the coastal waters of China.
Imagine a bird like an ocean-going goose almost the size of a small plane. That was this ancient, giant pseudo-toothed bird, or pelagornithid. It lived around what is now England 50 million years ago.
Reconstruction of Hurdia victoria, a 500-million-year-old monster-looking predator that was about 1.5 feet long.
The fossilized hands from this plant-eating dinosaur reveal a transitional step in the evolution of modern wings from dino digits. The finding could resolve a debate over which fingers ultimately became embedded in the wing. This dinosaur, Limusaurus inextricabilis, may have used its three-fingered hands to help it stand upright from a lying position. Its hand showed a vestigial first finger and robust second and third fingers.
Giganotosaurus was 47 feet long and weighed 8 tons. It lived 95 million years ago. It was not the biggest carnivore ever, though. That credit goes ti Spinosaurus, thought to reach 55 feet in length.
Troodon had one of the largest brain-to-body size ratios of any known dinosaur and it is believed to have been one of the most intelligent dinosaurs that ever lived. Its large, slightly forward facing eyes suggest that it was a nocturnal creature with excellent depth perception and it had long arms that it could fold back like a bird. It lived about 70 million years ago.
The remains of this flying reptile, called Darwinopterus modularis, suggest the animals may have been an aerial predator, hunting small feathered dinosaurs (such as the one depicted here) and tiny gliding mammals some 160 million years ago.
European cave bears were the first of the mega-mammals to die out in the most recent historical round of big-time extinctions, going extinct around 13 millennia earlier than was previously thought, according to a new estimate. The new extinction date, 27,800 years ago, coincides with a period of significant climate change, known as the Last Glacial Maximum, when a marked cooling in temperature resulted in a reduction or total loss of the vegetation that the cave bears ate.
A gigantic ape standing 10 feet tall and weighing up to 1,200 pounds lived alongside humans for over a million years, researchers say. A fresh analysis of two previously found skulls determined they re 200,000 old, making them the oldest known examples of our species. Yet fossil records indicate musical instruments, drawings, needles and other sophisticated tools didn t appear until about 50,000 years ago, suggesting Homo sapiens had a pretty lowbrow culture for 150,000 years. Well, evolution takes time. Another team found the fossilized remains of what they think is humankind s first walking ancestor, from 4 million years ago. Other research confirmed that the oldest human ancestor, from the time when we split with the apes, lived around 6 million years ago. Oh, and you have to respect our relatively recent ancestors (the lowbrow folks) who we now know lived among 10-foot-tall gorillas that have since gone extinct. Maybe they were so busy running they had no time to paint or create alphabets.
The woolly rhinoceros grazed in the plains of what is now northern Thuringia in Germany. The climate at the time was icy cold and far drier than today, and fluctuated a great deal.
This ungulate Indohyus ranged in India 48 million years ago. Indohyus is a close relative of whales, and the structure of its bones and chemistry of its teeth indicate that it spent much time in water. In this reconstruction, it is seen diving in a stream, much like the modern African Mousedeer does when in danger.
This primitive, oversized armadillo relative, P. septentrionalis, likely weighed 200 pounds. It roamed high in the Andes in northern Chile 18 million years ago.
Weighing an average of 550 pounds (250 kilograms), this saber-toothed cat, Smilodon fatalis, had a weaker bite than modern-day lions. Saber-toothed cats, often incorrectly called tigers, were social creatures that had a bite far less powerful than commonly thought.
The Haast's eagle of New Zealand, which lived just 700 years go, was 40 percent larger than today's record holder, the Harpy eagle, and it topped the local food chain. Here one is shown attacking the extinct New Zealand moa. The eagle grew so large it approached the physical limits of flight. The eagle, which was the subject of cave paintings and mythological tales from New Zealand s first inhabitants, the Maori, went extinct soon after the arrival of man, as did a number of other species on the islands. [READ MORE]
A group of flying reptiles called Quetzalcoatlus may have strolled along a fern prairie eating baby dinosaurs for lunch. The reptiles may have even snacked on Tyrannosaurus Rex babies. Research suggested Quetzalcoatlus, which lived during the age of dinosaurs some 230 million to 65 million years ago did not catch prey in flight, but rather stalked them on land.