The modern world has a wide selection of carnivorous predatory animals, from the fearsome polar bear to the savage stoat, but these are relatively insignificant when measured against the monster meat-eaters of millions of years ago. In an age where size and savagery ruled, only the strongest and most ruthless survived. T-Rex is one that everyone can instantly recall, but there were other cruel carnivores, like the terror birds pictured above, that deserve to be remembered. We can all think of having seen those evil-looking, birdlike pterodactyls in movies about the age of dinosaurs, but they were only one of many species.
Among them was the truly monstrous beast thought to have been the largest flying creatures ever to exist on earth. With wingspans of 40 to 50 ft, the Azhdarchids were pterosaurs as big as some modern aircraft, with incredibly lop-sided bodies. Hugely long legs, beaks and necks adorned unusually small torsos with wings that were, surprisingly, proportionately short. It is thought that they were not able to hunt in flight, but needed to land and scrabble awkwardly for anything that they could swallow whole. Since one of these terrifying monsters stood as much as 20ft tall, it is easy to imagine that man might well have been a prey animal for them, had they lived alongside each other.
Before dinosaurs ruled the earth, in what is referred to as the late Permian period, there was one species that ruled the roost as a predator. Some may recognize the creature as that which terrorized the cast of TV series ‘Primeval’. Gorgonopsids could be as much as 18 to 20ft long, with powerful jaws and razor-sharp, sabre-like teeth which could easily rip prey apart. Some species even had a double row of these, especially useful for hanging lethally on to prey which at times could be as big and heavy as the rhinoceroses of today. These terrible hunters are thought to have been fast and agile, and could conceivably have had fur hides, because they and mammals were fairly closely related.
One of the most horrifying of sights is the close-up of a crocodile in action, powerful jaws clamping onto some hapless animal before dragging it into the watery depths. Something like 8 million years ago now, the region we know as the rainforests of South America were actually a gigantic inland sea, populated to overflowing with enormous creatures such as turtles, rodents, crocodiles and freshwater whales. Among all of these huge and terrifying creatures was a monstrous crocodilian predator called ‘Purussaurus’. It was the undisputed ruler of this environment, a crocodile somewhere between 40 and 50 ft in length, with appropriately large jaws. Remains of prey creatures bitten cleanly in two have been discovered, lending further weight to the idea that this was the largest monster of its type ever to have existed. A truly terrifying top predator that ought never to be forgotten.
When you think about the wild boar, you think about a creature that exudes naked savagery and has absolutely no fear. Pigs today are mainly vegetarian, for which humanity should be grateful, but in prehistoric times this was not the case. The Entelodon was an early porcine beast that existed solely on a meat diet, and as a carnivore was truly ferocious. It also looked the part, being as tall at the shoulder as any human, and equipped with savage teeth set into the gigantically powerful jaws of a massive head. Part of the hunting strategy employed by this fearsome looking monster was quite literally frightening other predators away from their meals, though it is thought that the beast was more than capable of capturing live prey if required. Evidence suggests that these awful creatures also fought a great deal amongst themselves, and were quite happy to eat one another if prey was scarce. They were not at all pretty, but 9 million years of existence prove just how effective these horrid creatures were.
If you imagined that the biggest and scariest prehistoric monster must have been the Tyrannosaurus Rex, think again. Recent paleontological discoveries have revealed that Even T-Rex would have run from the granddaddy of all predatory dinosaurs, the ‘Spinosaurus’. Fossil evidence proves that this majestic and murderous monster would have been between 50 and 60ft long, weighing in at ten tones or more and carrying a sail fin on its back taller than the average human. The long shape of the jaws gives rise to speculation that the creature spent a lot of time in water, eating anything that it came across, ranging from fish to dinosaurs. On land it was probably as quick as the T-Rex but far more deadly. Even though this awesome beast is less well known, Spinosaurus is thought to have been the largest dinosaur ever to hunt prey on the surface of the planet.