Largest prehistoric animals
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The largest prehistoric organisms include both vertebrate and invertebrate species. Many are described below, along with their typical range of size (for the general dates of extinction, see the link to each). Many species mentioned might not actually be the largest representative of their clade due to the incompleteness of the fossil record and many of the sizes given are merely estimates since no complete specimen have been found. Especially their body mass is mostly conjecture because soft tissue was rarely fossilized. Generally the size of extinct species was subject to energetic and biomechanical constraints.
- 1 Vertebrates
- 1.1 Mammals (Mammalia)
- 1.1.1 Whales (Cetacea)
- 1.1.2 Monotremes (Monotremata)
- 1.1.3 Even-toed ungulates (Artiodactyla)
- 1.1.4 Marsupials (Marsupialia)
- 1.1.5 Carnivores (Carnivora)
- 1.1.6 Armadillos, glyptodonts and pampatheres (Cingulata)
- 1.1.7 Hedgehogs, gymnures, shrews, and moles (Erinaceomorpha and Soricomorpha)
- 1.1.8 Rabbits, hares, and pikas (Lagomorpha)
- 1.1.9 Cimolestids (Cimolesta)
- 1.1.10 Odd-toed ungulates (Perissodactyla)
- 1.1.11 Anteaters and sloths (Pilosa)
- 1.1.12 Primates (Primata)
- 1.1.13 Elephants, mammoths, and mastodons (Proboscidea)
- 1.1.14 Rodents (Rodentia)
- 1.1.15 Astrapotherians (Astrapotheria)
- 1.1.16 Sirenians (Sirenia)
- 1.1.17 Arsinoitheres (Arsinoitheriidae)
- 1.1.18 Condylarths (Condylarthra)
- 1.1.19 Dinoceratans (Dinocerata)
- 1.1.20 Desmostylians (Desmostylia)
- 1.1.21 Litopterns (Litopterna)
- 1.1.22 Notoungulates (Notoungulata)
- 1.1.23 Creodonts (Creodonta)
- 1.1.24 Mesonychids (Mesonychia)
- 1.2 Non-mammal synapsids (Synapsida)
- 1.3 Reptiles (Reptilia)
- 1.3.1 Crocodiles and relatives (Crocodylomorpha)
- 1.3.2 Lizards and snakes (Squamata)
- 1.3.3 Plesiosaurs
- 1.3.4 Ichthyosaurs (Ichthyosauria)
- 1.3.5 Turtles and tortoises (Testudines)
- 1.3.6 Pareiasaurs (Pareiasauridae)
- 1.3.7 Phytosaurs (Phytosauria)
- 1.3.8 Pterosaurs (Pterosauria)
- 1.4 Non-avian dinosaurs (Dinosauria)
- 1.5 Birds (Aves)
- 1.5.1 Waterfowl (Anseriformes)
- 1.5.2 Shorebirds (Charadriiformes)
- 1.5.3 Storks and allies (Ciconiiformes)
- 1.5.4 Falconiforms (Falconiformes)
- 1.5.5 Pigeons (Columbiformes)
- 1.5.6 Hesperornithines (Hesperornithes)
- 1.5.7 Diatrymas (Gastornithiformes)
- 1.5.8 Teratorns (Teratornithidae)
- 1.5.9 Phorusrhacids (Phorusrhacidae)
- 1.5.10 Accipitriforms (Accipitriformes)
- 1.5.11 Gamebirds (Galliformes)
- 1.5.12 Songbirds (Passeriformes)
- 1.5.13 Cormorants and allies (Pelecaniformes)
- 1.5.14 Bony-toothed birds (Odontopterygiformes)
- 1.5.15 Woodpeckers and allies (Piciformes)
- 1.5.16 Parrots (Psittaciformes)
- 1.5.17 Penguins (Sphenisciformes)
- 1.5.18 Owls (Strigiformes)
- 1.6 Amphibians (Amphibia)
- 1.7 Bony fish (Osteichthyes)
- 1.8 Cartilaginous fish (Chondrichthyes)
- 1.1 Mammals (Mammalia)
- 2 Arthropods (Arthropoda)
- 2.1 Dinocaridida
- 2.2 Chelicerata
- 2.3 Myriapoda
- 2.4 Trilobitomorpha
- 2.5 Insects (Insecta)
- 3 Molluscs (Mollusca)
- 4 See also
- 5 References
The largest fossil Odontocete ("toothed whale") was the Miocene physeteroid whale Livyatan melvillei which was estimated to be between 13.5 and 17.5 meters in length. One notable feature of L. melvillei was its teeth which could exceed 36 cm in length and were unmatched by any other animal, extinct or alive.
