måndag, februari 9

Top Ten Most Awesome Animals Ever

If you're bored, make a list. The topic for today is animals that were simply too awesome to live - and a few that actually managed to survive to the present, despite their coolness. (Although I bet only one of them, the evil one, will last to the next geological epoch). Here we go, and of course we begin from the end up:

10. Carcharocles Megalodon, Miocene-Pleistocene, 18-1,5 million years BP, Worldwide.

I'm not a great fan of sharks, but I love the horrors that populated the prehistoric seas. I know there was a giant fish with bony coverings and mouth like a pincer, but I can't seem to remember it's name, so the Megalodon will have to take it's place, simply because of it's sheer size. If there were sharks like this alive today, media would be in a veritable frenzy to have them eradicated from the face of the earth. I mean, just look at it:

9. Common Gull (Larus Canus), Oligocene-Present, 33-0 million years BP, Northern hemisphere.

Called 'Fiskmås' in swedish, this is by far my favorite bird. It's rather hard to explain why, as it not exotic at all, and doesn't look nearly as cool as eagles, hawks and such. But ever since I read an old children's book, 'Snorre Säl', I've loved them. The book is about a little baby seal in the Arctic that runs away from home and encounters various predators, and there were two seagulls in the book filling the classic Iago role; subtly manipulating all events, causing mayhem just for their own amusement. And they were the only villains that escaped in the end, for no one had any proof against them. They were so deliciously machiavellian, and they've shaped my perception of seagulls ever since.

Seagulls are found everywhere in Sweden, from the southern fields to the northern mountains, they don't fear humans at all, they can even snatch people's food from their hands. They're ancient, they're unchallenged, free to fly wherever they like, and every time I see them I imagine some omnious intelligence behind their eyes. I bet they'll be byzantine enough to even outlast humanity. Seagulls are simply evil:

8. Elasmosaurus Platyurus, Early Cretaceous, 80 million years BP, North America.

Another horror of the primordial oceans, the Elasmosaurus had the longest neck of all pleisiosaurs and the most vertebrae of any animal ever. It was about 13 meters long. It's number eight simply because of how awesome and alien it looked:

7. Megatherium Americanum, Pliocene-Holocene, 2 million-8.000 years BP, South America.

There's something special about sloths. Somehow, they manage to look utterly bizarre without even trying that hard. While creatures like Elasmosaurus are pure nightmare fuel, sloths seem to perpetually strain the border between that and absolute cuddlieness.

And this sloth was elephant-sized, as high as two elephants when it stood on its hind legs. That alone should be sufficient to qualify for this list, really. Evidence suggests it might have been at least partially a carnivore, chasing away sabre-toothed cats and stealing their kills. Some fossils of the giant (that is, car-sized) armadillo Glyptodon have been found lying on their backs, indicating something flipped them over in order to get beneath their armor and kill and/or eat them. The only known creature in the area at the time that would have been capable of this feat was Megatherium.

And even better still; Having no natural enemies until humans came along, it's likely hunting by humans was the cause for Megatherium's extinction. Just imagine the sight of a whole group of stone age hunters trying to bring down a giant fucking sloth. Now that's awesome.

6. Common Cachalot (Physeter Macrocephalus), Miocene-Present, 23-0 million years BP, Worldwide.

I refuse to use the more common english name 'Sperm Whale' because it sucks. In swedish it's called Kaskelot, which does it much more justice. Cachalot/Kaskelot is derived from an old french word for 'tooth'. The largest of the toothed whales, it's also one of the most bizarre looking whales, and one of the largest creatures that has ever existed on earth. Further, it has the largest brain ever, can produce the highest sound of any living animal (except the Bloop of course), and can dive the deepest of any mammal. Also, it seems to live like forever, though no one really knows how long; I remember reading somewhere that they found siberian harpoon tips from the 18th century embedded in cachalots killed in the 1990s.

But, best of all, this being has colossal squids for breakfast:

5. Elasmotherium Sibiricum, Middle Pleistocene, 780-200.000 years BP, Southeastern Europe, Western Siberia.

This is the very definition of awesome horn. It's so cool, in fact, that some researchers think it might have been the source of the unicorn myths from Persia and China. Others claim it actually survived into historical times, one account of the famous medieval traveller Ibn Fadlan has been interpreted as describing a sighting of elasmotherium.

To make it even better, this is the largest species of rhino that ever was, on average over two meters high and six meters long. That's gigantic.

But the horn. Dear God, the horn...

4. Polar Bear (Ursus Maritimus), Pleistocene-Present, 200.000-0 years BP, the Arctic.

There's something special about arctic animals. I don't know what it is, but they seem to have a much higher rate of coolness than any other group. Bears have always been awesome and intimately tied to human imagination, and this is the largest and the most beautiful of them all, the largest land-living predator still in existence. Its white fur, the gentle slope of its skull, the sure knowledge than it can both swim, run and climb, and that it will kill you in an instant...

And it's called nanook in inuit, umka in the Chukchi language, and ursus in latin - it seems it's so awesome that every language absolutely has to have a really cool name for it. Fantasy authors actually seem to have realized just how awesome polar bears are - they're used as mounts in a lot of settings, and they're even intelligent and talking in His Dark Materials. And they plow through humans like a scythe through wheat.

