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Bear or Dog?
Amphicyon meaning ambiguous dog had bear like qualities: paws, physique, and a massive wolf-like skull.
But it was neither a dog or bear but an ancestor of carnivorous mammals from the Middle Oligocene to Early Miocene Period.
It held no relation to canines or the ursidae family although they’re are nicknamed bear-dogs, amphicyons are also known aptly as bone-crushers.
These prehistoric mammals were 1.5 meters tall, 600 kg, and greater than lions or tigers in size. Bear-dogs roamed the plains of the northern hemisphere of the world long ago, from about 10 to 20 million years in the past.
Amphicyon model replica is finely sculpted for the ©2012-2015 RareBreed Prehistoric Collection.
Not quite a monster, this little lizard is actually a venomous reptile named after a river basin. The Gila monster is one of the few surviving poisonous lizards still in existence, it dwells in arid environments like the Mojave desert in North America with its relative the beaded lizard. Considered living fossils, its body is covered in bumpy osteoderms (bony plates) adding to its odd primeval look along with a venomous bite. Besides numerous invertebrates, there are relatively few species of truly venomous snakes, mammals, amphibians, fish, and rarer still -lizards. The only other potently poisonous lizards are perenties and komodo dragons. Other extinct poisonous creatures include possibly the bird-like dinosaur sinornithosaurus and therapsids uatchitodon and euchambersia.
Venom is used in the natural world as defense and a way to capture prey efficiently formed by amino acids or proteins structures that are toxic from glands. Poisonous animals usually advertise their toxicity visually with bright colors and contrasting markings or by sound; and venom injection via fangs, teeth, and stingers. The potency ranges greatly and only antivenom, cultured infected antibodies, or natural exposure from small gradual doses can reverse the ill effects. Though not considered lethally poisonous, the mythic Gila monster garners a fierce reputation despite growing merely one or two feet in length, they come in a banded or reticulated pattern and a tough outwardly appearance from a prominently “studded skin”. Gila monsters were one of the first poisonous animals to acquire legal protection and also star in various roles in monster and western movies.
Gila monster model replica is finely sculpted for the ©2012-2015 RareBreed Wildlife Collection.
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Known as terror birds, phorusrhacids were giant flightless birds that dwelt in isolation around Patagonia during the Cenozoic. Brontornis stood nearly 3 meters weighing 400 kilograms, it was possibly the largest carnivorous bird on earth. It was heavily built and relied on ambushing prey rather than speed alone; fossil studies indicated that terror birds kicked and bludgeoned prey to death with beaks rather than just biting. Brontornis could have tackled prey large as the one ton astrapotherium.
Brontornis the mighty “thunder bird” reached the upper size limit of birds, perhaps, due to egg structure or avian biology. The embryo would have been encased in an egg a meter in circumference supporting two gallons, equivalent to 150-200 chicken eggs. “Thunder birds” thrived on the savannas of the Middle Miocene for a brief moment in time during the Cenozoic which hosted some bizarre beasts endemic only to Patagonia.
Brontornis scale model replica is finely sculpted for the ©2012-2014 RareBreed Prehistoric Collection.
The most famous prehistoric big cat came in two varieties. The largest was Smilodon populator, the eastern South American giant felid had a narrow, flat skull with one foot long sabers; otherwise, it was similar to the more common variety: Smilodon fatalis.
Many ice age giants were trapped by tar pits in the fossil record including smilodons, American lions, and dire wolves which all competed for the same prey. Evolution of giant canines has evolved several times over earth’s history for carnivores as weapons against prey. Among them, smilodon was the latest and most advanced.
Nearly ten thousand years ago half-ton “carving knife tooth” cats ambushed giants of the Americas with an unique edge. Smilodon were highly specialized, large, and one of the most spectacular big cat in feline history.
Smilodon scale model replica is finely sculpted for the ©2012-2014 RareBreed Prehistoric Collection.