However, the largest fossil whales were baleen whales from the Pliocene and Pleistocene Epochs. A notable example is the bones of a Pliocene age baleen whale, assigned the questionable name "Balaenoptera sibbaldina", which likely rivaled the modern blue whale in size.
The largest monotreme (egg-laying mammal) ever was the extinct long-beaked echidna species known as Zaglossus hacketti, known from a couple of bones found in Western Australia. It was the size of a sheep, weighing probably up to 30 kg (66 lb).
Even-toed ungulates (Artiodactyla)
- The largest artiodactyl was Hippopotamus gorgops with a length of 4.3 metres (14 feet) and a height of 2.1 metres (6.9 feet). Bison latifrons reached a shoulder height of 2.5 meters (8.2 feet), and had horns that spanned over 2 meters (6.6 feet). The largest extinct bovid is Aurochs (Bos primigenius) with an average height at the shoulders of 155–180 cm (61–71 in) in bulls and 135–155 cm (53–61 in) in cows, while aurochs populations in Hungary had bulls reaching 155–160 cm (61–63 in).
- The largest camel that ever lived was the Syrian camel. It was 3 meters (9.8 feet) at the shoulder and 13 feet tall. Gigantocamelus and Titanotylopus from North America, both possibly reached 2,485.6 kg (5,480 lb) and a shoulder height of over 3.4 m (11 ft).
- Daeodon was the largest entelodont that ever lived, at 12 ft long and 7 ft at the shoulder. The largest wild suid to ever exist was Kubanochoerus gigas, having measured up to 550 kg (1,210 lb) and stood more than 1.3 m (4.3 ft) tall at the shoulder.
- The extinct Irish elk (Megaloceros giganteus) and the stag-moose (Cervalces scotti) were of similar or of slightly larger size than the Alaskan moose. However, the Irish elk could have antlers spanning up to 4.3 m (14 ft) across, about twice the maximum span for a moose's antlers. Cervalces latifrons was twice as heavy as the Irish elk but its antlers were smaller.
- The largest extinct marsupial was Diprotodon, about 3 metres (9.8 ft) long, standing 2 metres (6.6 ft) tall and weighing up to 2,786 kg (6,142 lb).
- The two largest carnivorous marsupials were the marsupial lion and Thylacosmilus (larger than the Tasmanian tiger), both about 6 ft long (1.8 m) and weighing 100–160 kilograms (220–350 lb). The largest kangaroo ever was Procoptodon, which could grow to 3.0 m (10 ft) and weigh 230 kilograms (510 lb). Some species from the genus Sthenurus were similar in size as well.
- The largest terrestrial carnivoran and the largest bear as well as the largest mammalian land-predator of all time was Arctotherium angustidens of the genus Arctotherium or the South American short-faced bears. A humerus of A. angustidens from Buenos Aires indicate that the big males of this species would have weighed 1,588- 1,749 kg and standing at least 11 feet (3.4 meters) tall on the hind-limbs.
- The largest viverrid known to have existed is Viverra leakeyi, which was around the size of a wolf or small leopard at 41 kg (90 lb).
- The heaviest felid ever was the Ngangdong tiger (Panthera tigris soloensis) with the largest specimen weighing in at 470 kg. The largest wolf is the dire wolf (Canis dirus) 1.5 m (4.9 ft) in length and weighed between 50 kg (110 lb) and 79 kg (174 lb). The largest canid of all time was Epicyon haydeni, which stood 37 inches tall (0.9 meters) at the shoulder. The largest bear-dog was a species of Pseudocyon weighing around 773 kg, representing a very large individual.
- The largest mustelid to ever exist was likely the odd cat-like Ekorus from Africa, about the size of a leopard and filling a similar ecological niche before big cats came to the continent. Another contender for largest of this family is the wolverine-like Megalictis, which according to older estimates could have reached the size af a black bear. Newer estimates, however, significantly downgrade its size, although, at a maximum weight more than twice that of a wolverine, it is larger than most (if not all) living mustelids.
