The animal kingdom is vast and varied, filled with creatures of all shapes and sizes. It’s amazing to look all over the globe, in jungles, forests, skies, seas, and even underground, to see all of the different animals that call this planet home. Unfortunately, our actions are leading to the endangerment and eradication of many species each and every day, but some of them have proven to be highly resistant.
We know that dinosaurs once walked the Earth, but were wiped out. In the years that followed, other incredible species like mastodons, giant sloths, and saber-toothed cats roamed the planet, but many of those pre-historic species also became extinct as time went by. Some of them, however, survived. There are actually dozens of animal species out there that have been around for thousands or even millions of years and are still going strong.
You probably know of some of these animals already, while others might be totally unknown to you. They can be found in different continents, far and wide, and all have one thing in common: their adaptability. Even as the world around them has changed greatly, these species have managed to adapt their habits and lifestyles to carry on surviving, although some of them are starting to become threatened by the ever-changing Earth.
When you first see a gharial, you might think that it’s just a crocodile or an alligator, but there are some key differences. Also known as gavials, gharials have super long, sword-like mouths. Gharials have been around for tens of millions of years.
Unfortunately, their time among us might be coming to an end. There are only believed to be about 200 of them left. They’re mostly found in India and Pakistan and are ranked as a critically endangered species.
If you see one of these tough animals walking your way, you should probably start to run in the other direction! Like their mythological namesakes, Komodo dragons are ferocious and strong.
They’re mostly found in Indonesia and fossils of Komodo dragons from the past date back as far as 4 million years! One of the most fascinating things about those fossils is that they were found in Australia, suggesting that the dragons have moved around a lot over the years.
As soon as you see the face of the shoebill stork, you can see how it got its name. It has a large, shoe-shaped bill and a mixture of blue and gray feathers. It’s a very unique looking animal, and it’s been around for a very long time, but is now facing extinction.
Shoebill storks are currently classed as ‘vulnerable to extinction’. This is because their homelands are being disturbed by human activities, and many are being killed by poachers too. You can still see them in places like Mabamba Bay in Uganda, however.
Many modern camels only have one hump and are used for transporting people and goods through desert environments and across long distances in the Middle East, but there are also two-humped camels too: the Bactrian camels.
Bactrian camels use both of their humps to store fat which helps them to survive in such barren and dry landscapes. Sadly, like many other species on this list, the Bactrian camel is critically endangered, and there are believed to be just 1,000 left in the wild.
Super cute in the eyes of many and looking like a cross between a porcupine and an anteater, echidnas have been around for more than 17 million years, according to scientific estimates. They’re nocturnal creatures and are one of the only mammal species to lay eggs rather than giving birth to live young.
Due to their elusive nature, it’s almost impossible to spot echidnas out in the world. You can see them in captivity, however, at various zoos all around Australia, Tasmania, and New Zealand.
Musk oxen are tough. They often battle each other for dominance and are native to the snowy lands of Alaska. In the fall, when it’s time to mate, these creatures can be seen butting heads for females.
Thousands of musk oxen can be found all over Alaska, so the species seems to be doing well. You can visit Nome in Alaska to be sure of seeing them, and this town is also the site of a fun annual dogsled race.
Looking a little like llamas or alpacas in terms of their bodily and facial structure and features, vicuñas are found in South America. They’re easy to spot, with their long necks and white underbellies, as well as their big bold eyes.
They nearly went extinct many thousands of years ago due to overhunting, but they managed to survive and can still be seen in the wild today, particularly in protected places like national parks.
Southern White Rhino
Rhinos are among the most endangered animals in the world, and the southern white rhino is currently classed as ‘near threatened’. There are around 17,000 of them left worldwide, according to the latest estimates.
Unfortunately, poaches target these rhinos as their horns can be sold for huge profits on the black market, but conservationists are working hard to protect them. In some cases, conservationists actually remove horns from the rhinos, effectively making them worthless for poachers.
Yes, even everyone’s favorite fluffy white bears have been around since prehistoric times, dating back more than 120,000 years, according to fossilized remains found in Norway back in 2010. And with climate change getting worse, these elegant animals face an uncertain future.
As the ice caps melt, the polar bears have less space in which to live and hunt, and they’re starting to die out. Still, many can be spotted in the coldest parts of the world, especially over in Manitoba, Canada.
