15 Crazy Extinct Animals We'd Totally Adopt
Ever looked at a children's book on mythical creatures only to realize it includes scientific names and the mythical creatures were not, in fact, mythical? No? Just us? Life on Earth first appeared about 3.7 billion years ago (humanity as we know it has only been here for about 300,000 years), so it's safe to say there were millions of fascinating creatures that look too crazy to be real.
While we're going back to first grade to review our paleontology facts, check out these 15 epic extinct animals. If they were still around, we'd be dying to keep one in the yard. Imagine riding a giant manatee to school through the canals. Seems like something that would happen in Florida.
Approximate year of extinction: 142 million years ago
Why it's cool: It basically takes up an entire city block.
Give us one reason why it wouldn't be amazing to be the kid at school whose ride to soccer practice is a dinosaur. The name Supersaurus translates to "super reptile." It measured up to 138 feet long and weighed around 80,000 pounds, but it was a herbivore. It was like a giant, reptilian cow that could take out its enemies using its long tail like a whip.
It didn't really have any enemies, however, because who would mess with an animal the length of three school buses? No one. If you had a pet Supersaurus, you wouldn't have any enemies either. At least not for long. Supersauruses also had spines on their backs — perfect for using as backrests when you take your friends for a ride. As an added bonus, our pet Supersaurus would be an upstanding member of society, handling the management of all city trees and foliage 365 days a year.
Approximate year of extinction: 66 million years ago
Why it's cool: It has built-in armor.
Pet cats are cool and all, but pet tanks are even cooler. The Ankylosaurus was 26 feet long and stomped around what's now the Pacific Northwest several million years ago. Like the Supersaurus, they were vegans. You definitely wouldn't get eaten by your pet Ankylosaurus, but if you wanted to casually run over your school bully with him, you definitely could. Considering they weighed as much as five sedans, however, it would probably be grounds for expulsion. Maybe stick with intimidation instead.
Approximate year of extinction: 66 million years ago
Why it's cool: It has a wingspan the size of a bus.
The Quetzalcoatlus wasn't a single dinosaur, but a genus containing several species. Quetzalcoatlus Northropi was the largest flying animal to ever grace the skies. It averaged 18 feet tall, about the size of the tallest modern-day giraffes, and boasted a 36-foot wingspan.
This thing was as close to a real-life dragon as it gets. Scientists estimate that these massive, avian dinosaurs could fly up to 80 miles per hour. Forget sitting in traffic. Fly your Quetzalcoatlus directly over the 405 just to rub it in that you can commute via flying prehistoric reptile.
12. Short Faced Bear
Approximate year of extinction: 12,000 years ago
Why it's cool: It's the world's largest teddy bear.
Arctotherium Angustidens is often referred to as the short-faced bear, thanks to its comparatively small snouts. The rest was, naturally, colossal. They lived in the region that's now South America and their distant relative, the Spectacled bear, still lives there.
Today, Kodiak brown bears are the largest on Earth, but get this: Short faced bears were double their weight. They could easily reach 4,000 pounds and stood up to 14 feet tall. In our heads, they're like the St. Bernards of bears. Huge, protective and snuggly. That's not even close to factually correct, but they're extinct anyway. Leave our daydreams alone.
11. Cave Lion
Approximate year of extinction: 12,000 years ago
Why it's cool: It's the Shaquille O'Neal of lions.
What was it about prehistoric times that made caves so common? After reading about cave bears, cave lions and cave people in school, we expected to run into way more caves in real life. So far, we've seen two — and they were highly disappointing.
Cave lions seemed to have no problem finding living room-sized holes to cozy up in, however. The European cave lion was around 10-30 percent bigger than modern-day lions. According to fossil records, cave lions had no mane, but they did have light striping, retractable claws and a set of formidable, five-inch teeth. They also had a bite force about double the strength of today's lions, packing around 1800 pounds of crushing power into a single chomp. The neighbor's Doberman is cute, but we want a guard cave lion instead.
10. Giant Ground Sloth
Approximate year of extinction: 11,000 years ago
Why it's cool: It's a heavy metal sloth.
Having a giant ground sloth might be a worse idea than having a pet cave lion. See, modern sloths are harmless blobs that need assistance crossing the street because it takes them half a year to do so. Giant ground sloths were a different breed, literally. They weighed up to 8,800 pounds and stood seven feet tall at the shoulder. We haven't even gotten to the best part: They were carnivorous.
Their giant sloth limbs and claws weren't lazy or slow in the slightest. They were predators, and they were around when early humans walked the Earth. Evidence shows that our ancestors once went head-to-head with giant ground sloths, hunting them. The artistic rendering of a ground sloth battle makes it look much funnier than it was.
9. Dire Wolf
Approximate year of extinction: 10,000 years ago
Why it's cool: It's a supersized grey wolf.
Dire wolves were made popular by the "Game of Thrones" series, but they were real. They looked similar to grey wolves, only about 25 percent larger. For comparison, they could reach around 200 pounds, boasting a more muscular physique than the lithe, lean bodies of today's wolves.
Wolf dogs are already a terrible idea, so we're glad dire wolves aren't around anymore.