Hedgehogs, gymnures, shrews, and moles (Erinaceomorpha and Soricomorpha)
Rabbits, hares, and pikas (Lagomorpha)
Odd-toed ungulates (Perissodactyla)
- The largest perissodactyl, and land mammal, of all time was Indricotherium. The largest individual known was estimated at 4.8 m (16 ft) tall at the shoulders, 8.0 m (26.2 ft) in length from nose to rump, and 16 t (18 tons) in weight.
- Some prehistoric horned rhinos also grew to large sizes. The giant woolly rhino Elasmotherium reached 20 ft long and 6.6 ft high.
- The largest pilosan ever was Megatherium, a ground sloth with an estimated average weight of 5 tonnes (5.5 tons) and a height of 4 m (13 ft), which is about the same size as the African bush elephant. Several other sloths grew to large sizes as well, such as Eremotherium, but none as large as Megatherium.
- The largest primate of all time was Gigantopithecus blackii, standing 3 m tall (10 ft) and weighing 540 kilograms (1,200 lb).
- The largest old world monkey, the prehistoric baboon Dinopithecus grew even larger than modern Mandrills, weighing as much as a grown man.
- Some prehistoric prosimians grew to huge sizes as well. Archaeoindris was a 1.5 meter long lemur that lived in Madagascar and weighed 200 kg, more than a silverback gorilla. Megaladapis is another large extinct lemur at 1.3 to 1.5 m (4.3 to 4.9 ft) in length.
Elephants, mammoths, and mastodons (Proboscidea)
- The largest non-indricotherine land mammal ever was a proboscidian, probably the steppe mammoth (Mammuthus trogontherii) with the largest individual estimated to reach 4.5 metres (15 ft) at the shoulders.
- Some other enormous proboscideans include the southern mammoth (Mammuthus meridionalis), the imperial mammoth (Mammuthus imperator), and Deinotherium.
- Josephoartigasia monesi was the largest rodent of all time, approximately 3 metres (9.8 feet) long and 1.5 metres (4.9 feet) tall and weighing an estimated 1 tonne.
- Before the discovery of Josephoartigasia monesi, another giant rodent was known, Phoberomys insolita, but it was known from only a few fragments, so its real size is unknown. A slightly smaller relative, Phoberomys pattersoni, was found, which was 3 m long (10 ft) and weighed 320 kilograms (700 lb).
- The largest beaver was the giant beaver of North America. It grew over 8 ft (2.4 m) in length and weighed roughly 60 to 100 kg (130 to 220 lb), also making it one of the largest rodents to ever exist.
- The largest prehistoric sirenian was Steller's sea cow at 8–9 m long (26–30 ft).
- Another contender was Rytiodus which was 6 m long (20 ft). It was about twice the size as modern sirenians.
The largest condylarths of is Phenacodus. It was 1.5 m (4.9 ft) long and weighted up to 56 kg,
The largest notoungulate known of complete remains is Toxodon. It was about 2.7 metres (8.9 feet) in body length, and about 1.5 metres (4.9 feet) high at the shoulder and resembled a heavy rhinoceros. Although is not complete, the preserved fossils suggests that Mixotoxodon were the most massive member of the group, with a weight about 3.8 tonnes.
The plant-eating pelycosaur Cotylorhynchus probably was the largest of all non-mammal synapsids, at 20 feet (6.1 meters) and 2 tonnes. Among the largest carnivorous synapsids were the therapsids Anteosaurus, which was 5–6 meters long, and weighed 500–600 kg, and Ivantosaurus, with a length of 20 feet (6.1 meters).
Crocodiles and relatives (Crocodylomorpha)
- The largest known crocodylomorph is likely Sarcosuchus imperator at 12 metres (39 ft) long and weighing 8 tonnes.
- Some close contenders in size are Deinosuchus estimated at around 12 metres (39 ft), and Purussaurus estimated at 11–13 metres (36–43 ft) in length. Another large crocodilian is Rhamphosuchus, estimated at 8–11 metres (26–36 ft) in length.
- The largest terrestrial sebecid crocodylomorph is Barinasuchus, from the Miocene of South America, which reached 9 m (30 ft) long.
