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Mammals: Freaky Evolutions

Updated on June 23, 2015

Mammals

In the article Birds: Freaky Evolutions I talked about birds and how the events that resulted in the extinction of the dinosaurs resulted in the creation of birds and all of the unique specimens that exist today. In the article Reptiles: Freaky Evolutions I talked about how reptiles, creatures that lived alongside dinosaurs but were not dinosaurs themselves, managed to survive into modern times with minor changes to their anatomy, but still looked weird. This article will talk about mammals, the species that used to live under the dominance the dinosaurs. Basically mammals began life as small rodents that were significantly minor in a world where giant reptiles were the ruling species. But with the Ice Age that made it harder for giant dinosaurs to exist, mammals had to opportunity to become something bigger. Which they did. Which meant that now they had the strange evolutionary traits that would eventually make them turn into the creatures we know today. Which included humans. And while one knows how modern mammals came to be, it is interesting to see some of the specific evolutionary traits that made this species strange and unique. One aspect of evolution that was weird for mammals was the fact that an animal that was giant and surprisingly mobile could become an animal that was famous for how incredibly slow it was. Another interesting aspect of evolution for mammals was the fact that even modern mammals could look extremely different to each other, despite being closely related to each other. Even humanity itself could be weird in how it was able to adapt to various environmental changes.

Bats. Freaky for being the only mammal capable of flight. Even more freakier for other reasons as well.
Bats. Freaky for being the only mammal capable of flight. Even more freakier for other reasons as well. | Source

Opposite Evolution

When the dinosaurs went extinct, the mammals had the opportunity to grow and evolve into forms that were a lot better equipped at surviving the new, altered environment. One good example was the creature Megatherium, or the Ground Sloth. This was an animal that was surprisingly huge for an ancestor of the sloth. And the claws on its hands served as weapons against any potential enemies. This was a creature that was so good at defending itself that it could even scare a Saber-Toothed Tiger away. Of course, while the end of the dinosaurs allowed a creature like this to exist, later alterations to the environment eventually resulted in the extinction of this particular animal. Fortunately, Megatherium left descendants. Which provided one freaky aspect about the evolution of mammals in that what was once an intimidating animal became something less than intimidating to adapt to a changing environment. In this case in the form of the modern Three-Toed Sloth. A mammal that was famous for its incredible slowness. An animal that was so slow that plant life was able to grow on its body. An animal that was so slow that its name was literally a reference to a sin of the same name. An animal that has become a source of food to the descendants of an animal its Megatherium ancestor could have easily scared. Evolution can be weird because it had the ability to make what was once a fearsome animal into something less than admirable. But survival is what makes certain creatures look and behave the way they do, so some ironic changes should be expected.

Sloths. Once related to land mammals that supposedly could beat-up giant cats with their claws. Now, not so much.
Sloths. Once related to land mammals that supposedly could beat-up giant cats with their claws. Now, not so much. | Source

Ironic Relatives

The interesting thing about evolution was that certain animals could have relatives that looked very surprising. As noted by the Three-Tod-Sloth, it had a prehistoric relative, Megatherium, that was the complete anatomical opposite. Of course, the modern day mammals have relatives that were also anatomically ironic. But with both relatives living in the same place at the same time. Take the African Elephant for example. It was one of the largest land mammals, it was used in the past as transportation during wars, and it was an animal that had the luxury of not having many enemies. One would think that all of the elephant's relatives would look just as imposing as the elephant itself. Then one sees the Rock Hyrax. This was a small animal that also lived in Africa, but it a completely different environment. And a completely different body compared to an elephant. Looking like an exotic Guinea Pig, one could be forgiven for not believing that the African Elephant and Rock Hyrax were related. But they are, and the environments that nature decided both of them to inhabit were factors in their anatomy. African Elephants, living in the relatively open areas of Africa, had to have bodies that would make them a difficult food source for predators like Lions or Leopards. Rock Hyraxes, living in mountains which provided more hiding spots, meant that they could have bodies that were not completely imposing. But even if these two creatures were complete opposites despite being relatives, nature has provided a wide variety of animals that were related despite looking radically different from each other.

This animal......
This animal...... | Source
...... Is related to this animal. Evolution is weird like that.
...... Is related to this animal. Evolution is weird like that. | Source

Oh, the Humanity

Humans are considered primates. But that does not mean that humans came from primates. Humans and primates like chimpanzees simply came from one creature which eventually evolved into all of the modern primates that exist today. However, one of the unique and arguably strangest aspect about humanity was its sense of humor. Take the 1975 comedy Monty Python and the Holy Grail, for example. This was a movie that parodied and mocked certain aspects to human history that would be considered important events in the development of society. Take the video attached below. As shown in the title, Monty Python and the Holy Grail parodied much of England's mythology. By referencing people like King Arthur and objects like the Holy Grail. In one scene King Arthur received the quest to retrieve the Holy Grail from God himself. In a display of the human sense of humor, God in this movie essentially subverted a majority of portrayals of divine beings. This version of God did not like having people grovel before him, apologize to him, and divert their eyes from seeing him. In fact, this version of God thought those forms of worship were depressing. Hilariously, when Arthur thought that the quest for the grail was a good idea, God strongly agreed with that statement. And like most animated segments from the Monty Python franchise, God in this movie was animated in a way that ironically seemed less than flawless when compared to more modern forms of animation. And yet the knights in this segment still reverred this version of God, which added to the hilarity.

As humans we were the only sentient beings who can make entertainment like this.
As humans we were the only sentient beings who can make entertainment like this. | Source

Dominant Species

Mammals have come a long way evolutionarily. Beginning as one of the lowest species of animal, mammals were able to rise in dominance once the dinosaurs went extinct. Which resulted in the evolution of unique traits. From various size differences, surreal adaptations to changing environments, or increased intelligence, mammals are most likely going to be the dominant species for a long time.

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    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      I'm not that 'big' on evolution but seeing how different groups within the species can adapt over time is fascinating.

      Lawrence

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      3 years ago from Oklahoma

      Very cool. I love looking at all the various animal adaptions.

    • Kiss andTales profile image

      Kiss andTales 

      3 years ago

      The animals when they see humans think

      How freaky we look to them, that is the reason they run from us, Very Good hub , love your pictures Jake !

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