Throughout the early days of Earth, many animals roamed our land. During the era known as the Pleistocene epoch, a large subset of animals lived on this planet. Also known as the Ice Age, this time period lasted from 2,588,000 to 11,700 years ago, during which the last glacial period occurred. The Ice Age peaked during this time, leading to the formation of the mammoth steppe, the Earth’s largest biome. The mammoth steppe stretched across Eurasia from the Iberian Peninsula and into the Yukon and Alaska.
The cold, dry climate of the mammoth steppe was the ideal environment for woolly mammoths, horse, bison, and other mammals. Herbs, grasses, and willow shrubs dominated the landscape, making it the perfect place for many herbivores to feed. This region lasted about 100,000 years without changing but suddenly went extinct approximately 12,000 years ago. Another notable phenomenon of the Pleistocene epoch was the existence of megafauna. Megafauna were animals characterized by massive bodies that weighed 97 pounds and over. Read on to learn more about the fascinating giant animals that inhabited the Earth millions of years ago!
1. Dire Wolf
Found primarily in California’s La Brea Tar Pit and the Natural Trap Cave in Wyoming, dire wolves were roughly 25 percent larger than the average gray wolf. Known as Canis dirus, dire wolves usually weighed between 130 and 150 pounds. Because of their short legs, they most likely were not marathon runners like modern wolves.
Experts have wondered if dire wolves have a drastically different genetic makeup than the wolves we have today. While that is a possibility, it’s also probable that they are hybrids of several different types of wolves. Aside from saber-toothed tiger, dire wolves are the most famous large prehistoric carnivores found in North America. Dire wolf fossils have been found in a wide range of environments including grasslands, the plains, the savannah and forested mountain regions. As recently as 9,500 years ago, dire wolves roamed the Earth.