- The largest known rauisuchian is Fasolasuchus tenax, which measured an estimated 8–10 metres. It is both the largest rauisuchian known to science, and the largest non-dinosaurian terrestrial predator ever discovered.
- Giant mosasaurs are the largest animals within this group. The largest known mosasaur is likely Mosasaurus hoffmanni, estimated at 17.6 metres (58 ft) in length. A close contender in size is Hainosaurus bernardi, estimated at 15 metres (49 ft) in length. Another giant mosasaur is Tylosaurus, estimated at 10–14 metres (33–46 ft) in length.
- The largest known prehistoric snake is Titanoboa cerrejonensis, estimated at 13–15 metres (43–49 ft) in length and 1135 kg - 1819 kg in weight. Another known very large fossil snake is Gigantophis garstini, estimated at around 10–11.6 metres (33–38 ft) in length. However, a close rival in size to Gigantophis is a fossil snake, Palaeophis colossaeus, which may have been around 9 metres (30 ft) in length.
- The largest known land lizard is probably Megalania at 7 metres (23 ft) in length. However, maximum size of this animal is subject to debate.
The longest plesiosauroid was Elasmosaurus at 14 metres (46 feet) long.
There is much controversy over the largest of these reptiles. Fossil remains of a pliosaur nicknamed as Predator X have been discovered and excavated from Norway in 2008. This pliosaur has been estimated at 15 metres (49 ft) in length and 45 metric tons (50 short tons) in weight. However, in 2002, a team of paleontologists in Mexico discovered the remains of a pliosaur nicknamed as Monster of Aramberri, which is also estimated at 15 metres (49 ft) in length. This specimen is however claimed to be a juvenile and has been attacked by a larger pliosaur. Some media sources claimed that Monster of Aramberri was a Liopleurodon but its species is unconfirmed thus far. Another very large pliosaur was Pliosaurus macromerus, known from a single 2.8 m long incomplete mandible. It may have reached 18 metres (59 ft), assuming the skull was about 17% of the total body length.
Turtles and tortoises (Testudines)
- The largest turtle ever was Archelon ischyros at 4 m (13 ft) long, 4.9 m (16 ft) wide and 2200 kg (4,850 lbs). The next largest was Protostega at 3 m (9.8 ft).
- Two tortoises share the title of largest ever tortoise: Meiolania at 8 ft.long and well over a ton, and Colossochelys atlas at 8 to 9 ft. and weighing over half a ton. The largest seems to be the freshwater turtle Stupendemys, with an estimated total carapace length of more than 3.3 m (11 ft) and weight of up to 1,814–2,268 kg (3,999–5,000 lb). Carbonemys cofrinii has a shell that measures about 1.72 m (5.6 ft) and was estimated to weigh 916 kg (2,019 lb).
The largest is Scutosaurus, up to 3 metres (9.8 ft) in length, with bony armor, and a number of spikes decorating its skull.
The largest of this order is Redondasaurus, who attained a length of 10–12 metres (33–39 ft)
- The largest pterosaur was Quetzalcoatlus northropi, at 127 kg (280 lb) and with a wingspan of 12 m (39 ft). Another close contender is Hatzegopteryx, also with a wingspan of 12 m (this estimate is based on a skull 3 m long (10 ft).
- Yet another possible contender for the title is Ornithocheirus, which allegedly had a 12-meter (39-foot) wingspan. However, specimen of this size have not been formally described in the literature.
Non-avian dinosaurs (Dinosauria)
- A mega-sauropod, Amphicoelias fragillimus, is a contender for the largest dinosaur in history. It has been estimated at 58 metres (190 ft) in length and 122,400 kilograms (269,800 lb) in weight. Unfortunately, the fossil remains of this dinosaur have been lost.
- Other huge sauropods include Argentinosaurus, Futalognkosaurus and Puertasaurus with estimated lengths of 30–35 metres (98–115 ft) and weights of 60–100 metric tons (66–110 short tons). Giant sauropods like Supersaurus, Sauroposeidon, and Diplodocus probably rivaled them in length but not weight.
- The largest theropod as well as the largest terrestrial predator yet known is Spinosaurus aegyptiacus, with the largest specimen known estimated at 16–18 metres (52–59 ft) in length and around 7–20.9 metric tons (8–23 short tons) in weight.
