Photos of Earth’s Prehistoric Relics Are Bringing the Ancient World to Life

Mon Aug 01 2022

We live in incredible times, where we’re given glimpses of the very distant past through fossils and mummies. And as the human race, we’re constantly coming to new realizations about life on Earth before Homo sapiens. But in the last few years especially, things we thought we knew about prehistoric life have been challenged by recent discoveries.

From out-of-this-world beauty to unfathomable proportions, photos of incredible findings from around the planet really put things into perspective. We don’t know what happened between now and then, but clearly, Mother Nature was playing by a totally different set of rules.

A 15,000-year-old Puppy That Was Discovered in 2018 Still Has All Its Whiskers

If we found this creature suspended in permafrost, we’d assume it was still alive. This incredible fossil was discovered in the summer of 2018 in a permanently frozen surface layer in the heart of Siberia. Affectionately named Dogor (it means “friend” in the Yakut language), he became the oldest known fossil of a domesticated dog, having lived just shy of 15,000 years ago.

But the most shocking aspect of this furbaby is that is has been perfectly preserved for thousands of years. Not only does it still have its soft black nose or even all of its fur – but it literally still has its whiskers! When you open its mouth it’s even crazier; all the puppy teeth are lined up neatly in a row, still attached to the gums.

A Fatal Cross-Species Dinosaur Fight Between a Velociraptor and a Protoceratops

You can’t get a more amazing fossil sample than two dinosaurs actually engaged in a fight. In this sand deposit, a Velociraptor and a Protoceratops were found locked in combat in 1971, deep in the Gobi desert of Mongolia. The raptor’s foot had been buried into the herbivore’s neck in what must have been its painful and lethal end.

But don’t worry, the Protoceratops appears to have fought a valiant fight. The arm of the raptor is locked firmly between the teeth of the Protoceratops, and has been broken in two as a result. As Mark Norell of the American Museum of Natural said, “There is no doubt these animals were fighting.”

The Recently Extinct Australian Frog That Gave Birth to It’s Babies Out of It’s Mouth

The gastric-brooding frogs were native to Eastern Australia, and they had one of the weirdest evolutionary characteristics that we’ve ever come across. Sadly, these frogs are no longer with us, having died out in the 1980s due to the introduction of a pathogenic fungi. Yep, humans were responsible for introducing it to their native habitat.

But here’s the strange thing about them – female gastric-brooding frogs incubate their offspring in their stomachs, swallowing their eggs to do so. They would stop producing gastric acid, and basically turn their stomachs into a womb for six to seven weeks. Afterward, a metamorphosized baby frog would emerge from the mother’s mouth!

An Ancient Crab Claw That Fossilized Into a Perfect Opal Gem

This ancient crab claw is especially rare as it has completely transformed into opal. The conditions had to be just right for this prehistoric relic to convert into a gemstone, and on top of that, it managed to stay totally intact and in one piece for millions of years.

Generally speaking, opal is found in rock cavities. But if fragments of bone or shell remain buried in clay or sand and eventually turn to rock, opal can form inside the cavities left behind by those organic structures. In this case, the opal ended up fossilizing the entire crab claw that had been left on the ground, all those years ago.

The Skull of a Cretan Dwarf Mammoth May Have Inspired the Cyclopes of Ancient Mythology

Here on the left is the skeleton of a Cretan dwarf mammoth, the long-extinct mammoth species that only stood at around one meter tall. It was alive around 3.5million years ago during the Pliocene epoch and, as we can see, it had a formidable skull with a huge hollow crevasse that may have given birth the certain mythological folklore.

In fact, Cretan dwarf mammoth skulls are thought to have inspired the ancient mythological Cyclopes of Greek and Roman cultures. The Cyclopes was said to be an uncivilized humanoid with a one giant eye in the middle of its face, as pictured on the right. We can only imagine how the imagination would have run wild when stumbling upon one of these ancient relics.

The Leg of the Argentinosaurus Proves That They Had Truly Monstrous Proportions

Apparently, Jurassic Park wasn’t lying in some of their depictions. This gargantuan dinosaur leg belongs to one of the largest land mammals of all time, the Argentinosaurus. This unfathomably massive creature typically weighed around 72 to 83 metric tonnes and reached around 115 feet in length. As we can see from the photo, this woman barely even reaches the ankle of the Argentinosaurus.

