There are plenty of strange, beautiful, and altogether unusual animals living amongst us today, but a look through the annals of Earth's ancient history reveals that, when it comes to interesting animals, we missed out. Here's a collection of the some most improbable creatures that once walked the Earth.

Top image: Subfossil lemur, Megaladapis edwardsi / Michael B.H.

In response to this question about the extinct animals that you find most intriguing, you pulled in responses from all across the land, skies, and time. These are just some of the fascinating creatures that we'd most like to get a look at:



Argentavis magnificens, the largest flying bird ever known. Imagine seeing this flying above you. I wouldn't want to be in any situation where I'd be afraid of it making a meal out of me, but seeing a bird this large in its natural habitat would be pretty awe-inspiring!


For a better sense of the scale, Kaeleira also provided us with this picture on the left.

James Ryan

Believe it or not, the passenger pigeon. Considering how close I came to seeing one (there were not that many years between the last one leaving the planet and my coming here), and some of what I heard from those with memories of the bird, it's been of some interest.


And, of course, birds' very close relatives dinosaurs also came up, including this particular specimen from PaleoBrewer, who was also responsible for helping to discover it. PaleoBrewer provided us with this description and picture of the titanosaurian:


Rukwatitan bisepultus. I may be a little biased on this as I worked several years preparing the fossils from the matrix and leading the manuscript with my co-authors but it still blows my mind these creatures once lived and roamed the world many millions of years ago. It is hard not to imagine these creatures once living the areas of Tanzania that we do fieldwork in or when studying the fossils in our lab.


The Gentle Giants


Giant lemur. Basically a lemur the size of a gorilla that went extinct about 2,000 years ago, when people came to Madagascar.

Frankly, I have no idea what it means to be a lemur about the size of a gorilla. But I'd like to.

Ben Grimm

Probably an Ankylosaurus (always my favorite Dinosaur), but I think missing the Glyptodon annoys me more, because it existed a heartbeat ago in geological terms. The prehistoric mammals were so cool and we just barely missed being able to see so many of them.


If we are going to talk Cenozoic then the prize goes to Megatherium; the giant ground sloth.


(Image: Muséum national d'histoire naturelle)

Big Cats


It's not like the internet needs more cats, but it has to be the Smilidon for me. With all that megafauna around there was always something to eat it. I know it's nothing like the little thing that jumps on my bed at night and attacks my unwary hand, but it would be great to compare that with how things were 10,000 years ago.


I would love to see the thylacene (Tasmanian tiger) brought back. I've been fascinated with it since, as a kid, I saw the footage of the last living one, filmed in captivity in the 30s.

ETA: Footage can be seen here