- Other large theropods were Giganotosaurus carolinii, and Tyrannosaurus rex, whose largest specimens known estimated at 13.2 metres (43 ft) and 12.3 metres (40 ft) in length respectively. Some other notable giant theropods (e.g. Carcharodontosaurus, Acrocanthosaurus, and Mapusaurus) may also have rivaled them in size.
Armoured dinosaurs (Thyreophora)
The very largest ornithopods, like Shantungosaurus were as heavy as medium sized sauropods at up to 23 metric tons. (25 short tons) The largest is probably Shantungosaurus at 16.5 metres (54 ft) in length.
The largest birds of all time might have been the elephant birds of Madagascar. Of almost the same size was the Australian Dromornis stirtoni. Both were about 3 m tall (10 ft). The elephant birds were up to 400 kg and Dromornis stirtoni was up to 500 kg in weight. The tallest bird ever was the giant moa (Dinornis maximus) at 3.6 m (12 ft) tall.
The largest flight-capable bird was Argentavis magnificens which a wingspan of 8.3 m (27 ft), and a body weight of 110 kg (240 lb).
The largest shorebird of all time was the great auk (Pinguinus impennis) at 5 kg (11 lb) in weight and 75–85 cm (30–33 in) in length.
Storks and allies (Ciconiiformes)
The largest falconiform and the largest flying bird presently known was Argentavis magnificens. The immense bird had wingspan estimated up to 8.3 m (27 ft) and a weight up to 110 kg (240 lb). It was as high as an adult human when standing.
The largest pigeon ever was the dodo (Raphus cucullatus), weighing 23 kg (51 lb) and standing 1 m (3.3 ft) tall. Rodrigues solitaire (Pezophaps solitaria), a brown, long-necked birds that were superficially ratite-like. All three species may have exceeded 1 m (3.3 ft) in height. All were carelessly hunted it into extinction by humans and introduced animals. The dodo is the most frequently crowned as the largest ever pigeon, as it could have weighed as much as 28 kg (62 lb), although recent estimates have indicated that an average wild dodo would have weighed around 10.2 kg (22 lb), scarcely larger than a male turkey. If dodos were this light, the Rodrigues solitaire may have been larger. Some estimates claim tha solitaire was merely swan-sized but others estimate weights of up to 27.8 kg (61 lb).
The largest of the hesperornithines was Canadaga arctica at 5 ft long.
The largest teratorn and the largest flying bird ever was Argentavis, with a weight of 80 kilograms (180 lb).
The largest ever gruiform and largest phorusrhacid or "terror bird" (highly predatory, flightless birds of South America) was Brontornis, which was about 175 cm tall at the shoulder, could raise its head 2,8 metres above the ground an could have weighed as much as 400 kg. The immense phorushacid Kelenken with a skull 28 inches (71 cm) long (18 inches of which was beak), had the largest head of any known bird. The largest is Titanis, which is about 2.5m. tall, as tall as a forest elephant.
The largest bird of prey ever was the enormous Haast's eagle (Harpagornis moorei), with a wingspan of 2.6 to 3 m (8.5 to 9.8 ft), relatively short for their size. Total length was probably up to 1.4 m (4.6 ft) in female and they weighed about 10 to 15 kg (22 to 33 Ib). The largest extinct Titanohierax was a giant hawk about 8 kilograms that lived in the Antilles, where it was among the top predators.
The largest in this group was a giant flightless Sylviornis, a bird 1.70 m (5.6 ft) long and weighing up to about 30 kg (66 lb).
The largest songbird is the extinct giant grosbeak (Chloridops regiskongi) at 11 inches (28 cm) long.
Cormorants and allies (Pelecaniformes)
The largest cormorant was the spectacled cormorant of the North Pacific (Phalacrocorax perspicillatus), which went extinct around 1850, was larger still, averaging around 6.4 kg (14 lb) and 1.15 m (3.8 ft).
Bony-toothed birds (Odontopterygiformes)
The largest in this group – which has been variously allied with Procellariiformes, Pelecaniformes and Anseriformes – and the largest flying birds of all time other than Argentavis were the huge Cyphornis, Dasornis, Gigantornis and Osteodontornis. They had a wingspan of 5.5–6 m (18–20 ft) and stood about 1.2 meters (3.9 feet) tall. Exact size estimates and judging which one was largest are not yet possible for these birds, as their bones were extremely thin-walled, light and fragile, and thus most are only known from very incomplete remains.
