Largest extinct animals

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The largest extinct animals known to date are listed here. They are arranged by their taxonomy (classification). The list only deals with individual animals; size of colonies (such as coral reefs) is not dealt with here.

Vertebrates[change | change source]

Fish[change | change source]

The largest bony fish of all time was Leedsichthys problematicus from the Middle Jurassic, at around 17 metres (56 ft) long.[1] Earlier claims have been scaled down.

Megalodon with whale shark (purple), great white shark (green), and human (blue) for scale.

The extinct megatoothed shark, C. megalodon is by far the biggest and most powerful shark that ever lived.[2] This giant shark reached a length of more than 16 metres (52 ft).[3][4] Larger individuals are possible.[5]

Reptiles[change | change source]

Turtles[change | change source]

The largest fossil turtle seems to be the freshwater turtle Stupendemys, with an estimated total carapace length of more than 11 feet (3.3 metres). A close contender is Archelon ischyros, a sea turtle, which reached a length of 16 feet (4.8 m) across the flippers and a weight of over 4,850 lb (2,200 kg).[6] For comparison, the largest living turtle is the Leatherback Sea Turtle at a maximum 2000 lbs (900 kg).

Archosaurs[change | change source]

The largest known crocodilian is likely Sarcosuchus imperator at 12 metres (39 ft) long and weighing 8 tonnes.[7] A close contender in size is Deinosuchus, also estimated at around 12 metres (39 ft),[8]

Pterosaurs[change | change source]

The largest pterosaur was Quetzalcoatlus northropi, at 127 kg (280 lbs) and with a wingspan of 11 m (36 ft). Another close contender is Hatzegopteryx, also with a wingspan of 11 m (this estimate is based on a skull 3 m long (10 ft).[9][10]

Dinosaurs[change | change source]

Titanosaurs hold the world record for the size of a land animal. A recent discovery in the Argentine found 150 bones from seven titanosaurs. The largest were from an animal 40 metres (~130 feet) long and 20 metres (35 feet) tall. It would have weighed about 77 tonnes. The BBC flew a team out to record the event.[11]

A notably large titanosaurid is Argentinosaurus, which is known from partially preserved remains. This sauropod has been estimated as 30–37 metres (98–121 ft) long and 73–99 metric tons in weight.[12] Some other sauropods, Supersaurus, Sauroposeidon, and Seismosaurus (also known as Diplodocus hallorum) probably rival Argentinosaurus in size.[13]

The largest ornithopods, Zhuchengosaurus in blue.

The very largest ornithopods, like Zhuchengosaurus and Shantungosaurus were as heavy as medium sized sauropods at up to 23 metric tons,[14][15] but never grew far beyond 15 meters (50 feet). The largest is probably Zhuchengosaurus at 16.5 metres (54 ft) in length.[14] However, Lambeosaurus laticaudus appears to be close contender at around 15–16.4 metres (49–54 ft) in length.[15]

Size comparison of selected giant theropod dinosaurs

The largest known theropod is Spinosaurus aegyptiacus, estimated at 15.2–17.4 metres (50–57 ft) in length and around 7–9 metric tons in weight.[16] Spinosaurus aegyptiacus is also recognized as the largest terrestrial predator yet known.[16]

A close contender in size is a giant theropod from South America, Giganotosaurus carolinii, whose holotype specimen is estimated at 12.5 metres (41 ft) in length,[17] and another specimen is estimated at 13.5 metres (44 ft) in length.[18] A study however presents Carcharodontosaurus as a close contender in size to Spinosaurus aegyptiacus.[19] Some other notable giant theropods (e.g. Tyrannosaurus rex, Acrocanthosaurus, and Mapusaurus) may also have rivaled these giant theropods in size. Another very large theropod was Deinocheirus, being 3 metres (10 ft) tall at hips, and weighing up to 16,000 pounds.[20] The largest dromaeosaurid is Utahraptor. In addition to being the largest known dromaeosaurid, it was also the largest known deinonychosaur and the largest known paravian.

The largest thyreophoran was Ankylosaurus at 9 metres (30 ft) in length and 6.5 tons in weight.[21] Stegosaurus was also 9 meters (30 ft) long but around 5 tons in weight.