This vertebrate not only grew to incredible sizes, but it grew at a rapid speed. They also reproduced by laying a large number of small eggs, thereby increasing the chances of passing on their genetic makeup. Despite their evolutionary advantages, it’s still hard to believe that something this big once lived on our planet.

A Two-Headed Mutant Dinosaur Baby That Lived Over a 100 Million Years Ago

At first glance, the fossil on the left can be quite confusing. Scientists in Yixian, China, discovered the fossil of a two-headed dinosaur in 2007. While it had been preserved in a well-known rich fossil deposit, the chances of discovering such a phenomenon are still incredibly low.

It’s thought that this mutation occurred because of a head injury sustained when this creature was just an embryo. Eric Buffetaut, a lead researcher in the Center for National Scientific Research, had this to say: “My first reaction when I saw that fossil was of the ‘Oh my God!’ type… It’s something you would not really expect to see, because the chances of such a freak being fossilized are so slim.”

A Giant Woolly Mammoth Tusk That Remained Frozen For Thousands of Years

Amidst the Siberian tundra, a hunter hit the jackpot when he found this enormous ivory fang. It may look like a contemporary sculpture forged out of metal, but it’s actually the tusk of a great woolly mammoth! If this is the size of one of its tusks, we can only imagine how huge it must have been thousands of years ago.

This tusk spent several millennia frozen in a Siberian riverbed, which kept it in pristine condition. But amazingly, it’s not the largest woolly mammoth tusk ever discovered – the single largest tusk was found in Texas and stood at a whopping 16 feet high.

The Whale’s Earliest Known Ancestor Was a Cute Land-Dwelling Racoon-Like Creature

It may be hard to believe, but in this picture, you’re looking at the Indohyus, AKA the earliest known ancestor of the modern-day whale. Yep – the world’s largest mammals actually descended from racoon-sized land animals that originated in the Himalayas. And we only discovered this in the last few years.

Even at this primitive point in their evolution, the Indohyus displayed characteristics of being well-adapted to life in the deep blue sea. They had especially heavy bones like hippos, meaning they could stay underwater indefinitely without floating to the surface. Who would have guessed that these ancient creatures, no bigger than a domestic cat, would end up ruling the seas 48 million years later?

The 28,000 Year Old Lion Cub That Looks Just As Alive Today As It Did Back Then

We’ve seen the corpse of an ancient puppy earlier in this article, but how about a perfectly preserved lion cub? Meet Sparta, the female lion cub who was discovered in 2018. She was found in perfect condition, frozen, in Siberia at the Semyuelyakh River of the Yakutia area.

Sparta is so perfectly preserved, she looks as alive today as she did 28,000 years ago when she was still alive. Not only does she still have all of her tawny yellow cub fur, but she even has some of her mother’s milk preserved in her stomach. Sparta’s lioness mother either abandoned her at the cave, or was killed during a hunt.

The Largest Flying Animal That Ever Lived Had a Stupifyingly Huge Head

Today’s birds are distant relatives of dinosaurs, and this terrifying prehistoric flying animal is a chilling reminder of that. This is the Quetzalcoatlus – a flying reptile that once ruled the skies for obvious reasons. They were absolutely massive, weighing approximately 200-250 kilograms, with wingspans of around 10-11 meters.

These creatures were surprisingly long and upright considering their size, with stiff, thick necks that were strong enough to hold up their disproportionately large heads and beaks. They were alive around 67 million years ago, and were native to North America. The Quetzalcoatlus may have been toothless, but it was undeniably terrifying regardless.

A 54 Million Year Old Lizard That Has Been Perfectly Preserved In Baltic Amber

Despite looking totally alive, this prehistoric gecko was actually found perfectly preserved in northwest Russia. It was discovered in 2004, suspended in Baltic amber, but this gecko is thought to have been alive during the early Eocene period, making it around 54 million years old.

