8 Prehistoric Animals That Used To Roam Florida

By: Kevin Mims


1. Megalodon

MegalodonCatherine Sutera / CC BY-ND 2.0 / EOL.org

You know you're the biggest and baddest dude around when you dine on large whales, and pretty much everything else that comes along. Today, people are still discovering Megalodon fossils around the state, especially on the Peace River. Hook up with the folks from the Peace River Canoe Outpost for a fossil trip, where you might luck up and find one for yourself.  

2. Giant Ground Sloth

SONY DSCCC BY-ND 2.0 / Flickr: gregturner

These guys made their way down to Florida from South America via the Isthmus of Panama about 1.6 million years ago, during the Ice Age. This particular skeleton is on display at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville.

 3. Wooly Mammoth Wooly Mammoth Rick Schlamp / CC BY-ND 2.0 / Flickr: Rick Schlamp

Standing between 9 and 14 feet tall, Wooly Mammoths roamed the Sunshine State during the Ice Age. They fed primarily on a plant-based diet, chomping down on grasses, moss and ferns. Wooly Mammoth fossils are still found today at the famous Old Vero Ice Age Site and other locations around Florida.  

4. Saber-Toothed Cats

Saber toothed catLauren Anderson / CC BY-ND 2.0 / Flickr: rhizae

These fellas were a little bigger than your average kitty. Back in the day, there were several species of cats with massive fangs, some the size of today's Florida Panthers. It's up for debate as to how the large canine teeth were used (slicing, stabbing, etc.) but one thing's for certain: you didn't want to be on the receiving end of the attack. Ow.  

5. Three-Toed Horses

Parahippus tyleriEOL Deep Time Group / CC BY-ND 2.0 / Flickr: eol_ftw

Giddyup! Or maybe not, because Three-Toed Horses were only about the size of a dog. These are some of the oldest horses found in Florida, and fossils are still found today. Just like other animals, there were different species of Three-Toed Horses, but all were relatively small in size.  

6. Mastodon

MastadonCC BY-ND 2.0 / Flickr: Jeff Stvan

What's the difference between a Wooly Mammoth and a Mastodon, you ask? For starters, mammoths are more akin to today's elephants, while Mastodons are a little more primitive. Mastodons generally hung out in more forested areas than mammoths. Also, Mastodons had straighter tusks and lower shoulders. Either way, both of these creatures were pretty massive. This skeleton is on display at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton.  

7. Florida Cave Bear Cave Bear State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory

These cave bears were about the same size of today's Brown Bears, with males weighing in at around 650 pounds. The last remaining Florida Cave Bears are thought to have died out 8,000 years ago, around the Devil's Den Spring area in Williston.  

8. Terror Bird

  Terror Bird 2 CC BY-ND 2.0 / Flickr: gregturner

This thing might just be the scariest thing I've ever heard of. The details are sketchy, but rest assured that it was one mean hunter. If Stephen King reimagined Big Bird from Sesame Street, this is what it would be. Some experts say that they were 8 feet tall and 330 pounds, while others say they were more like 5 feet in height. Either way, this creature will haunt your dreams forever. See this guy at the Florida Museum of Natural History.

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