3. Deinonychus Antirrhopus, Early Cretaceous, 115 million years BP, North America.

The lord of cool among the dinosaurs, and the forefather of all the awesome birds of the world, this is without a doubt the most badass creature ever. Forget the sucky Tyrannosaurus, it's grotesquely overrated, it might even have been borderline braindead. Deinonychus hunted in packs and brought down creatures many times their own size, they were fast, lethal and extremely intelligent for their time, and they had those giant scythe-like claws that we've all loved since long before Jurassic Park. (Their very name actually means "terrible claw"). They even seem to have been able to grasp stuff; grabbing targets with their forelimbs while gutting them with the scythe-claws. In fact, these guys were so badass it seems nature felt the need to essentially nuke them from orbit. Had they lived, they would have killed all of humanity in the cradle.

Instead, they had to change strategy and (d)evolve into the machiavellian seagulls, to threaten not our lives so much as our sanity.

But it gets even better. In later years, scientists have discovered that Deinonychus had feathers. I give you the Killer Turkey from Hell:

2. Amur Tiger (Panthera Tigris Altaica), Holocene, 10.000-0 years BP, Southeastern Siberia.

More commonly known as the 'Siberian tiger', this is the most awesome subspecies of the most awesome species of the most awesome genus of the most awesome family of predators ever. (That is Felidae, the cats). A solitary hunter, it's fast, lethal, intelligent, and it lives in Siberia, in huge forests and snow-covered fields, which is much cooler than the jungles of its cousins, mostly because you never find tigers in snow in the clichés. And it can roar! With its huge paws and its mane of fur around the neck, it looks both more cuddly and more powerful than other tigers. It's just utterly beautiful. And it's the largest of them all. The Tungusic peoples called it "Grandfather", the Manchus called it "King":

1. Woolly Mammoth (Mammuthus Primigenius), Pleistocene-Holocene, 300.000-2.000 years BP, Northern Eurasia and America.

You'll notice a lot of animals from arctic or cold temperate climates on this list, as those animals tend to be awesome. I'm not really sure why; it could have to do with their fur, or my fascination with cold climates in general, but it's a fact nevertheless. The pleistocene megafauna was also cool in general, maybe because those creatures lived while modern humans did, but died out before historical times, leaving us with vague memories of them in cave paintings and myths. It's a certain kind of mysterious feeling associated with that; why did they disappear? Were they simply too awesome to live?

Anyhow, this is their king, foremost among both the megafauna and all animals that have ever trampled snow. It was huge, it had fur, it had giant tusks, it roamed the tundra in huge herds, hunted by our forefathers, and it persisted in legends and the human imagination for all times.

The woolly mammoth is the only animal except humans that has had its entire mitochondrial genome mapped by scientists. There are a lot of mammoth mummies around, and if we can just find a mummy with intact sperm cells, it might be possible to revive them and ressurrect the mammoths. Even if this doesn't work, we've got their genome; someday we'll clone them back into existence!

Too awesome to live, too awesome to die; The Woolly Mammoth!

And honorary mention goes to:

Human (Homo Sapiens Sapiens), Pleistocene-Present, 200.000-0 years BP, Worldwide and in Geocentric orbit.

Well, they did manage to invent the internet, after all. And pizza. And the geological timescale. Although they took their time. Having a great talent for destruction, the humans eradicated the megafauna and are well on their way to burning the entire planet to cinders, but they can't battle colossal squids one-on-one, nor do they match the seagulls in sheer evil ingenuity. Per default, humans are not that cool, but they have this stuff called clothing that can potentially make them at least somewhat awesome. Not nearly as awesome as the mammoth of course, but hey, sooner or later they're going to bring the mammoth back.

11 kommentarer:

  1. Oh, this list is sheer awesomeness! Love that honorary mention, although I have very mixed feelings about the animal it describes ^_^

  2. Humanity should get some props for endurance, though. Other animals might be able to run faster or fight better, but when the chips are down, humans are the Jasons of the animal world. I mean, there are still people who hunt antelopes by running after them until they collapse. Respect.

  3. Heh, well, then there's this:


    It should be taken into account, shouldn't it? :D

  4. Aww... människor är min favorit åxå. Särskilt när de är söta som hon på bilden.

  5. Äh, nu såg jag att de bara fick en "honorary mention". Jaja, stryck mitt "åxå". Det var rätt fånigt hur som helst.

  6. Åh, i Jules Vernes "Resan till jordens medelpunkt" träffar tydligen personerna i boken på en Megatherium Americanum! Verne tyckte säkert också att den var skitcool :D. Nu inser jag att jag verkligen måste ta itu med att läsa den boken, Verne tillhör ju favoriterna.

  7. Ola! Visst var det väl Glyptodontidae som tävlade mot Megatherium om en plats på listan? De har iallafall ett skelett av en sådan på Zoologisk Museum i Köpenhamn! Vi måste dit!

  8. Åh, de har ett Mammut-diorama också! 我们去吧!

  9. Vi ska -så- dit ja .D 很好!

  10. that was such a total pleasure to read... you have a very respectable way with words... thanks!