However, this little lizard stumped researchers as the digits on its hands were unlike anything ever seen in the reptile world. This creature from a bygone era is so impressive that it went viral on Twitter, and even Elon Musk couldn’t help but comment on it, writing “That species has stood the test of time.”

The 60 Million Year Old Super Serpent That Makes Pythons Look Like Worms

Boy are we glad that these are now extinct. The Titanoboa was the largest genus of snake that ever lived, and as this skeleton shows, it truly was the stuff of nightmares. It’s thought that these magnificent beasts could get to 47 feet in length, and weigh up to 2,500 lbs. These giant snakes actually lived after the extinction of the dinosaurs, around 60 million years ago.

Judging by its skeleton, the Titanoboa look like they slithered straight out of a science fiction film. Scientists believed that they were one of the top predators in the food chain, and we can understand why. But in recent years, it has been discovered that they actually lived on a diet of fish, mainly.

A Colossal Turtle Skeleton From the Late Cretaceous Period Is As Big As an SUV

The Archelon ischyros is the largest turtle species that ever lived on planet earth, and they were truly of gargantuan proportions. Pictured below is the American paleontologist George Reber Wieland and the impressive specimen he collected in 1895 that became the prototype of the giant reptile species. It dates back to sometime between 66 to 100 million years ago.

So how big do they get? The largest Archelon ischyros ever unearthed was 16 feet long and weighed 4,900 lbs – that’s about as big as a Honda Civic. But we’re most impressed with the incredible snowflake pattern on the underside of its body – that is, if we can look past those scary elongated claws.

A Megalodon’s Giant Black Tooth Is Way More Hardcore Than That of the Great White Shark

The largest shark that ever lived is the Megalodon, a relative of the great white shark that lived somewhere between three to 23 million years ago. But nothing gets across the incredible scale of this fish species like a side-by-side comparison of its tooth next to that of a great white shark. The difference in proportion is truly mind-boggling.

The Megalodon shark’s name literally means “big tooth,” so the clue was in the title. With a jaw span of 2.7 by 3.4 meters and 276 individual teeth, these sea beasts really were the apex predator of the sea. But as some Reddit users commented, it’s hard to see past the difference in color between the sharks’ teeth, with one user writing “And we learn here, that the common white shark lays much more emphasis on dental hygiene as the Megalodon.”

The 345 Million-Year-Old Crinoid Fossil That Looks Like a Carnivorous Plant on Steriods

If aliens do exist, they probably look a lot like this, which makes this prehistoric discovery all the more unsettling. Take a look at this perfectly intact crinoid fossil dating back to approximately 345 million years ago. We can hardly believe that this specimen remained in such perfect condition for so long.

It may surprise you to know that this prehistoric creature isn’t a plant at all – it’s actually an animal! It is understood that these crinoids inspired the out-of-this-world creatures in 1979s Alien. But for some people, these animals more readily bring Stranger Things to mind, as one Reddit user commented that this fossil resembled an “early Demogorgon.”

The “King Lizard” Basilosaurus Is the Fearsome Whale Ancestor Who Would Eat Everything in Its Wake

This incredible structure is actually the fossil of an early whale species called the Basilosaurus, which has been extinct for about 40 million years. It was discovered during an excavation in Eygpt, at Wadi Al-Hitan, along with several other incredible whale fossils. In fact, so many priceless whale fossils were discovered at the site that the place was named after it – Wadi Al-Hitan literally translates to “Valley of the Whales.”

Why are there so many whale fossils collected in one place? One theory is that this part of the Egyptian desert was actually underwater, and not only that, but it might have been the lowest submerged point in the area, explaining why all the whale bodies fell around the same spot. Either way, this particular fossil belonged to the predatory whale ancestor Basilosaurus and was at least 56 feet in length.

The Claw of a Now Extinct New Zealand Bird Had Been Preserved for 3,300 Years

We used to live amongst giant ostrich-like birds called Moa up until about 600 years ago. Native to New Zealand, they became extinct once people came and inhabited their land – presumably, because of hunting. Some of them stood at 12 feet tall and weighed over 500 lbs, making them the tallest bird species on record.