The largest ceratopsian known is probably the newly discovered Eotriceratops with a skull alone being 3 metres (10 ft) in length. Maximum size of this ceratopsian is suggested to be around 9 metres (30 ft) in length and 13 tonnes in weight.[22][23]

Ichthyosaurs[change | change source]

The largest ichthyosaur was Shonisaurus sikanniensis at ~21 metres (70 ft) in length.[24] This would make it the largest extinct marine animal.

Plesiosaurs[change | change source]

  • Long-necked plesiosauridae

The largest plesiosaur was Mauisaurus haasti, growing to about 20 metres (66 ft) in length. Next behind was Elasmosaurus at 14 metres (46 ft) long.

There is much controversy here. Fossil remains of a pliosaur nicknamed Predator X were excavated from Norway in 2008. It was about 15 metres (49 ft) in length and 41 metric tons in weight.[25] However, in 2002, a team of paleontologists in Mexico discovered the remains of a pliosaur Monster of Aramberri, which is also estimated at 15 metres (49 ft) in length.[26] However, this specimen is thought to be a juvenile, with evidence that it had been attacked by an even larger pliosaur.[27] Some media claimed that Monster of Aramberri was a Liopleurodon this is unconfirmed.[26]

Squamata[change | change source]

The largest known prehistoric snake is Titanoboa, estimated at 13–15 metres (43–49 ft) in length and 1135 kg–1819 kg in weight.[28] Another large fossil snake is Gigantophis, estimated at around 11 metres (36 ft) in length.[29] Both these snakes lived in tropical rain forests. In third place is a an aquatic snake, Palaeophis colossaeus, which may have been around 9 metres (30 ft) in length.[28][30]

Giant mosasaurs are the largest animals within this group. The largest known mosasaur is likely Mosasaurus hoffmanni, estimated at 17.6 metres (58 ft) in length.[31] A close contender in size is Hainosaurus bernardi, estimated at 15 metres (49 ft) in length.[32] Another giant mosasaur is Tylosaurus, estimated at 10–14 metres (33–46 ft) in length.[33][34]

Birds[change | change source]

The largest birds of all time might have been the elephant birds of Madagascar. Of almost the same size was the Australian Dromornis stirtoni. Both were about 3 m tall (10 ft). The elephant birds were up to 400 kg and Dromornis was up to 500 kg in weight. The tallest bird ever was the Giant Moa (Dinornis maximus) at 12 ft tall.

The largest flight-capable bird was Argentavis magnificens which had a wingspan of 8.3 m (28 ft), and a body weight of 110 kg (244 lb).

Mammals[change | change source]

Whales[change | change source]

Basilosaurus was once recognized as one of the largest known extinct cetaceans at 18 metres (59 ft) in length.[35]

The largest fossil toothed whale was the Miocene whale Livyatan melvillei which was estimated to be 13.5-17.5 meter in length.[36][37] One notable feature of L. melvillei was its teeth which were 36 cm long and is unmatched by any other animal, extinct or alive.[38]

However, the largest fossil whales were baleen whales (plankton feeders) from the Pliocene and Pleistocene Epochs.[39] A notable example is the bones of a Pliocene age baleen whale, assigned the questionable name "Balaenoptera sibbaldina", which likely rivaled the modern blue whale in size.[39]

Land mammals[change | change source]

The largest land-mammal of all time Paraceratherium

The largest perissodactyl, and land mammal, of all time was Paraceratherium. It stood 5.5 m (18 ft) tall at the shoulder, a total height of 8 m (27 ft), totally 12 m (40 ft) long and may have weighed 20 tonnes (22 tons), though mass estimates vary. Some prehistoric horned rhinos also grew to large sizes. The giant woolly rhino Elasmotherium reached 20 ft long and 6.6 ft high.

Invertebrates[change | change source]

Myriapoda[change | change source]

Millipedes (Diplopoda)[change | change source]

The largest by far was the giant Arthropleura. Measuring 2.5 metres (8.2 ft) and 45 centimetres (18 in) wide, it was the largest terrestrial arthropod of all time.

References[change | change source]

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