If you’ve seen Jurassic Park or taken an interest in dinosaurs, you’ll know that dinosaurs actually had quite close links to birds. Well, if you remember the velociraptors from the famous movie, you might like to know that some of their descendants are cassowaries.
Beautiful and colorful at first glance, these birds are actually quite ferocious and have been responsible for human deaths in the past. They’ve been around for more than 60 million years and are still living in Australia and Papua New Guinea.
Elegant and beautiful, caribou have been seen by some as spirit guardians of the forest and are famed for their huge horns and almost regal appearance. They’re wonderful animals and have been around long before humans existed.
What makes the caribou special? Well, this is the only deer species in which the females grow antlers as well as the males. You can mostly see them in places around Canada and in Alaska.
A tiny little creature with a very big nose, the elephant shrew has been perfectly named and is a curious little critter that is found mostly around different countries in Africa.
Fossil records indicate that these little guys have been scurrying around for tens of millions of years. It looks like those big, long noses have served them well in that time, helping them find food and sniff out danger in their path.
The further down into the depths of the oceans we go, the stranger the creatures start to become. It really does seem like a whole different planet deep down under the waves, and we can find all kinds of odd aquatic animals.
Out in the waters around Australia and Indonesia, the chambered nautilus can be spotted. They tend to live too deep down to be spotted by snorkelers and divers, but you can find them in aquariums far and wide, like at Monterey Bay in California. They’ve been around for approximately 500 million years!
Definitely strange looking creatures, babirusas have huge tusks sticking out from their mouths, as well as another set of horns/tusks protruding from the center of their snouts, giving them a very unique and bizarre appearance.
If you look at ancient human cave paintings, you can actually see many babirusas featured in them. They’re closely related to pigs and hogs, and you can still see them living in the wild in places like Tangkoko Nature Reserve in Indonesia.
Watch out for this one! The wobbegong shark is said to be the ‘spy of the sea’, due to their incredible camouflage abilities. They can blend in with the sand and stones on the seabed very easily.
There, they’ll wait for hours before pouncing on unsuspecting prey. Scientists estimate that these sharks have been around for over 11 million years and they’re still around today, but are too small to pose a major threat to humans.
One of the oldest species on the planet, horseshoe crabs are believed to have been around for approximately 445 million years. Back then, the continents were now today hadn’t formed and there was simply one huge, super-continent.
Horseshoe crabs can still be found in waters and on shores around the world. In the late spring, millions of them gather at Delaware Bay. Interestingly, they aren’t technically crabs, in spite of their name.
Tapirs are quite similar to pigs or boars in their shape and size, but they have quite distinctive heads with elephant-like snouts that are used to pick up things and gather food.
They tend to spend a lot of time around water, and they actually share DNA with both rhinos and horses. Tapirs have been around for over 20 million years. There are five different species of tapir left today, spread out across Asia and South America.
They look very similar to iguanas at first glance, but tuataras are a totally different species. They date back to the days of the dinosaurs, more than 200 million years ago, and managed to survive the extinction event that wiped out the likes of the T-rex and triceratops.
One fascinating fact about tuataras is that they have three eyes! Yes, believe it or not, they have a third eye on top of their heads. It’s hidden beneath the scales, so it’s hard to see, but it acts as a kind of light sensor to help out with various bodily functions.
Chinese Giant Salamander
A huge salamander that can measure up at a total of six feet in length and weigh in at over 100 pounds, the Chinese giant salamander dates all the way back around 170 million years. It’s the biggest amphibian on Earth.
There aren’t many places where you can see Chinese giant salamanders anymore, due to extensive poaching, but the world’s biggest specimen can be found at the Prague Zoo in the Czech Republic.
We know that chamois are one of the oldest animals around, as they often appear in ancient cave paintings. They can be found all around Europe and are easy to spot with their goat-like faces and furry bodies.
They tend to live in mountainous places, like the Alps and the Pyrenées, and you can often spot them while hiking or mountaineering in these areas. Sadly, like many other species, they’re increasingly at risk but aren’t too close to extinction just yet.
