Three “living fossils” that walk among us

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

Hispaniolan_Solenodon_crop
It’s really hard to believe this cute tiny mammal is poisonous! I can barely see his eyes, they are so small.

The only reason we know about ancient animals like dinosaurs, woolly mammoths, and saber-tooth cats is because of their fossils. If it weren’t for the old bones buried deep in the ground, we wouldn’t know these animals existed, let alone have any idea what they looked like. However, there are some species of animals that existed long ago that are still alive today. These mysterious creatures are known as “living fossils.”

Let’s first meet the solenodon. These tiny mammals are normally around 1 foot long with a large hooked nose. Taking one look at their cute beady eyes and innocent expression, might tempt you to pet the cuddly creatures. I’d advise you not to, though, since they are one of the few mammals that are poisonous! Doesn’t seem so cute anymore, huh? I bet his venomous bite is why the creature has been around for 75 million years!

Pretty old, huh? Well, the solenodon certainly makes the 55-million-year-old aardvark seem like a teenager in comparison. Aardvarks like to eat ants (but aren’t anteaters) and have a pig-shaped nose (but aren’t pigs). His teeth have thin tubes inside, making them really weird, and he is closely related to an elephant! Who would have guessed? What a silly creature!

Aardvarks
Look at this picture of a mommy aardvark and her baby! Now that I think about it, they do kind of look like elephants, but they also look like pigs, rabbits, and donkeys, no? Maybe that’s just me, because I’m not wearing my glasses at the moment.

If the solenodon and aardvark got you saying, “awww,” the chevrotain will definitely make you squeal with delight! It may be because he is the youngest out of the three, since he’s “only” been around for 22 million years. The chevrotain, pictured at the very top, looks like a mix between a deer and a rat, doesn’t he? This doe-eyed mammal only weighs around two pounds and is found all over Asia. What might not be so obvious is that the chevrotain is an excellent swimmer who can hold his breath for up to four minutes! Maybe he’s so light because he’s filled with air…

Anyways, these are just a few examples of living fossils. If you really want a treat, I dare you to research the red panda. The cuteness is guaranteed to melt your eyeballs right out of their sockets!