10 Weirdest Fossils

1100-million-year-old spider attack fossil

The only fossil ever discovered of a spider attack on prey caught in its web – a 100 million-year-old snapshot of an engagement caught in amber.

The extraordinarily rare fossils are in a piece of amber that preserved this event in remarkable detail. This spider lived in the Hukawng Valley of Myanmar in the Early Cretaceous – between 97-110 million years ago – almost certainly with dinosaurs wandering nearby.

266 pound Rhino skull

A rare fossil of a rhinoceros that roamed what is now Turkey reveals the tale of a sudden violent death—by volcano, 9.2 million years ago. The ancient rhino's skull and jaw have a rough surface and brittle teeth. Paleontologist Pierre-Olivier Antoine of the University of Montpellier in France thinks that's because volcanic rock fragments from the Cardak caldera pelted the rhino. A speeding river of ash and rock probably dismembered the animal and "baked" its skull at temperatures reaching 840ºF (450°C).

Just 2 percent of fossils are found in volcanic rock, because the heat usually incinerates organic matter. It's even rarer to find a mammal fossil.

The skull and jaw of the rhino found in Cappadocia, central Turkey, weigh 66 pounds (30 kilograms). They are thought to have belonged to a large two-horned rhino, Ceratotherium neumayri, a species common in the Eastern Mediterranean Province during the late Miocene.

3Largest prehistoric Megalodon shark jaw ever assembled

It makes the Great White shark in Jaws look like a goldfish. But this giant prehistoric shark jaw comes from the largest predator ever to have existed on Earth. The 16-metre long Megalodon shark, which died out 1.5million years ago, was once the true king of the ocean, weighing an awesome 100 tons. It took famed fossil hunter Vito "Megalodon" Bertucci almost 20 years to reconstruct the jaw, the largest ever assembled, measuring 11 ft. across and almost 9 ft. tall.

The late Mr. Bertucci found fragments of the ferocious species in the rivers of South Carolina. The jaw set is composed of 182 fossil teeth, some over seven inches long.

4Gigantic ant fossil

Four paleontologists, including two at Simon Fraser University, have discovered the fossil of a gigantic ant whose globetrotting sheds light on how global warming events affected the distribution of life some 50 million years ago.

They describe a new fossil species of giant ant, which they've named Titanomyrma lubei. This winged queen ant lived in the Eocene Epoch about 50 million years old. It had a body just over five centimetres long — comparable to a hummingbird — a size only rivaled today by the monstrously large queens of an ant species in tropical Africa.

5Peru's giant penguin

It sounds like the set-up for a bad joke: what was five feet tall, ate fish, and was grey-and-red all over? According to a paper published in 2010 in Science, the answer is Inkayacu paracasensis, a previously-unknown genus of prodigious penguin from the 36 million year old strata of Peru.

Part of a now-extinct diversification of giant penguins, Inkayacu certainly would have stood out when compared to its living relatives. At an estimated mass of 54-59 kilograms, Inkayacu was roughly twice as heavy as today's emperor penguin, and, like its giant cousin Icadyptes, it had a hyper-elongated bill which it used to snap up fish in the ancient equatorial sea.

6Saber-Toothed Squirrel

Imagine a critter about the size of a squirrel. Imagine it with big eyes and a long snout. Now imagine it with canine fangs about one-fifth the length of its head. That's the kind of a mammal that scientists say was walking among dinosaurs more than 100 million years ago. Scientists found the fossils in Argentina and the find is significant because scientists say it closes a 60-million-year gap in what they knew about mammals in South America during the late Cretaceous period.

Scientists also found the animal's skull. That's highly unusual but fortunate because it gave them the ability to work out the biology of the animal.

The little creature was probably less than 6 inches (15 cm.) long and shared similar characteristics with the saber-toothed squirrel in the Ice Age movies. But Cronopio likely ate insects, not the nuts that drive the animated character Scrat so crazy, and was a dryolestoid, an extinct group more like today's marsupials than squirrels, scientists say.

7Extinct whale fossil found on Santa Cruz Beach

Some surfers made an amazing discovery near Santa Cruz, Calif. when they found what looked to be a fossilized row of vertebrae jutting out of some rocks during an "extremely low tide." One surfer, Reddit user "Donkahones," snapped a picture of the old bones and uploaded it to the social news site with the light-hearted headline, "So I went surfing and saw a dinosaur." Not everyone appreciated the joke, but it did attract quite a bit of interest.

Director Gary Griggs from the Institute of Marine Sciences at the University of California said that the fossils in the photo were most likely from an extinct Pliocene-era whale.

8Nest of 15 baby dinosaurs found in Mongolia

In 2011, David Fastovsky, a University of Rhode Island (URI) paleontologist, described a nest containing the fossilized remains of 15 juvenile Protoceratops andrewsi dinosaurs from Mongolia in the Journal of Paleontology. It's the first nest of this genus ever found and the first indication that Protoceratops juveniles remained in the nest for an extended period.

The analysis of the 70-million-year-old nest by Fastovsky and his colleagues found that all 15 dinosaurs – at least 10 of which are complete specimens – were about the same size and had achieved the same state of growth and development, suggesting they represent a single clutch from a single mother. The discovery also indicates that the young dinosaurs remained in the nest through the early stages of postnatal development and were cared for by their parents.

9A perfect horsetail fossil

Perfectly preserved for more than 300 million years, this horsetail carries secrets from the Carboniferous period. Primitive vascular plants, horsetails (genus Equisetum) are often found in coal deposits.

10Strange phallus-shaped worm fossil

A curiously phallus-shaped prehistoric worm has provided a "crucial missing link" to understanding the evolution of certain marine creatures, scientists say. Fossilized remains of the creature dubbed Spartobranchus tenuis were unearthed in Canada's Burgess Shale fossil beds in the Yoho National Park.

The area is one of the most important fossil deposits for understanding the early evolution of life during an era of increasing biodiversity on Earth known as the Cambrian Explosion, which started about 542 million years ago.