Despite being called a whale shark, this creature isn’t a whale and has no real connections to whales. It’s the biggest shark species of all, however, and it’s been around for close to 30 million years, according to scientific estimates.
Whale sharks like warm waters around the equator, and the only way you’ll ever see one is by either visiting Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, home to the world’s only whale shark in captivity, or head out on a boat tour and hope you get lucky.
Many of the world’s oldest species can be found in our planet’s waters, which are becoming increasingly polluted but were mostly left unharmed by the effects of mankind’s expansion around the globe. The lake sturgeon is one example.
These fish have been around for up to 150 million years, or perhaps even longer, based on fossils and findings. They’re found in the waters of the US and are known for having a rubbery kind of skin, rather than the typical scales we expect of a fish.
Okapis are quite interesting creatures in many ways. Firstly, scientists aren’t quite sure about their history, but some findings suggest that these unique animals may be the oldest mammals still living among us today.
Almost looking like a cross between a deer, a zebra, and a giraffe, okapis actually suffer from their long necks, which make it difficult for them to run too quickly or navigate dense areas of the jungle. Many of them can be found living happy lives at the Okapi Wildlife Reserve in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Here’s another strange-looking creature you might not have seen before. They almost look like they belong in a sci-fi movie, but they truly do exist in the real world. The Saiga antelope looks just like other antelopes at first glance but has a strange, pig-like snout.
They’re found around North America and Asia and are related to pronghorn antelopes. They’ve been around much longer than many other species, and are still going strong.
It’s not an alligator, but the alligator gar does have a few things in common with its namesake. For starters, it has a long, gator-like snout and do physically resemble alligators, but are actually fish.
Inside their mouths, rows of razor-sharp teeth are waiting to deal with anything that gets in the way of the alligator gar, and these fish are absolutely huge too! They can weigh in at over 300 lbs and are said to date back over 100 million years.
Siberian Musk Deer
Can a deer be scary? Usually, these animals are beautiful, elegant, and appear quite delicate, but the Siberian musk deer has rather an intimidating appearance. Found in northeast Asia, these deer have long tusks, poking out from their mouths.
This strange feature makes them quite scary at first glance, but they only use the tusks for defending themselves and fighting other deer, not for attacking or hunting prey. In fact, they’re herbivores, eating no meat whatsoever, in spite of their nickname: vampire deer.
Gorgeous to look at, the sandhill crane is one of the prettiest birds around and one of the oldest too. These birds are said to date back over 2 million years. Each year, huge flocks can be seen migrating to Nebraska.
It’s one of the most amazing wildlife spectacles on the planet, drawing in many visitors from far and wide, all waiting with their cameras, ready to snap some photos of around half a million of these birds.
Famed for their super long tusks, walruses may look slow and seemingly inoffensive at first glance, but when they get angry, they can be quite ferocious. They have to be tough in order to survive, and they’ve been surviving for over half a million years.
Walruses can be seen on nature tours of Alaska, and they tend to be most active in the summer months. This is when the males start fighting each other in order to prove their dominance for the females.
Part of the Notostraca family, the tadpole shrimp is scientifically classed as a ‘living fossil’, which is a term used for animals that are basically identical today to how they were many millions of years ago.
They have a flat carapace and a long abdomen with lots of tiny legs. Tadpole shrimps tend to live in shallow waters. They bear some physical resemblance to another pre-historic animal: the horseshoe crab.
Classed as a ‘primitive fish’ by marine life researchers and experts, the sturgeon is a long and strong fish, found in all kinds of waters from sub-Arctic rivers to subtropical lakes.
They’ve been around for approximately 200 million years, and scientists say they’ve barely changed at all in all that time. Sadly, due to too much fishing and water pollution, these fish are now critically endangered and could face extinction in the years to come.
Martialis Heureka Ant
Ants are some of the most impressive and inspiring creatures around. Despite being so small, they can lift large weights, work together as a colony, and will stop at nothing to protect their queen.
They’re some of the hardest workers around, and that’s why species like the Martialis Herueka ant have survived for more than 100 million years so far in the rainforests of Brazil and can still be spotted there today.
There are some really creepy and scary looking creatures in the sea, and the goblin shark is most definitely one of them. The name of this species was perfectly chosen, as it has a terrifying, goblin-like face.
