Humankind has been fascinated by fossilized remains of ancient species since the first excavation of dinosaur remains, speculating what existence would look like if primordial organisms and homo sapiens coexisted. 

Ever since the dark ice age ceased about 11,700 years ago, awe-inspiring species like wooly mammoths, enormous land armadillos, saber-toothed cats, and even dire canines have regrettably perished. However, this does not eliminate the prospect of witnessing ancient species at present.

If you have ever questioned what existence was like before the actual dominion of the massive dinosaur, here are a few of the creatures whose ancestors strolled beside the world’s most terrifying carnivores. Sharks and crocodiles are among them and are frequently regarded as evolution slackers or “walking fossils.” 

Below you will uncover a list of the ten creatures surviving since the prehistoric eras. And, hold on, some of these are found in your kitchen cabinets.

Table of Contents

1. Walrus 

Walrus | Image Credit – Jay Ruzesky

Walruses are occasionally mistaken for humanoid relatives due to their elaborative whiskers and inflated bubbly appearance. They are also excellent seabed roamers, sucking in crabs, lobsters, and everything else that comes close to their jaws which are also very much like human jaws!

Walruses have been around for nearly 600,000 years and spend large amounts of leisure time on icebergs. And, from May to August, you can spot them in large numbers on the beach. As the adult males compete for dominance of the ladies, their large fangs come into the picture.

It is certainly not a situation you want to explore too closely as the creature can get highly aggressive. Nevertheless, you may observe these large gatherings from a distance.

2. Tuatara 

Tuatara | Image Credit – Karissa Best

Tuataras are yet another fantastic creature and the main protagonist or the survivor of a genetic heritage that dates back to the early Triassic period. They are reptiles belonging to the Rhynchocephalia family, which evolved into its maximum complexity 60 million years ago.

They prey on insects, worms, slugs, and tiny birds, which they incapacitate effortlessly with their saw-like fangs living on the isolated islands of New Zealand. Tuataras can live up to one whole century and remarkably adapt to cold temperatures.

Although tuataras are frequently alluded to as breathing dinosaurs, some facts show how genetically disconnected they have grown as a community.

There are approximately 30,000 current species in the taxonomic animal classification “amniote vertebrates,” grouped into six primary factions: birds (15,845), lizards and snakes (10,078), mammals (5,416 species), turtles (341), crocodilians (25), and tuataras (1). Who would have imagined tuataras to be a distinct group?

3. Duck-Billed Platypuses

 Duck-Billed Platypuses
Duck-Billed Platypuses | Image Credit – Flickr

The duck-billed platypus is an egg-laying mammal variety surviving throughout the Triassic period, about 210 million years ago.

According to a 2008 discovery by a scientist, platypuses flourished throughout the Jurassic period. They lived in the same period as echidnas when mammalian groups became more widespread.

4. Cow sharks

Cow sharks
Cow sharks | Image Credit – Gerald Schömbs

Most surviving sharks possess five-gill openings on each front, from nurse sharks to giant white sharks. On the other hand, cow sharks have six or seven-gill slits, a characteristic that has been passed down for centuries from a few primordial shark species.

These underwater cow sharks are thought to be among the oldest predatory fish. Their evolution narrative revolves primarily around their dentition. Teeth are frequently the only thing left from calcareous shark corpses, except perhaps a few rare artifacts that retain soft tissue fragments.

Evolutionary biologists believe cow sharks have persisted since the late Paleocene era, depending on solitary saw-blade fossilized molars. These underwater sharks are voracious predators who eat everything they can find. 

And they are projected to have had a solid position as a deep-sea maintenance crew throughout the Mesozoic era, feasting on the corpses of aquatic reptiles and then moving to marine mammals after the dinosaurs went extinct.

A dismembered sample of the ancient shark Doliodus problematicus dates its history to at least 409 million years ago, and they are likely considerably more primitive. On the other hand, the six- and seven-gill cow sharks found in deep-sea today are from a more recent and evolved ancestry. They are hybridized creatures with numerous primitive origins. 

5. Cassowaries

Cassowaries | Image Credit – seichirochan

It is simple to speculate why folks believe the massive creature has spurned directly from dinosaurs such as velociraptors based on its giant, claw-like nails. They are the planet’s third-largest species of birds and have frequently been attacking people and other massive mammals.

These critters have distinctive blue throats and regularly appear in northern Australia, Papua New Guinea, and Indonesia. Some interesting tidbits about them include the premise that they lay green eggs and are excellent swimmers.

The membranous crown on their temples, out of which their name is inspired means horns in Papuan – is another feature that relates the cassowary to dinosaurs.

The deployment of their hair-like extension has sparked considerable controversy. Several analysts claim they could use it to regulate heat. In contrast, others suggest this is used to assist the cassowary in producing its booming call, which can reach wavelengths that people cannot detect.

6. Lice

Lice | Image Credit – Egor Kamelev

Every exceptional survivalist does not necessarily have a charming personality. As tiny as they might appear, freeloaders and bloodsuckers are among evolution’s astonishing achievements, but no one has ever gone the same way as lice. 

