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20 Extinct Giants of Prehistoric Times

17. North American Horses

Research shows that the wild horses living in North America were most likely wiped out by early humans. Toward the end of the Pleistocene era, the extinction of North American horses, mammoths and other large mammals coincided with the Ice Age. These horses, ancestors of modern donkeys, went extinct in North America, but somehow survived in Africa and Eurasia.

20 Extinct Giants of Prehistoric Times
[Image via Pinterest]
The subspecies of the modern horses we know today evolved in North America roughly 1 million to 2 million years ago. Horses began being domesticated by humans starting in 4,000 BC. Fossils indicate that the North American horses went extinct approximately 12,500 years ago. It’s fascinating to imagine the landscape being overrun by majestic North American horses all those years ago.

20 Extinct Giants of Prehistoric Times

18. Mastodons

Mastodons are distant relatives of the wooly mammoth. They migrated to North America via the Bering Strait land bridge roughly 15 million years ago. These creatures were prominent in North and Central America until they went extinct 10,00 years ago due to overharvesting by Clovis hunters.

20 Extinct Giants of Prehistoric Times
[Image via Nationalgeographic]
Typically, mastodons traveled in herds and lived in cold spruce woodland areas. Their eating habits were very similar to modern elephants. They would browse and graze for mixed plants. The bulk of the mastodon diet was coniferous twigs. Mastodons in America had thick, shaggy coats like the wooly mammoth. Their tusks could reach over 16 feet in length and curved slightly upwards. These mammals reached heights up to 9 feet tall and weighed nearly 10 tons.

20 Extinct Giants of Prehistoric Times

19. Saber-toothed Tiger

Known as Smilodon, the saber-toothed tiger most commonly lived in North, South and Central America during the Pleistocene epoch. These animals are notable for their large canine teeth that extend from their mouth. The teeth were used to capture and kill prey quickly and could be as long as 1 foot.

20 Extinct Giants of Prehistoric Times
[Image via Sciencing]
Most saber-toothed tigers are roughly the size of modern cats and built compactly. They had shorter spines, feet, and tails than most felines. Comparable to a jaguar, saber-toothed tigers weighed between 120 and 220 pounds. These mammals were considered apex predators and preyed on large mammals. Bison, pig-like animals called Platygonus and a llama-related creature called Hemiauchenia were targets of the cunning saber-toothed tiger. The dire wolf and American lion were competitors of the saber-toothed tiger. Although it’s named tiger, this mammal is not related to tigers or other modern cats.

20 Extinct Giants of Prehistoric Times
Milwaukee P. Museum

20. Giant Dragonfly

Related to modern dragonflies, the Meganeura is the biggest predatory flying insect ever discovered. Its wingspan reaches from 25 to 28 inches. This terrifying insect lived on Earth roughly 300 million years ago. Higher oxygen concentrations in prehistoric times made it possible for this bug to breathe enough to support its size. Luckily, we don’t have to worry about encountering these bugs that are one quarter the size of a human!

20 Extinct Giants of Prehistoric Times
[Image via Eartharchives]
Additionally, a lack of predators contributed to the Meganeura being able to evolve to be so large. Scientists also believe that because they were developed in water before appearing on land as adults, they were more equipped to handle high oxygen levels. Meganeura was a predatory species and feasted on other insects. It’s also possible that they ate small amphibians.