The goblin shark has been around for around 125 million years in total. Despite being so scary to look at, it’s interesting to note that the goblin shark isn’t dangerous to humans at all, posing no real threat to people.
There are several sharks that have managed to survive for millions of years, and it’s easy to understand why. They’re the kings of the sea, being some of the toughest predators around.
The frilled shark, for example, has been around for over 100 million years, making it one of the oldest sharks in existence. It lives at depths of up to 200m below the surface in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
Alligator Snapping Turtle
We tend to think of turtles as being quite cute and adorable creatures, but you don’t want to get too close to the alligator snapping turtle! With spiny shells and tough jaws, these turtles will bite anything.
They’ve been around for close to 70 million years, according to the latest estimates, and are found in the waters of the southeastern United States. They can weigh in at close to 400 lbs too, making them some of the heaviest turtles on Earth.
Gigantic fish found in the Indian Ocean and other waters around Indonesia, the coelacanth was originally believed to be extinct. In fact, an official declaration was made, but it had to be reversed.
In 1938, a living coelacanth was found, proving that the species was still surviving. These fish have been around for close to 400 million years and actually have links with reptiles and mammals, despite living their lives in the water.
Giant Freshwater Stingray
Have you ever imagined how some animals would look if they were turned into giant versions of themselves? Well, giant freshwater stingrays really do exist. They can grow to up to 1.9 m across!
These stingrays can also be very heavy, weighing in at over 600kg, Sadly, due to their huge size and how easily they can get hunted or caught up in fishermen’s nets, these creatures are facing extinction as their numbers rapidly start to decline.
Many prehistoric creatures that are still around today have changed a lot over the years and don’t really resemble their ancestors too closely. The pelican, however, is almost identical nowadays to how it was some 30 million years ago.
Fossils found in France show that modern pelicans look just like prehistoric ones. These large water birds are famed for their long beaks and large pouches that help them catch big fish to eat.
Many people don’t realize that sponges are living organisms. They’re organic, just like the fish that swim around them, and they’ve been around for over 750 million years, according to the latest data from scientists and experts.
Sponges can be found all over the globe, anywhere where water is found. They’re totally harmless to people and can appear in various colors, forms, and guises, making them beautiful and intriguing to admire.
Not all of the prehistory’s animals were creatures were dinosaurs and big lizards. The platypus is a semi-aquatic, funny-looking animal and one of the only two surviving mammal species that lay eggs. The other species is the Echidnas.
The thing about the platypus is that it looks like a combination of several animals: its bill is like a duck’s, its feet are like an otter’s, and its tail is like a beaver’s. That’s probably why taxonomists took nearly a century just to figure out what the Platypus was! The modern platypus goes back to 100,000 years, but the fossil of its oldest relative that was found in New South Wales is 110 million years old.
The parasitic fish is 360 million years old and survived four major evolutionary extinctions while swimming in the ocean. Today, they’re mainly confined to the Atlantic Ocean and in the Great Lakes. They are similar in structure to leeches or eels, but they have no bones. Instead, they have a cartilaginous skeleton with a single-tail fin.
While lampreys lack jaws, they use their large suction-like mouths filled with tiny horn-shaped teeth and a razor-sharp tongue. The teeth can look intimidating, but it’s the tongue that’s dangerous. Their teeth help the lamprey attach itself to its victim while the tongue does the work.
Sea jellies (aka jellyfish) are 500 million years old and are familiar to all of us. Fossil evidence dates them as far back as 500 million years ago, maybe even longer. Considering that they are soft-bodied creatures and made of at least 95% water, their fossils are very difficult to find.
Sea jellies have a simple structure, lacking almost everything that can distinguish plants from animals, including blood, a heart, and a brain. They have only a basic network of neurons, which allows them to sense their environment. There are many misconceptions about sea jellies, but one thing is certain: they’re ready to go for another million years.
The Spix Macaw
Several species are sadly being driven to extinction due to human interference. Sometimes that interference is targeted, like poaching for game trophies or animal tusks. And there are indirect interferences, like when land is developed and disrupts animals’ habitats and ecosystems.
Cause of Extinction: illegal trapping and trade.
The Spix Macaw was thought to be extinct in the wild, but it currently exists in captivity with numbers in the low 60-80 range. The bird is referred to as Little Blue Macaw because the birds are known for their vibrant blue feathers.
