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12 Weird Prehistoric Creatures That Will Make You Glad You’re Alive Today

Featuring a whale with legs and a vegetarian crocodile. From Julius Csotonyi’s new book of paleoart.

1. This creature that was mostly neck.

Julius Csotonyi

We have seven vertebrae in our necks, but fish-eating plesiosaur Albertonectes had an amazing 76. It lived in the Bearpaw Sea, which covered most of Alberta, Canada, 74 million years ago.

2. This vegetarian crocodilian.

Julius Csotonyi

Julius Csotonyi, illustrator and scientist, told BuzzFeed: “Crocodilians have a far more diverse history than their few living representatives suggest. Not all were carnivores, as the herbivorous and armored Desmatosuchus from the Triassic illustrates.”

3. This guy who had legs with digits instead of fins, but still swam underwater rather than walked on land.

Julius Csotonyi

Acanthostega lived during the Devonian period, when vertebrates began to move on to land from the water. Csotonyi says: “Although Acanthostega possessed legs with digits instead of fins, its anatomy was still better evolved for life in the water, using its legs for clambering about in its aquatic environment.”

4. The “chicken from hell”.

Julius Csotonyi

One of the most recently described relatives of the oviraptors. Anzu was about 2 metres tall and was named for the feathered demon Anzû in ancient Akkadian mythology.

5. A sabre-toothed hippo relative who probably chased around early horse relatives.

Julius Csotonyi

“The Oligocene was a weird time in mammalian history, when 6-foot-tall sabre-toothed hippo relatives called entelodonts such as Archaeotherium may have chased down diminutive early multi-toed horses such as Mesohippus,” Csotonyi says.

6. This whale with legs.

Julius Csotonyi

Dorudon is a wonderful example of an intermediate stage in the evolution of modern whales from legged terrestrial animals, for this animal possessed a pair of hind flippers,” Csotonyi says.

7. These moose-like creatures.

Julius Csotonyi

The Permian Period hosted a plethora of bizarre-looking mammal relatives called Dinocephalians. “The horn-like skull projections of Estemmenosuchus mirabilis made it look vaguely moose-like; its massive canines, not so much,” Csotonyi says.

8. This mammal that proves not all sabre-tooths were cats.

Julius Csotonyi / Alexandra Lefort

Hoplophoneus is a 35 million-year-old nimravid, a group of mammals that are closely related to cats but not cats themselves. This was a collaborative painting with Csotonyi’s wife, Alexandra Lefort.

9. This one-fingered dinosaur (if you can call that a finger).

Julius Csotonyi

Linhenykus is thought to be the first dinosaur of its kind to have only one digit.

10. This fabulously feathered dinosaur.

Julius Csotonyi

This was the first feathered non-avian dinosaur from the Western hemisphere that was discovered. According to Csotonyi it was a “flightless speed-demon”. Its feathers were probably used for showing off.

11. Our ancestors, who looked like this 4 million years ago.

Julius Csotonyi

Ardipithecus ramidus is currently the oldest known bipedal hominin (early humans and their relatives). Csotonyi says: “I put a lot of myself into this digital painting – literally; I used my own (heavily remastered) photos for visual reference of ape anatomy.”

12. Oh, and this giant shark about to attack a swimming elephantid.

Julius Csotonyi

Until about 1.5 million years ago, really, really big sharks called C. megalodon prowled the oceans, representing one of the largest vertebrate predators ever. “This restoration depicts a very unusual interaction between one of these typically open-ocean giants and a medium-sized shovel-tusked elephantid [Platybelodon] having a very bad day,” says Csotonyi.

The Paleoart of Julius Csotonyi is out on May 20.

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