These freakishly big birds didn’t fly, which may have played a part in their eventual downfall. The photo on the left shows a preserved foot of one of these larger-than-life creatures, and it’s a fascinating sight. This 3,300-year-old Moa claw was discovered on an island in Mount Owen, New Zealand, by a group of archaeologists.

The Skull of a Sarcosuchus Dwarfs That of a Full-Grown Nile Crocodile

Africa’s largest crocodile is the Nile crocodile, native to freshwater habits all across the continent. The largest Nile crocodile ever recorded was 21 feet and two inches long, but that’s nothing compared to it’s prehistoric relative. In the photo below, you can see the size comparison between the skull of a Nile Crocodile and that of the formidable Sarcosuchus.

The Sarcosuchus lived around 110 million years ago and grew to gargantuan proportions. They could get to around 40 feet in length, weigh up to seven tonnes, and had snouts so long that they made up 75% of their enormous skull. The fear-inducing Nile crocodiles of today wouldn’t hold a candle to these primitive reptiles.

Celestial-Looking Ancient Marine Animals That Predate the Dinosaurs by 300 Million Years

These little things may look like Monopoly pieces, but they’re actually tiny Crinoid fossils. Crinoids are ancient marine animals that existed 300 million years before dinosaurs were around. They peaked during the Palaeozoic and Mesozoic eras, but some are still around today.

Before modern science, these jewel-toned charms used to be referred to as fairy coins and star stones, believed to bring you good luck. But it’s hardly surprising that people thought they had celestial origins – after all, they’re in the shape of tiny stars and have an otherworldly blue-green hue.

An Unexplained Fossil of an Ancient Tortoise Wedged In the Jaw of a Primitive Elephant

There are a couple of interesting theories about how this prehistoric tortoise ended up in the mouth of an equally ancient elephant. Some people believe that the tortoise got caught in the jaw of a grazing elephant, who then couldn’t remove the reptile from its mouth. Perhaps the elephant pierced the tortoise’s shell with its teeth, and found it impossible to detach.

Another school of thought believes that the elephant died first, and then a wandering tortoise crawled inside the elephant’s mouth to gnaw on its bones for calcium. As one Twitter user wrote, “Most likely, this turtle found an elephant’s skull, started eating… but something went wrong…” Either way, it’s a pretty incredible fossil with a mysterious origin story.

For 99 Million Years, a “Hell Ant” Has Held Its Victim In a Lethal Death Grip

For 99 million years, these two insects have been suspended in the middle of a brutal fight, in which the prehistoric “hell ant” (also known as Haidomyrmecinae) is biting the head off of another six-legged critter. This dramatic scene was captured in amber all those years ago and has remained that way ever since.

Discovered in 2017, a paleontologist at the New Jersey Institute of Technology department of biological sciences wrote, “Hell ants have two features found in no living species: highly specialized scythe-like mandibles and a wide diversity of horns that are present on what is essentially the forehead.” Well, at least we don’t have to worry about these inferno insects today.

A Triceratops Femur Fossil Shows How It Is More Than Twice As Thick As an Elephant’s

This photo really puts into perspective how much larger things were in prehistoric times. The bone to the left of the woman belongs to a Triceratops femur from the late Cretaceous period, around 66 million years ago. While the bone on the right is an elephant thigh bone.

While the Triceratops thigh bone is around the same height as that of the elephants, it’s more than twice the thickness. But these creatures could weigh up to 12 metric tons, so it only makes sense that their leg bones would have to be extremely strong and wide to carry all that weight.

A Collection of Fossilised Australian Crinoids, Which Have Been Around For 450 Million Years

We know we’re not the only ones thinking about the matrix when we look at this incredible fossil specimen. This prehistoric relic was found in Australia and shows a collection of alien-like crinoid wonders all piled on top of each other. It really does look like the octopus-inspired sentinel machines that Neo fought off!

Officially identified as Jimbicrinus Bostocki, these animals are considered to be one of the oldest living creatures on the planet. They almost ceased to be during the Permo-Triassic extinction period around  250 million years ago, which saw 90% of earth’s species die off. But, despite the odds, they survived it and can still be found floating around the Great Barrier Reef today.