Cause of Extinction: it’s believed that Dingo populations are what threatened the Thylacine into extinction as well as over-hunting by humans.
The Thylacine was a carnivore referred to as the Tasmanian tiger and Tasmanian wolf. It was a nocturnal marsupial who preyed on rodents and kangaroos.
Although Thylacines did look fierce, they were actually timid and, according to Live Science, “could be captured without a fight.” There have been many Thylacine sightings reported in the past century that it started an investigation as to the status of their existence.
The Passenger Pigeon
Cause of Extinction: humans have, for years, hunted the pigeon and consumed it to the point of its extinction. The last known bird died in captivity in the Cincinnati Zoo back in 1914.
Estimates have been made saying that the passenger pigeon population was somewhere in the millions, possibly billions, when the first Europeans settled in America.
Wisconsin was home to the biggest known nesting site in the late 1800s. The passenger pigeon, or wild pigeon, was once widespread in North America. Its name is derived from the French word passager, which means “passing by.” It’s because they had migratory habits.
Cause of Extinction: they were hunted by humans to the point of extinction.
The Quagga was a native to South Africa, having gone extinct in the late 19th century. For a long time, it was thought to be of its own species. But it was discovered that the Quagga was closely related to the Plains Zebra and, in fact, was a subspecies of the zebra.
Quaggas literally look like the mashup of two animals: a zebra in the front (due to the famous zebra stripes) and a horse in the back (due to the lack of stripes in this area). Scientists are actually trying to resurrect the quagga with some success by reverse engineering by selectively breeding zebras who carry quagga genes.
The Pyrenean Ibex
Cause of Extinction: extensive hunting that occurred during the 19th century brought this species of ibex to extinction.
The Pyrenean Ibex had officially gone extinct as recently as 2000, only to be ‘resurrected’ about a decade later, in 2009. How? Well, it’s thanks to science and DNA samples.
Science can do some amazing things today, including bringing an extinct species back to life. Scientists used DNA that had been taken from preserved epidermal samples to generate a clone of a female Pyrenean Ibex. She was then able to make it through gestation and even give birth before dying shortly after.
The Golden Toad
Cause of Extinction: pollution, global warming, and skin infections led to the extinction of the Golden Toad.
The golden toad is actually not the only species to vanish in the past 40 years, but it could just be the brightest. And by bright, I don’t necessarily mean smart. I mean, its actual glowing color!
The small toad was last reported as seen in 1989 in a Costa Rican rainforest. That was before being declared extinct in 1994. Chytridiomycosis was believed to have had a fatal skin disease, which decimated the toad population. And the population was already vulnerable thanks to a limited habitat and small population.
Cause of Extinction: this leopard went extinct due to the belief that they were kept by witches. So, for this reason, locals would aggressively hunt them.
The Zanzibar is one of several subspecies of leopard, making its home on the Zanzibar archipelago of Tanzania. It’s still not clear if this large cat is technically extinct as there have been occasional unconfirmed sightings.
It didn’t help that the Zanzibar government was involved in the effort to exterminate the creatures. In the mid-90s, there was only a short-lived conservation effort, but it was considered too little, too late. In 2018, Animal Planet released some footage of what they identified as a Zanzibar Leopard, but their claims have yet to be confirmed.
Cause of Extinction: several reasons have been deemed as the cause of the po’ouli’s extinction. Habitat loss, disease, predators, and a decline in their food source (native tree snails) are all seen as reasons for the bird’s demise.
The Po’ouli, or the Black-faced Honeycreeper, was a native of Maui, Hawaii. It was only discovered in the 1970s. The birds lived in the southwestern slope of Haleakala volcano. But the bird’s population declined rapidly, and by 1997 only three known Po’ouli were left. Efforts to mate those few birds failed and the species was declared extinct seven years later.
Madeiran Large White
Cause of Extinction: a loss of habitat due to construction, as well as the pollution resulting from agricultural fertilizers, were two major causes of the species’ decline.
While the butterfly species hasn’t yet officially been declared extinct, it hasn’t been seen for decades.
The incredible Madeiran Large White butterfly was seen in the valleys of the Laurisilva forests located in Portugal’s Madeira Islands. The closest relative is the Large White, which is common across Europe, Africa, and Asia.