While head lice remnants are uncommon, in 2004, evolutionary biologists revealed that they had discovered a 44-million-year-old feathered louse that bears some resemblance to lice prevalent on shorebird feathers at present.

And such infestations are traditionally attributed much farther. Experts examined the existing lice artifacts and chromosomal correlations with the current parasite to determine when precisely unique lice species originated.

Feathered louse, for instance, appears to have diverged from their piggyback ancestors around 115 and 130 million years ago, precisely about the era when small animals were burrowing through the prehistoric woodland, and feathered dinosaurs were fluttering about on earth.

Hence, feathered lice never had to modify much to stay up with the carriers since they first developed to feast on historic birds and feathered dinosaurs.

7. Cockroaches

Close-up Shot of a Cockroach
Close-up Shot of a Cockroach | Image Credit – Erik Karits

Cockroaches survived the numerous mass extinctions that occurred between the Permian and Triassic ages. This robust nature demonstrates that no matter how much we try, roaches have no elimination method. 

They were among the most predominant creatures some 360 million years ago throughout the Carboniferous epoch, while they were nearly twice as massive as they are now. What a nightmare, right?

8. Jellyfish

Jellyfish | Image Credit – Jeffrey Hamilton

Jellyfish, also commonly known as sea jellies, are fascinating creatures, and we are all thrilled by their lifelines! These exotic sea creatures have existed for at least 500 million years or more. Their relics are exceedingly hard to trace since they are squishy and delicate organisms with a minimum of 95% fluid.

Sea jellies have a rudimentary architecture without nearly all of the characteristics that differentiate plants from animals, such as plasma, blood, heart, brain, and other essential systems. They have a simple connection of nerves to perceive their surroundings.

Jellyfish are the focus of many myths. However, one fact is inevitable: they are primed for hundreds of millions of years. Some researchers suggest that they are permanent, as long as external factors do not destroy them.

Sea jellies capture the attention because of their excellent adaptation and anticipated future survival. Heating, pressure, and acidification, which are triggering the extinction of several marine organisms, were never an issue for jellyfish due to an absence of complicated bodily systems.

Jellyfish flourish in warmer conditions and with low oxygen levels. These conditions strengthen their existence and expansion because their native predators, such as sea turtles, fish, and sharks, suffer from these dynamic changes and ultimately die or migrate.

9. Horseshoe Crab

Horseshoe Crab
Horseshoe Crab | Image Credit – Michael Browning

The horseshoe crab, which dates back 445 million years, has survived five mass extinctions and is the planet’s supreme winner. They are also not regular crustaceans in the traditional sense. Regardless of such existential superpowers, together with scorpions, tarantula, and fleas, the horseshoe crab belongs to the Chelicerata subphylum.

Despite popular belief that it is dangerous or can hurt intruders, the horseshoe crab is innocent. It merely uses its tail as a propeller to roll itself over if tossed on its backside. And, no, they do not prick or munch on your toes! And the most intriguing fact is that they have a total of ten eyes!

Aside from their attractive appearance, horseshoe crabs have been used in the biomedical sector, where their turquoise blood is utilized to diagnose bacterial poisons. Credit the primordial horseshoe crab for keeping you protected after an injection, immunization, or operation.

10. Sandhill Crane

Sandhill Cranes flying in a beautiful sky
Sandhill Cranes flying in a beautiful sky | Image Credit – Chris Briggs

The flight of these towering, gorgeous birds appears a pointed-tail dragon due to their lengthy limbs extending out further behind them.  

And, despite their regular appearance and lack of recognition as prehistoric birds, they are the earliest birds on earth. The sandhill crane relic dates back at least two and a half million years in support of the claim by experts.

Sandhill cranes commute in large numbers to their northern spawning zones every April. Kearney and Nebraska are some of their most crucial layover destinations. Over 500,000 birds will congregate here in one season to plump up in the farmlands in preparation for the long trek forward.

The flock will then appear to leave simultaneously, apparently due to some mysterious and unexplained communication. This event is one of the most amazing ecological spectacles on the planet.

To Wrap Up

If humans could journey back thousands of years in history, we would find several of these animals prospering and appearing very similar to how they do at present.

These ancient creatures have benefited from evolutionary changes to survive the ravages of time. Fossils, the preserved records of past events and species, have helped us identify these fighters of the time.

We have learned a lot from remains, especially those discovered in the ocean depths, which have encoded the required systems for surviving destructions for thousands of years. On the other hand, the universe keeps evolving as the years’ progress.

Perhaps these old inhabitants of the earth are now threatened by global warming, climate change, pollution, overfishing, etc. If they didn’t go extinct due to natural factors, human interference might bring them death.

(Last Updated on April 21, 2022 by Sadrish Dabadi)

Shradha Bhatta holds a Bachelors’s Degree in Social Work along with a Post-graduate degree in Project Management from Georgian College in Canada. Shradha enjoys writing on a variety of topics and takes pleasure in discovering new ideas. She likes traveling and spending time with nature. She is a very people-person who loves talking about climate change and alerting people to go green!