• Imagining History

4 More Stone Age Animals KS2 Students Need to Know

When we released our article ‘The 6 Stone Age Animals KS2 Students Need to Know’ we had no idea how popular it was to become and how eager people were to learn about the megafauna of yesteryear. Now, with over 25,000 reads, we know that you guys love learning about Stone Age Animals as much as we do.


So, what better way to start off the New Year than by releasing a sequel? That’s right, just like a cynical movie producer returning to an aged film franchise in a desperate attempt to make a silly amount of money, we’ve written ‘4 More Stone Age Animals KS2 Students Need to Know’ to start the New Year with a bang.



Giant Beaver

By Charles R. Knight

Wait, did I read that right… a giant Beaver? Yep, you did read it right, a Giant Beaver – or Castoroides to use its fancy Latin name – looked exactly as you would imagine. It was a beaver that was giant.


How giant are we talking?

The largest Giant Beavers grew to around 2 metres long, that’s the same length as two metre long rulers. Whoa!


When did they go extinct? Am I likely to see a Giant Beaver on my way to the shops?

Very unlikely unless some serious animal cloning is going on in a secret underground facility. Otherwise you’re good, as the Giant Beaver went extinct around 12,000 years ago.


Why did it go extinct? Theories vary – as those pesky theories tend to do - but very smart people reckon that the Giant Beaver likely died out due to climate change and being over hunted by people.


Courtesy By Ryan Somma from Occoquan, USA

Any other fun facts you can tell me about the Giant Beaver?

How about two fun facts? The Giant Beaver could hold a crazy amount of oxygen in its lungs, so it could spend ages in the water, splashing about and frolicking with all its friends. Despite its size however, the Giant Beaver had a smaller brain than its modern relatives, so it’s likely to have failed at every crossword puzzle it ever tried.


That’s not necessarily due to its brain size however, and likely more to do with the fact that without an opposable thumb the creature couldn’t hold a pencil. It also wouldn’t have helped that pencils hadn’t been invented at the time. Nor had crossword puzzles.



Glyptodon

Courtesy Pavel.Riha.CB

Glyptodon sounds like a super hero. Please tell me there were super heroes in the Stone Age.

I’m afraid not, Glyptodon is best described as an inflated armadillo.


An inflated armadillo?

That’s right. Take your modern armadillo, stick a bicycle pump in its mouth and then keep on pumping until the creature is the size of a small car, then you’ve got a Glyptodon.


How friendly were they? Could I cuddle one? Unlikely. Scientists believe that Glyptodon’s conducted intraspecific fighting, which means they enjoyed biffing other Glyptodons. They likely would have been very good at it to, as their flexible and bony tails made for an ideal weapon.

A powerful armoured tail. Thanks to Fernando Lopez Anido

Did they have to worry about predators? They did, it’s likely that Smilodons, Dire Wolves and Terror Birds all like Glyptodon for tea.


But their armoured tale would be enough to keep them safe?

Hopefully! And Glyptodons would need all the help they could get, as they had terrible eyesight and likely couldn’t see in daylight.




Terror Bird

Look at the size of it! Courtesy Amanda from Chicago, USA

A Terror Bird? Was it really that terrifying? Yes! The Terror Bird was a giant meat eating flightless bird that grew up to 10 feet in length. That’s longer than a Black Bear!


I dunno, doesn’t sound that scary… How about the fact that it could run incredibly fast? Or that it had razor sharp claws? What about its powerful and muscular neck? Its nasty sharp beak?


OK, well, when you put it like that… Also, it’s believed the Terror Bird would use a pecking attack to disable its prey.


What, like a giant deadly chicken? Exactly like a giant deadly chicken. The Terror Bird would pin down its prey with its powerful claws and then peck them to death.


That sounds horrible. Absolutely! Thankfully, whilst the Terror Bird might haunt your dreams you won’t come across one in real life, as it went extinct thousands of years ago. Phew.



Megatherium

Wait, I’ve heard of this one, isn’t it a Giant Sloth or something similar? That’s right! Megatherium was a sloth, but humongous. In fact, it is one of the largest mammals to ever exist. Megatherium was six metres in length and weighed over 4 tons – that’s the same weight as 16 Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnsons!


Could it climb trees like a regular sloth? Nope, its massive weight would have broken even the sturdiest tree. Instead Megatherium would stand on two feet by using it tail for balance. It would then make the most of its enormous strength to pull tree branches down to its mouth.




So Megatherium was a plant eater? Correct, Megatherium was a plant eater and would happily nibble on leaves. It was quite a picky eater and could use its narrow muzzle to select only the finest tasting leaves, usually yuccas.


A hairless Megatherium. Courtesy Marcus Burkhardt

Didn’t I read something about them being hairless?

Perhaps! Some people reckon Megatherium was hairless, a bit like an Elephants. Or, more precisely, a bit like a waxed sloth.


So, when did it go extinct?

During the Quaternary extinction 12,000 years ago. The Quaternary extinction was the time when many species of megafauna died out. For Megatherium the likely reason was climate change and being hunted by humans. Boffins have even discovered ancient kill sites in which hundreds of Megatherium were slaughtered.

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