Cause of Extinction: the Smithsonian stated that while a specific reason doesn’t really explain the parakeet’s extinction, it is likely that disease and deforestation are what took the brightly colored birds off the map. It also didn’t help them that their feathers were popular fashion fixtures on women’s hats.
The parakeet was the only bird of its kind that was also native to the eastern portion of the United States. The last known Carolina parakeet died at the Cincinnati Zoo in 1918, which was soon after his mate, Lady Jane, passed away. How sad!
West African Black Rhino
Cause of Extinction: poachers had hunted the rhino for its horn, which was believed by many in Yemen and China to have aphrodisiacal powers, thus leading to their extinction. Unfortunately for this Rhino, when it comes to an aphrodisiac, people will go to lengths.
In 2006, the West African black rhino was officially declared extinct after conservationists weren’t able to find any in the last remaining habitats in Cameroon. The West African black rhino was also one of four subspecies of rhinoceros.
Falkland Islands Wolf
Cause of Extinction: like almost all of the endangered species on this list, the Falkland Islands wolf’s extinction was the result of mass hunting.
The Falkland Islands wolf had gone extinct in the late 1800s. They were also referred to as the Antarctic wolf and the Falkland Islands fox.
The wolves were native to the Falklands, the islands off of Argentina. They were quite isolated from the rest of the world until humans got to the islands and hunted them. It was easy for them because the wolves were friendly. Scientists believe that these wolves fed on penguins and other ground birds in addition to seal pups.
Cause of Extinction: a loss of habitat and agricultural development is what led to severe population decline. Some conservation efforts were made in the 40s and 50s but were unsuccessful due to not enough land and planning.
The Javan tiger is similar in appearance to the Sumatran tiger, but the Javan tiger was native to the Indonesian island of Java, hence the name. In the 1800s, they were common enough that they were even considered pests by the island’s natives. As the island developed, their population dwindled. And by the 1950s, only 20 tigers were left.
Round Island Burrowing Boa
Cause of Extinction: non-native species of rabbits and goats were introduced on the island, which destroyed vegetation and ruined the boa’s habitat, leading to their eventual extinction.
This is one of the first on this list that cites other animals as the reason for a species’ extinction.
The Round Island Burrowing Boa is native to Round Island, which is a tiny island off the coast of Mauritius. The boa preferred to live on the top layers of volcanic slopes. The snake was once found on other islands around Mauritius, but the population dwindled by the 1940s. By 1949, it could only be found on Round Island. It was last seen in 1975.
Pinta Island Tortoise
Cause of Extinction: goats had been introduced to Pinta island by humans, and the goats destroyed their habitats. Rats (also introduced by humans) preyed on the young tortoises, and humans also killed the tortoises for their meat. So the extinction was due to both other animals and human hunting.
The tortoise was around when Charles Darwin visited the Galapagos Islands in 1835. Sadly, a male tortoise named Lonesome George was the last purebred of the subspecies and died in 2015. The Pinta Island tortoise, aka the Pinta giant tortoise, was native to Ecuador’s Pinta Island. The species was described in 1877 by Albert Günther after they arrived in London.
Dutch Alcon Blue Butterfly
Cause of Extinction: there were increases in farming and building that had a negative impact on the Alcon Blue’s habitat. It used the butterfly to lose its main food source and thus eventually be declared as extinct.
Not much is known about this subspecies, but the butterfly has always been very rare.
This Dutch butterfly was a subspecies of the Alcon Blue. It was found mainly in The Netherlands’ grasslands. While some closely related species do still exist in parts of Europe and Asia, the last Dutch Alcon Blue butterfly was seen in the wild in 1979.
Cause of Extinction: other than humans, Schomburgk’s deer were heavily hunted by native tigers and leopards. Now, there is one mounted deer head which sits in Paris’ Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle.
The deer was native to Thailand and named after German-born explorer, Sir Robert H. Schomburgk, who got knighted in 1844.
Some scientists believed that there might be a few of these deer running around in the wild, even though they were declared extinct in 2006. The last known deer was reportedly killed in captivity in 1938.
Who knows, though, maybe DNA samples will bring back all of these extinct species!