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A Few Words on Feathered Dinosaurs
Stealthiness and thievery could be very well typical for raptors if they did lived up to their names. Raptor, meaning “to seize or take by force” are not unlike birds of prey with their quick striking sickled claws. Of the coelurosaurians Maniraptora, so far, are the closest ancestors to birds. Considered the missing links between birds and scaly dinosaurs they share uniquely bird-like traits: feathers (some capable of flight), hollow bones, hip structure, fused clavicles (a wishbone), a hardened sternum (breastbone), egg laying, and possibly a higher developed intelligence unlike the old dinosaurs. Goodbye to the likes of t. rex.
The Origins of Flight, the Few, the Privileged
Of all the life on earth, only five species ever evolved powered flight; they exclusively belong to man, bugs, bats, birds, and the largest of flying reptiles -the pterosaurs. The first by unnatural means, but manned aviation does make use of bird-like designs: adjustable wings and tails, convexed surfaces, and rounded wing tips. All of which reduce drag and create additional lift though heavey aircrafts can simply forgo bird logic by use of jet fueled engines. The two things required for true flight are thrust and lift; a speedy momentum followed by a steady stream of air currents. Something flying squirrels, snakes, lizards, frogs, fish, and even the strange monkey-like colugo are incapable of. Only birds, arguably the best fliers, can catch prey spiraling at 242 mph midair (25 g-forces) as peregrine falcons are recorded doing.
The Mystery of How and Why Flight Became to Be
It was probably similar to many of the same theories as why tetrapod descendants walked onto land; such as food, predation, and adaptation to a changing new world. The evolution of locomotion whether by flight, swimming, and or running are shaped by behaviors from the pressures of environment. Only the best can survive and notable mentions included the raptor family which could possibly do all three. All raptors ran to catch prey or evade predators, some glided short distances as in the four-winged microraptors, and others swam as deinonychus inhabited swamps. Ancient avians were remarkable like today’s modern birds which are the fastest and most powerful fliers in the animal kingdom and evolved to become swimmers and runners as well. Today’s penguins can swim 22 mph and ostriches average 43 mph, so raptors held the genetic makeup for particularly some dynamic creatures.
Of Ancient Avians
The dinosaur to challenge 19th century notions that most were cold blooded reptiles was dienonychus, a 150 pound swift and agile predator. Most famous was velociraptor, which weighed no more than a mere 30 pounds. But he largest and most complete raptor found was achillobator in 1999, it was an 800 pound 20 foot creature, a giant by raptor standards.
Found throughout the Mesozoic era (the age of reptiles) raptors lived from deserts, plains, scrubs, woodland, swamps, to sub-tropical jungles of their time. Their long-lasting reign endured co-existing with much larger, fiercer theropods which were eventually outwitted as raptors are the only dinosaur to leave a modern dynasty giving rise modern birds.
Raptor scale model replicas are finely sculpted for the ©2012-2014 RareBreed Prehistoric Collection.
Mastodons are interesting enough elephants. Sharing its name with a heavy metal band, Mastodon, also known as Mammuts confusingly are not closely related to mammoths. They evolved 25 millions earlier than the first woolly mammoth and had different molars and musculature. While chimpanzees or bonobos evolved only 5-7 million years apart from their modern human counterparts.
A very ancient proboscidean, they’re heavily built, shorter, and more robust. Mammuts topped out at 9 feet in height and 5 tons in weight, the largest recorded individual was possibly 11 feet tall and 6 tons with an added 16.4 feet of ivory; the biggest set of tusks yet to be recorded. Impressive, considering mastodons are not even the largest variety of elephants, that title belongs to Mammuthus sungari or the very rare Songhua River mammoth; estimated at 17 feet tall and 17 tons. Mastodons browsed in coniferous forests or woodlands, these ivory equipped bulldozers perhaps traveled in herds throughout North America and Europe for a reign spanning 30 million years.
Mammut scale model replica is finely sculpted for the ©2012-2014 RareBreed Prehistoric Collection.