Vol 9 Prehistoric Animals ... Introduction ... What is a prehistoric animal?
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Introduction

What is a prehistoric animal?

A prehistoric animal is really any creature that lived before history began, before humankind started to keep records of its progress.
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Our planet is about 4 billion years old, but the history of mankind only goes back some 12,000 years. 'Prehistoric' life therefore comprises over 99% of the existence of the Earth! A prehistoric animal is really any creature that lived before history began, before humankind started to keep records of its progress.

When you think about prehistoric animals, most people would think of a dinosaur, or perhaps a now-extinct mammal like the mammoth or saber-toothed cat. These are good examples of prehistoric animals. But prehistoric animals also include many species of fish, lizards, and the ancestors of frogs, birds and snakes. Also included are long-extinct groups of animals which share characteristics of several groups of 'modern' animals - for example, the protomammals, or mammal-like reptiles, a strange group that many scientists believe eventually evolved into the mammals of today.

Although many prehistoric animals are extinct, the word prehistoric does not on its own mean extinct. The dodo is an extinct bird, but the last specimen was seen in the seventeenth century. The quagga is an extinct zebra-like mammal that lived until a hundred years ago. These are weird-looking animals that do not live today, but they are not prehistoric animals.