We have already published a few posts about some of the weirdest, largest or most dangerous dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures that went extinct millions years ago but in fact, some of these ancient animals are still around. With no or just little changes to their prehistoric appearance and behavior, some of these creatures can be found even in the modern world. From scary descendants of deep-sea prehistoric sharks to a 120 million-year-old ant, check out these 25 prehistoric animals that are alive today.
Officially known as Triops longicaudatus, tadpole shrimp is a freshwater crustacean that resembles a miniature horseshoe crab. It is considered a living fossil because its basic prehistoric morphology has changed little in the last 70 million years, exactly matching the bodies of their ancient ancestors that inhabited Earth as early as some 220 million years ago.
Lamprey is a jawless fish characterized by a toothed, funnel-like sucking mouth. Although they are well known for boring into the flesh of other fish to suck their blood, in fact only a minority of the 38 known species do so. The oldest lamprey fossil found in South Africa dates back to some 360 million years ago but its striking resemblance with the modern specimens is indisputable.
Native to North America and northeastern Siberia, the sandhill crane is a large, up to 10 pounds (4.5 kg) heavy bird. A 10-million-year-old fossil from Nebraska is thought to belong to a sandhill crane specimen but scientists are not sure if it was the very same species. However, another crane fossil dating back to 2.5 million years ago unequivocally belongs to the sandhill crane.
Occupying subtropical, temperate and sub-Arctic rivers, lakes and coastlines, the sturgeon is sometimes referred to as “primitive fish” because its morphological characteristics have remained almost unchanged since the earliest fossils some 200 million years old. Unfortunately, over-harvesting, pollution, and other kinds of habitat destruction have made this fish critically endangered with some species being at the very edge of extinction.
The Chinese giant salamander
The largest salamander and amphibian in the world, the Chinese giant salamander can reach a length of up to 180 cm (5.9 ft). As a living part of the Cryptobranchidea lineage which dates back to 170 million years ago, this unique creature is also listed as a critically endangered species due to habitat loss, pollution, and over-collection, as it is considered a delicacy and used in traditional Chinese medicine.