The World’s Biggest Beasts
Polar bears are the largest species of bear and biggest carnivores on land. Males commonly weigh in around 1,300 pounds while females are typically smaller and weigh up to 650 pounds. Warming temperatures are shrinking the polar bear’s arctic habitat, and some scientists believe the bears could be extinct by the end of the century.
This large prehistoric elephant became extinct about 10,000 years ago. Included in this picture is a hairy mammoth bull which is part of a scene from “Prehistoric Kansas,” at Dyche Museum in Kansas City, Mo., in this 1938 file photo
Great White Shark
The great white is the world’s largest predatory fish and has a reputation for being a fierce and aggressive predator. While it’s unclear how many sharks remain, scientists consider great whites endangered and are trying to learn the sharks’ migration routes to improve conservation efforts.
Gone: Mega Shark
The bus-sized megalodon shark was the end of a run of giant sharks that died out 2-3 million years ago. Some scientists believe it is the ancestor of today’s most vicious sharks, the great whites.
Whales are the largest animals on Earth. Some can be 100 feet long and weigh up to 150 tons. Yet many of them feed on tiny shrimp-like crustaceans called krill.
The average adult manatee grows to be about 10-12 feet long and weighs about 1,000-1,800 pounds. Known as the “cows of the sea,” these endangered beasts hear 10 times better than humans underwater.
A sea turtle can grow to 200 pounds or more, but despite its size, many die from being choked by six-pack holders or from getting trapped in abandoned fishing nets.
The African elephant is one of only four species of elephants still alive. African elephant generally weigh in around 16,000 pounds, and illegal poaching and habitat reduction has cut their population in half in the last 30 years.
The heaviest white rhinoceros can weight as much as 5,000 pounds. Rhinos also suffer from habitat reduction, and poachers value the beast’s magnificent horn.
Weighing in at 2,000 pounds, the American buffalo is the largest terrestrial animal in North America. Also known as the bison, millions of the animals roamed the plains until they were hunted to near extinction in the 19th century. Now conservation efforts have brought the population up to 350,000.
According to USGS, “The largest complete dinosaur we know of was Brachiosaurus; it reached 75 feet in length and 40 feet in height. The smallest dinosaurs were just slightly larger than a chicken; Compsognathus was 3 feet long and probably weighed about 6.5 pounds.” Regardless of size, though, barely any dinosaurs survived the mass extinction 65 million years ago.
Common hippos, Hippopotamus amphibious, are the second heaviest land mammals on Earth. Hippos in Congo have been reduced to less than 900, and scientists think this population will be extinct by the end of the century.
Gone: Giant Ape
It wasn’t quite King Kong, but gigantic apes, Gigantopithecus blackii, lived alongside humans for over a million years. Fortunately for the early humans, the 10-foot tall and 1,200 pound primate’s diet consisted mainly of bamboo. Unfortunately for the apes, humans likely out-competed the beast for living space, eventually leading to its extinction
Previously thought to be a mythical creature, a team led by Tsunemi Kubodera, from the National Science Museum in Tokyo, tracked and photographed the 26-foot long Architeuthis as it attacked prey nearly 3,000 feet deep off the coast of Japan’s Bonin islands.
Gone: Saber-Toothed Tiger
Fossil evidence indicates that the saber-toothed tiger (Smilodon californicus) , known for its 8-inch upper canine teeth, was somewhat shorter than a modern lion, but weighed more. This meat-eater was very common in California during the late Pleistocene epoch that ended about 11,000 to 10,000 years ago.