Woodpeckers and allies (Piciformes)
The largest woodpecker is the possibly extinct imperial woodpecker (Campephilus imperialis) with a total length of about 22 inches (50 centimeters). The largest woodpecker confirmed to be extant is the great slaty woodpecker (Mulleripicus pulverulentus).
The largest parrot is the extinct Norfolk Island kaka (Nestor productus), about 38 cm long.
The largest penguin of all time was Anthropornis nordenskjoeldi of New Zealand and Antarctica. It stood 1.7 meters (5 feet 7 inches) in height and was 90 kilograms (200 pounds) in weight. Similar in size were the New Zealand giant penguin (Pachydyptes pondeorsus) with a height of 1.4 to 1.6 m (4.6 to 5.2 ft) and weighing around 80 to possibly over 100 kg, and Icadyptes salasi at 1.5 m (4.9 ft) tall.
The largest frog ever was the 16-inch-long (41 cm) Beelzebufo ampinga, weighing 10 pounds (4.5 kg)
The largest diacectid, Diadectes, was a heavily built animal, 1.5 to 3 meters long, with thick vertebrae and ribs.
Bony fish (Osteichthyes)
The largest placoderm was the 9 metres (30 ft) long Dunkleosteus. Its relative, Titanichthys, may have rivaled it in size. These particular animals may have reached lengths of 10 m (33 ft) and are estimated to have weighed in at 3.6 tonnes.
Lobe-finned fish (Sarcopterygii)
The largest of these was the 6 metres (20 ft) long Rhizodus.
Ray-finned fish (Actinopterygii)
Cartilaginous fish (Chondrichthyes)
Mackerel sharks (Lamniformes)
An extinct megatoothed shark, C. megalodon is by far the biggest shark known. This giant shark reached a total length of more than 16 metres (52 ft). C. megalodon may have approached a maximum of 20.3 metres (67 ft) in total length and 103 metric tons (114 short tons) in mass.
The largest symmoriid is Stethacanthus at 70 centimetres (2.3 ft) long.
The largest eugenedont is Helicoprion at 7.5 metres (25 ft) long.
The largest hydontiformid is Ptychodus was about 32 feet long (10 meters).
The largest known is Anomalocaris at 2 meters long.
There are two contenders for largest ever arachnid: Pulmonoscorpius kirktonensis and Brontoscorpio anglicus. Pulmonoscorpius was 70 centimetres (2.3 ft) Brontoscorpio was 90 centimetres (3.0 ft). The biggest difference is that Brontoscorpio was aquatic, and Pulmonoscorpius was terrestrial. Brontoscorpio is not to be confused with various Eurypterids: it was a true scorpion with a venomous stinger.
The largest known myriapod by far was the giant Arthropleura. Measuring 2.5 metres (8.2 ft) and 45 centimetres (18 in) wide, it was the largest terrestrial arthropod of all time. Like its modern day relatives, Arthropleura would have likely sprayed hydrogen cyanide at potential predators, although its sheer size and tough exoskeleton protected it from attack.
Some of these extinct marine arthropods exceeded 60 centimetres (24 in) in length. A nearly complete specimen of Isotelus rex from Manitoba attained a length over 70 centimetres (28 in), and an Ogyginus forteyi from Portugal was almost as long. Fragments of trilobites suggest even larger record sizes. An isolated pygidium of Hungioides bohemicus implies that the full animal was 90 centimetres (35 in) long.
Sawflies, wasps, bees, ants and allies (Hymenoptera)
The largest of this order was Mazothairos, with a wingspan of up to 22 inches (56 cm).
Several cockroach-like stem dictyopterans from the Carboniferous Period grew to exceptional size. A specimen of Xenoblatta from Ohio was at least 70 mm long, almost the size of the largest cockroach living today.
Snails and slugs (Gastropoda)
The largest ammonite was Parapuzosia seppenradensis. A partial fossil specimen found in Germany had a shell diameter of 1.95 metres (6.4 ft), but the living chamber was incomplete, so the estimated shell diameter was probably about 2.55 metres (8.4 ft) when it was alive.
The largest belemnite was Megateuthis gigantea with a guard of 46 centimetres (18 in) in length and an estimated total length 3 metres (9.8 ft) long.
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