animals The Coolest & Weirdest Species of the Jurassic Period  

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The world today may be full of bizarre creatures, but none are as bizarre as the animals from the Jurassic period. Many events occurred at the end of the Triassic period that gave way to the emergence of these strange Jurassic animals. As temperatures increased and humidity levels rose, vegetation became more dense and the air more oxygen-rich, enabling the earth to sustain a large population of totally weird, unique species.

While many Jurassic species are immediately recognizable thanks to pop culture blockbusters like Jurassic Park, there are other lesser-known and even weirder Jurassic species that should not be overlooked. From giant fleas to fierce carnivorous birds, the cool species of the Jurassic period are fascinating.

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Apatosaurus is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Coolest & Weirdest Species of the Jurassic Period
Photo: Freebase/CC-BY-SA-2.5

Apatosaurus is one of the biggest animals to ever walk the earth, measuring up to 90 feet long. They needed to eat 880 pounds of vegetation every day just to maintain their massive body sizes. Apatosaurus is known for its long neck and long, whip-like tail - when they cracked these "whips," the cannon-like booming could be heard from miles away.

And what about their long necks? Did they hold them gracefully aloft, like a giraffe? Or straight out horizontally? Scientists have been debating how Apatosaurus moved its body (some even suggesting they might have reared up on their hind legs and tail like a kangaroo), but recent computer modeling suggests that Apatosaurus probably held its tiny head low, just a few feet off the ground, though it could also bend it into an S or even a backwards-facing U.

For decades, Apatosaurus was mistakenly called Brontosaurus. In 1877, paleontologist Othniel C. Marsh discovered an incomplete, juvenile Apatosaurus skeleton. Two years later, he discovered a larger, more mature, more complete Apatosaurus skeleton and assumed it was a different type of dinosaur, which he named Brontosaurus. (Of course, some contemporary scientists are actually arguing for bringing the name Brontosaurus back.)

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Scansoriopteryx is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Coolest & Weirdest Species of the Jurassic Period
Photo: Freebase/GNU Free Documentation License

This tree-dwelling, sparrow-sized proto-bird did not truly fly by flapping its wings, but instead relied on gliding or leaping from tree to tree. 

The discovery of Scansoriopteryx turned scientific thinking on its head, suggesting that modern birds evolved from small tree-climbing archosaurs instead of from ground-dwelling dinosaurs, as was previously believed. This new theory is called the "trees down" theory, in opposition to the old "ground up" theory of how birds came to be.

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Phorusrhacidae is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Coolest & Weirdest Species of the Jurassic Period
Photo: Freebase/GNU Free Documentation License

It's hard to imagine a mere bird being very intimidating, especially in an era that also had dinosaurs, but Phorusrhacidae (colloquially known as the "Terror Bird") was no mere bird. These giant flightless predatory birds grew up to ten feet tall, ran 30 miles an hour, and likely killed their prey by smashing it repeatedly into the ground or pecking it to death with their oversized beaks: "not only does this stun and kill the prey but it also breaks the preys bones so that it can be more easily swallowed whole."

With superior senses and relatively high intelligence, they were the apex predators of South Africa.

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Pseudopulex is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Coolest & Weirdest Species of the Jurassic Period
Photo: Capital Normal University, Beijing, China/Live Science

Even animals as intimidating as dinosaurs fell prey to the painful annoyance of fleas - but these fleas were also "dino-sized." Pseudopulex was about 10 times bigger than a modern flea, almost an inch long, with long claws that could cling to a dinosaur's scales while sucking blood. Getting bitten by one would have felt like a hypodermic needle puncture.