We know that real monsters walk, slither, and crawl among us, and each year we learn more about the amazing creatures from Earth's past and present. We look at ten of the more monstrous names we added this decade.
In the last ten years, researchers have discovered thousands of species, both living and extinct. We got dino-eating crocodiles and killer kangaroos; a fish with a transparent head and a demon duck of doom; a bright pink millipede and giant spiders. And previously named species, such as the tongue-eating isopod and the alien-limbed Magnapinna, made headlines.
A few of these species were observed before 2000, but were only named or recognized as species in the last ten years. And each has some wonderfully monstrous quality, be it their incredible size, arsenal of offensive or defensive weapons, or knack for survival.
A Big Cat With Bite: The Bornean Clouded Leopard, which was found to be a new species in 2007 (though it had been observed long before), may not look like much at first. It may weigh in at a mere 55 pounds, putting it on the small side for a big cat, but it has the largest teeth of any known cat alive. It has even been described as the modern answer to the Sabertooth Tiger.
The Largest Snake to Slither the Earth: If South America's giant Anacondas make you quiver, be grateful that Titanoboa cerrejonensis has been dead for two million years. This prehistoric constrictor grew up to 50 feet in length and weighed in at a whopping 2500, the largest snake ever found. And its favorite food? Crocodiles. I can only imagine the digestive system on that thing.
Incidentally, this decade also saw the discovery of the smallest known snake, the Barbados Threadsnake.
Fanged Frogs: 2009 was a big year for frogs with teeth. Fanged frogs turned up in the Mount Bosavi crater in Papua New Guinea, where strange and wondrous new species are being discovered all the time. But even more monstrous are the Limnonectes megastomias, recently discovered in Thailand. This amphibian has been known to use its fangs in deadly combat, dismembering its froggy opponents. On top of that, when a bird swoops near, L. megastomias will snap and turn it into a tasty feast.
Sea Monsters of the Ancient Deep: Paleontologists digging in the Arctic Svalbard islands uncovered what they believe to be a new species of pliosaur, one with a skull twice as large as a Tyrannosaurus rex's. Its teeth were 12 inches long (with a bite four times as strong as T. Rex's), and is 15-meter-long body weighed an estimated 45 tons. That would make this Jurassic beast considerably larger than any pliosaur previously discovered.
Beware the Box: Giant jellyfish are a sight to behold, but it's the diminutive Malo kingi that you'll really want to avoid. The jelly gets its name, tragically, from its first known victim, Robert King, an American tourist swimming off the Queensland coast in 2002. Some researchers believe kingi venom is among the most toxic in the world.
A Rat as Big as a Cow: They just don't make rodents like they used to. Josephoartigasia monesi weighed around a ton — dwarfing the modern capybara — and had enormous incisors that rival a beaver's wood shredding teeth. Those incisors came in hand when fending off predatory birds and Sabertooth Tigers, though this largest of the rodents snacked on fruits and vegetables.
Mammal-Eating Plants: Pitcher plants are nothing new, but these large, rat-eating veggies added a few species in the last ten years. Naturalist David Attenborough was immortalized in Nepenthes attenboroughii, a new species found in the Philippines. Rodents are attracted to the liquid in the pitchers, then drown when they tumble inside.
A Bug Bigger Than You: In 2007, diggers found giant spiked claw belonging to Jaekelopterus rhenaniae in Prum, Germany. This sea scorpion, which lived 390 million years ago, was an estimated 8.2 meters long and ate anything it could get its claws on — including other scorpions.
Extreme Living, in Your Hairspray: Extremophiles can exist in environments that would kill lesser species — in extreme heat or cold, inside nuclear reactors, or in the void of space. Microbacterium hatanonis, discovered in 2008, chooses an odd environment as its home: in hairspray. It's not clear how the bacterium affects humans, but the discovery adds more information on where and how they can survive.
Bomber Worms: This year, a researcher at Scripps Institute of Oceanography discovered seven new species of sea worms that secrete small globs of fluid that act as biological flash bombs. These bombs glow, distracting predators while the worm slips away. It's only a shame that their defensive bombs can't be weaponized for bonus monster action.