Deinogalerix (Greek for "terrible polecat"); pronounced DIE-no-GAL-eh-rix
Woodlands of western Europe
Late Miocene (10-5 million years ago)
Size and Weight:
About 2 feet long and 10 pounds
Probably insects and carrion
Large size; rat-like tail and feet
It's true that most mammals of the Miocene epoch grew to plus sizes, but Deinogalerix--perhaps it should be better known as the dino-hedgehog--had an added incentive: this prehistoric mammal seems to have been restricted to a few isolated islands off the southern coast of Europe, a sure evolutionary recipe for gigantism. About the size of a modern tabby cat, Deinogalerix probably made its living by feeding on insects and the carcasses of dead animals. Although it was directly ancestral to modern hedgehogs, for all intents and purposes Deinogalerix looked like a giant rat, with its naked tail and feet, narrow snout, and (one imagines) overall peskiness.