Many animals have come and gone since the dawn of time on Earth. In fact, almost all the species ever to live on this planet already are dead.
Some never will be recognized for their contributions to evolutionary history because fossils of them have not been found, but archaeologists have found a large number of skeletons and other remains that give us a glimpse of what life was like back then. Here’s a look at some of the most iconic extinct animals of America:
These animals have burst into popularity because of the HBO series “Game of Thrones,” but they are not fictional — they were related to today’s dogs, wolves, coyotes and other canines. As canines spread across the globe hundreds of thousands to millions of years ago, the dire wolves were born. The San Diego Zoo says they emerged in parts of eastern North America and northern South America about 300,000 years ago, and a western subspecies of dire wolves followed although it was a smaller animal.
Dire wolves lived in packs and could survive in a lot of different habitats, including forested mountains, marshes and plains, the zoo explained. They were 75 to 150 pounds and were about 4 feet long — with 2-foot tails. They would have been heavier and broader than the modern wolf, but similar to the wild dogs we know today.
The entire species went extinct about 12,000 years ago, but thousands of dire wolf fossils have been found in the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, a hotspot for fossils, from the Ice Age in particular, giving us an idea of what the canines were like.
What could be better than an elephant? Maybe a giant, hairy elephant. That’s what woolly mammoths looked like before they went completely extinct…