8. Irish Elk
Approximate year of extinction: 8,000 years ago
Why it's cool: It had antlers longer than a Prius.
Two words: sumo reindeer. Irish elk were widespread in northern Europe. They were more like giant deer than elk, but it was their massive rack of antlers that stood out. They averaged about 14 feet in width. Most likely, their giant coat rack substitutes evolved thanks to sexual selection. What can we say? Irish elk ladies had a thing for big antlers.
Hunting contributed to their extinction, but less ice also impacted the types of foliage that flourished. Without plants rich in calcium, it was tough for Irish elk to maintain their bone health and giant antlers. If they were still around, we'd nominate them to pull Santa's sleigh. It would be like the Uber X of sleigh rides.
7. Woolly Mammoth
Approximate year of extinction: 4,000 years ago
Why it's cool: Fluffy. Elephant. 'Nuf said.
Woolly mammoths were similar to large elephants, only furry. They were still around at the dawn of humanity and humans didn't do a great job of helping them stay around. We hunted them for food and used their tusks to make tools, but it was mostly the end of the last glacial period that pushed them to extinction. Very few were left 10,000 years ago, but they didn't die out completely until around 4,000 years ago.
Rumor has it that a biotech company is working to bring the woolly mammoth back by gene editing in hopes that reintroducing it to the Arctic will improve the health of the region. If it happens, we're booking a flight to Siberia immediately.
6. Haast's Eagle
Approximate year of extinction: 1400
Why it's cool: It's the biggest eagle ever.
Have you ever seen "The Lord of the Rings"? Remember the giant eagles? As it turns out, they weren't as fictional as we thought. Haast's eagle was the largest eagle to ever live. It weighed around 33 pounds, which is huge for a creature with hollow bones, and boasted a 10-foot wingspan.
While that's not quite large enough to carry a human, it might work for a hobbit. The eagles were native to New Zealand, so who knows? Maybe Tolkien traveled back 2,000 years and his entire fantasy world was straight-up history. It wasn't, but we really want a giant yard eagle, so let us have this one.
5. Steller's Sea Cow
Approximate year of extinction: 1768
Why it's cool: It was the biggest water potato.
Manatees are already the greatest. They're big, blubbery sea nuggets of happiness. They get along with everyone. They're just about the only 13-foot, 3,500 sea animal that we could run into the wild and think, "Aw, hi, friend!" instead of, "Welp, I'm never going into the water again."
If we had lived 300 years ago, we would have lucked out even more. We'd have been alive at the same time as the Steller’s sea cow, which was basically a manatee on steroids. They reached lengths of up to 30 feet and weighed around 22,000 pounds. They could have still been around today had humans not hunted them to extinction just 20 years after discovering them. People suck. We'd rather have a Steller's sea cow.
Approximate year of extinction: 1883
Why it's cool: Who wouldn't love a stripey horse?
Quaggas looked a lot like zebras, but they were zebra horses. They roamed freely around South Africa through the 1800s, and get this: We could have domesticated them, but we were dumb and hunted them to extinction.
Zebras today are too skittish and unresponsive to training efforts to ever be successfully domesticated, but quaggas checked every box on the domestication potential checklist. We could have had zebra horses, with stripes and a natural mohawk, but no. We had to go and mess that up. Thanks for nothing, great, great, great grandpa.
3. Japanese Honshu Wolf
Approximate year of extinction: 1905
Why it's cool: It's objectively the cutest.
The Honshu wolf didn't go extinct until 1905, and we would have had a dozen of them living in our yard if we had only been born 150 years sooner. It was the smallest species of wolf ever recorded, growing to a mere 12 inches in height at the shoulder.
They were native to the Japanese islands of Shikoku, Kyushu and Honshu. The traditional Shinto religion in Japan considers Honshu wolves to be sacred. According to legend, Honshu wolves were messengers and guardians of crops. Even today, there are shrines to the animals on the island of Honshu.
They might have still been around had they not been exposed to rabies in the 1700's, dramatically impacting their population and making their behavior towards humans more unpredictable. They were hunted to extinction by 1905.
2. Sea Mink
Approximate year of extinction: 1920
Why it's cool: It's a water ferret.
Ferrets are extremists. They're either completely, deeply unconscious or running around like a kindergartener on RedBull. Sea minks were among the largest mink species in North America, primarily found in the Atlantic along the East Coast. Because of their lush fur, they were wiped out by hunters.
What a tragedy. They were so, so fluffy. They had to be to survive frigid Atlantic waters all winter. They were physically engineered to be adorable. We'd have installed a swimming pool in the yard just to keep one.
1. Toolache Wallaby
Approximate year of extinction: 1939
Why it's cool: It was the world's prettiest kangaroo.
Design a kangaroo, but make it hot. Congrats! You now have a Toolache Wallaby. They were like the ballerinas of the wallaby world. They were sleeker than modern-day kangaroos and their movements were more elegant too. Instead of taking giant, leaping bounds, their stride entailed two small hops followed by a long, graceful one.
They were still alive in the early 1900s, but the last recorded Toolache Wallaby died in captivity in 1939. The species was officially declared extinct a few years later, thanks to a lethal combination of habitat loss, hunting and the introduction of invasive predators. Alas, no pet wallaby for us.