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.
(Christian Darkin / Science Photo Library)
Reconstructing fossil sharks is a difficult task. These fish have skeletons of cartilage rather than bone, and extinct species typically left only teeth and the occasional vertebra in the fossil record. The largest of these predatory fish swam the seas between about 28 and 1.5 million years ago: Carcharocles megalodon, a distant cousin of the great white shark. Calculations based on the seven-inch teeth of this giant yield maximum lengths of about 50 to 55 feet, and the prehistoric predator may have had one of the most powerful bites of all time. Estimates made in 2008 suggested that Carcharocles megalodon could bite prey with a force of more than 11 tons, several times the estimated bite force of Tyrannosaurus rex.