The Prehistoric Giants Hall of Fame
What were the largest species of all time? Does the Tyrannosaurus rex make the list?
- By Brian Switek
- Smithsonian magazine, April 2012
Titanoboa was one gigantic snake. It lived around 58 to 60 million years ago, a scant several million years after the mass extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs. It could grow 42 feet or more in length and weigh more than a ton, vastly outslithering the previous fossil record holder, a 40-million-year-old, 33-foot-long snake called Gigantophis. But Titanoboa is just one proud inductee in the Prehistoric Giants Hall of Fame. Meet the other record-holders.
(Jon Hughes / Dorling Kindersley)
There have been many big birds in the history of life, from the 10-foot-high flightless elephant birds of Madagascar to the carnivorous, earth-bound, 9-foot-tall Brontornis of prehistoric Patagonia. But the roughly 6-million-year-old Argentavis magnificens was special. With a wingspan of 23 feet, this was the largest flying bird of all time. Exactly how such a large bird took off is a matter of debate, but its anatomy indicates that it was primarily a glider, like modern vultures and condors. Unless there is an even larger fossil bird out there, Argentavis may represent the upper limit for how big birds could get without sacrificing the power of flight.