THiS POSTER Signpost

MONSTERS, INC.

Long, long ago, in the mists of time, a younger world harboured the ancestors of present day insects, birds and animals. Some of them were so incredibly huge, eerie and frightful that you could mistake them for mythical creatures. What if these monsters from different periods hop on a time machine, travel to 2016 and decide to pay you a visit! Fret not! They are here merely to share their stories (backed by scientific research, of course). Stop looking for them under your bed, and wait at the door. Knock! Knock!



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1. ARTHROPLEURA

PALEOZOIC ERA

(323 to 299 million years ago)

Growing up to a length of 7 ft and a width of one-and-a-half ft, I, the millipede, come from a world, where being plump or gigantic was normal, thanks to the great abundance of oxygen during the carboniferous period. I call home the regions that are North America and Scotland today. Though I look terrifying, I don’t take interest in blood and flesh, rather I devour the swamp plants.

WHY I BECAME EXTINCT: Climate change. I became extinct during the Permian period when moist climate began to dry out.

WHY AM I SPECIAL? I am the largest of our species, and the largest known invertebrates of all time.

2. JAEKELOPTERUS

PALEOZOIC ERA

(390 million years ago)

Though called a ‘sea’ scorpion, I lurk in the lakes and rivers, rather than seas and oceans. Unlike Arthropleura, I prey on anything and everything: from fish to other arthropods, thus occupying the top rung of the food chain. I possess claws with sharp teeth, which help in trapping my meal. I grow up to the size of a crocodile (as long as 8 ft). Fragments of my fossil have been extracted from Western Germany.

WHY I BECAME EXTINCT: Many giant arthropods like me ruled the roost until the arrival of predatory vertebrates in the Permian period. Their emergence spelled doom for us.

WHY AM I SPECIAL? I am currently the largest known eurypterid (sea scorpions).

3.TITANIS WALLERI

CENOZOIC ERA

(5 to 2 million years ago)

I belong to the family of ‘terror birds’ or Phorusrhacidae. My closest living relative is interestingly the seriema bird, which in comparison to me (5 to 8 ft in height), is hardly bite-sized. As a carnivore, my robust body, long, fast legs and sharp beaks gave me an edge over my preys. I am flightless, but can cover 65km/hour.

WHY I BECAME EXTINCT: I existed for three million years and succumbed to competition from evolving predators. Climate change in Pliocene is also a reason.

WHY AM I SPECIAL? I am the only terror bird that lived in North America, 17 of my other species lived in South America.

4. MEGALANIA PRISCA

CENOZOIC ERA

(2.5 million to 50,000 years ago)

I am a monitor lizard and I roamed around southern Australia. I am the ancient equivalent to the present-day Komodo Dragon. But I am far bigger (15 to 20 ft). I feast on large mammals, other reptiles and birds. I have well-built limbs, serrated teeth, toxic saliva, and an unusual crest on my snout.

WHY I BECAME EXTINCT: The first aboriginal settlers of Australia hunted us to extinction. Or, did we lose our preys to extinction?

WHY AM I SPECIAL? I am the largest terrestrial lizard known to have existed.

5. DIPROTODON

CENOZOIC ERA

(1.6 million to 46,000 years ago)

I am one of the giant marsupials, coming from ancient Australia. I may look like a horn-less rhinoceros. But amusingly, my closest relatives are wombats and koalas! The largest of my species was 9 ft long, 6 ft tall and weighed about 2700 kg. I possess powerful clawed feet, pigeon toes, large front teeth, body coat and of course the pouch. I am a herbivore and just love munching on leaves, shrubs, and other greens of our time.

WHY I BECAME EXTINCT: Hunting by aboriginals, climate change and habitat loss.

WHY AM I SPECIAL? I am the largest known marsupial ever to have existed.

6. QUETZALCOATLUS NORTHROPI

MESOZOIC ERA

(68 to 66 million years ago)

The first thing anyone notices about me are my bizarre physical attributes— unusually long neck and wingspan, sharp-pointed beak and limbs like ungulates. I am a flying animal, and a quadruped when on the ground. I belong to the family called Azhdarchidae, which comprise advanced toothless pterosaurs. Due to my size (33 ft wingspan) and weight (as much as 200 kg), my feeding and flying abilities have kept scientists speculating for years before they concluded I may have hunted on small vertebrates on land and water.

WHY I BECAME EXTINCT: Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction.

WHY AM I SPECIAL? One of the largest known flying animals of all time

7. TITANOBOA

CENOZOIC ERA

( 60 to 58 million years ago)

I slithered into the world soon after the extinction of the dinosaurs. I am so big that I can swallow a whole crocodile at one go. Being non-venomous I kill my prey such as turtle, crocodile, fish, small birds and animals by a method called constriction. I squeeze their lungs to asphyxiation. I come from the rainforests of South America and my fossils were recently found along the coal mines of Colombia.

WHY I BECAME EXTINCT: A global shift in climate driving dense forests to go dry towards the Miocene period.

WHY AM I SPECIAL? The largest snake ever. Anaconda measured 17 ft long, I was 50 ft!.

8. GIGANTOPITHECUS

CENOZOIC ERA

( Nine million to 100,000 years ago)

Do I resemble someone you’ve seen recently? Yes, King Louie, the giant ape from Disney’s The Jungle Book. It is a gigantopithecus, like me. I thrived in the tropical forests of India, China and Vietnam. I walk on four legs like gorillas and chew on large amount of fibrous food – fruits, seeds and bamboo.

WHY I BECAME EXTINCT: We became extinct during the Pleistocene era, when climate change drove forests to become dry, thus affecting our food supply.

WHY AM I SPECIAL? Gigantopithecus blacki were the largest known apes that ever lived, standing up to 9.8 ft, and weighing up to 540 kg.

9. MEGANEURA

PALEOZOIC ERA

(300 million years ago).

I have a huge wingspan (approx 75 cm) and small body. My diet includes the same menu as that of present-day dragonflies but the difference is our meals are king-size. Aside from other invertebrates, I also prey on small amphibians. You can find a specimen of me in the Muséum national d'histoire naturelle, Paris.

WHY I BECME ETINCT: Decreasing oxygen levels in the Permian period and a shift to global aridity.

WHY AM I SPECIAL? One of my family members M. monyi is one of the largest known flying insect.

10. MEGALODON

CENOZOIC ERA

( 28 to 1.6 million years ago)

I was dreaded by other marine animals. My great size, terrorising teeth, powerful jaws, speed and ubiquity make me an undisputable ruler of the oceans. When the humans spotted fossils of my teeth, they initially thought they were rocks from the moon or tongues of the dragons. The oceans of my period were warmer and the continents were closer. I reach up to a size of 54 ft, thrice as big as today’s great white shark. I am a super-predator, making a feast out of whales, dolphins, giant sea turtles, porpoises and even big whales. I use my teeth to crush the vital organs of my prey.

WHY I BECAME EXTINCT: Inability to adapt to the subsequent Ice Age may have contributed to my demise.

WHY AM I SPECIAL? The biggest shark that ever lived

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Printable version | Apr 9, 2020 4:01:35 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/in-school/signpost/MONSTERS-INC./article16080487.ece

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