Animal Gigantism: 13 Real-Life Godzillas


While they might not be terrorizing, fire-breathing monsters the size of skyscrapers, gigantic animals in the vein of Godzilla really do exist. So why are some creatures so huge compared to similar species? It’s a phenomenon known as “insular gigantism”, and usually occurs on islands or deep under the sea. These 13 examples have evolved to unusually, sometimes frighteningly large proportions – especially compared to their equally mis-sized dwarf counterparts (more on that next week.)

Madagascar Hissing Cockroach

(image via: scragz)

Most of us scream at the sight of a single normal-sized cockroach, but imagine if you woke up to find one of these babies crawling across your body. The Madagascar Hissing Cockroach is only found in its namesake nation, an island that is an ideal place for gigantism, dwarfism and other ecological anomalies to occur. They can reach up to 3 inches long, and the males have scary-looking horns.

Giant Isopod

(images via: Driftline, Marki’s Block and ScienceBlogs)

Thought the hissing cockroach was impressive? It would take a teeming pile of them to make up one nightmarish giant isopod, a bug-like crustacean from the dark depths of the sea that can reach over a foot in length. Far larger than almost any other shellfish, the giant isopod has creepy claws, huge eyes and a pair of antennae.

Haast’s Eagle

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With a wingspan measuring as large as 8.5 feet, if Haast’s Eagle were any larger, it wouldn’t have been able to fly. A fierce predator from New Zealand, Haast’s Eagle fed on 300-pound (now-extinct, also gigantic) flightless birds called moa and scientists now believe that the legends of it killing and eating men could very well be true. It died out about 500 years ago, probably due to human hunting and habitat encroachment.

Japanese Spider Crab

(images via: wikimedia commons)

Imagine scuba diving in the beautiful waters off Japan, marveling over some pretty fish, when suddenly you feel a presence behind you and turn around to face a movie monster from hell. The Japanese Spider Crab is is the biggest arthropod in the world with an impressive leg span that reaches up to 12.5 feet. While adults can be found as deep as 2,000 feet below the surface, it’s not unusual for them to come into much more shallow waters.

Elephant Bird

(image via: wikipedia, bone clones)

The Elephant Bird truly lived up to its name, standing an astonishing 10 feet tall and weighing up to 880 pounds. Formerly found on the island of Madagascar, this species has been extinct since at least the 17th century. It’s not known exactly what killed them, but archaeologists have found pieces of their egg shells in the remnants of human fires. At three feet long, one egg could have fed an entire family.

Saint Helena Earwig

(image via: rogue taxidermy)

As if earwigs weren’t disgusting enough, with their wiggly bodies and those threatening-looking pinchers on their rear ends, the Saint Helena Earwig takes them well past “ick” into “Oh-God-why” territory. They’re only found on the isolated island of Saint Helena, located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean between Africa and South America.

Seven-Arm Octopus

(image via: wikipedia)

What make the Seven-Arm Octopus unusual is not just the fact that, with its specially modified “arm” used in egg fertilization kept coiled under its eye, it looks more like a septopus. Rather, this sea creature is the largest known octopus in the world at up to 12 feet in total length – or at least, some scientists say it is. Others believe there may be even larger octopi in the sea.

Minorcan Giant Lagomorph

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No, this photo above is not a Minorcan Giant Lagomorph (but it is a real 3-foot, 22-lb rabbit bred to feed poor North Koreans – no kidding). However, we don’t have any images of the extinct Minorcan rabbit, because it died out way back in dino days. Fossils discovered on the island indicate that these plus-size critters were no cute fuzzy bunnies, outweighing the rabbit above by up to 28 pounds.

Galapagos Giant Tortoise

(image via: sly 06 & michael r. perry)

The ultimate symbol for the Galapagos Islands, these tortoises aren’t just incredibly large at up to 660 pounds and 4 feet long – they also live far longer than the average human with a lifespan of 100-150 years. They were just recently removed from the endangered species list after many years of conservation efforts, and are among the most famous gigantic species in the world.

Giant Squid

(images via: wikipedia)

The star of many a myth since ancient times, the Giant Squid was technically a cryptid until the late 19th century when a 35-foot specimen washed ashore in Newfoundland. In 2004, a specimen called “Archie” was captured and sent to the Natural History Museum in London to be studied and preserved. A video of a live adult in the wild was finally filmed in 2004, with the 26-foot male stuck on a lure for five hours until it finally broke free, leaving an 18-foot tentacle behind.

East Timor Giant Rat

(image via: post chronicle)

The largest rat known to have existed on earth was discovered just days ago in cave excavations on the island of East Timor in Southeast Asia. Extinct for at least 1,000 to 2,000 years, the biggest specimen weighed 13.2 pounds, making it larger than many domesticated cats. Other giant rats still exist today, but top out around 4.4 pounds.

Giant Weta

(image via: kiwi mikex)

In prehistoric times, humans had it rough indeed, especially when so many bugs were as large as the Giant Weta, which is still found creeping people out in New Zealand. Despite what their size may seem to indicate, these 4-inch-long insects are passive, gentle creatures. One captive female reached 2.5 ounces in weight, giving Giant Weta the reputation as some of the heaviest insects on the planet.

Komodo Dragon

(image via: national geographic)

Like Giant Squid, Komodo Dragons were long thought to be mythological. It just didn’t seem possible that insanely oversized lizards still roamed at least one small island, long after the extinction of dinosaurs. But this 9.8-foot, 150-pound monitor is real indeed and is known to be quite dangerous and have attacked humans on quite a few occasions.

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