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“There’s no way to describe how insignificant you feel when you are around an animal this big,” said , an ecologist at ’s Marine Mammal Institute.
The incident is definitely not the first time animals have tinkered with some of our biggest science projects. Here are four more wild encounters between beasts and machines.
African Buffalo: One of the “big five” animals
Learn to tell which is bigger or smaller with animals.
In the Feb. 5 issue of Nature, a group of paleontologists announced that they've belonging to a 43-foot snake that lived some 60 million years ago. The massive boa, which dates from the , is the largest snake species ever discovered—it would have been . How come prehistoric animals were so much bigger than today's beasts?After a large-scale devastation it can take millions of years for giant animals to reappear—it took 15 million for the giant mammals to crop up after the dinosaurs died. The last major extinction event took place roughly 12,000 years ago, not nearly long enough ago for new species of truly massive animals to have materialized by now. The biggest creatures on Earth today—the American bison, elephants, rhinos—aren't new species but survivors of that catastrophe. Theoretically, there's no reason we couldn't see dinosaur-sized animals again in the future. After all, we already share our planet with the biggest mammal ever recorded—the . In between those spikes, the earth experienced large . One of these massive die-offs wiped out the dinosaurs, and another killed off most of the large mammals. Big animals are especially vulnerable when these mass extinctions occur because they adapt and evolve more slowly, as they tend to live longer and reproduce less rapidly than other creatures. National Geographic is working to avert the extinction of lions, cheetahs, and other big cats with the , a comprehensive program that supports innovative projects. Learn how you can help save these animals.Why did some prehistoric animals get so big in the first place? No one knows for sure, but there are lots of theories. Being larger can provide many evolutionary advantages—bigger animals are less vulnerable to predators and can compete more assertively for resources. The existence of bigger herbivores also means that carnivorous animals have to grow in order to be effective hunters. A species' size may also shift in response to environmental factors. In cold climates, a bulky frame can be an asset to warm-blooded animals—the bigger they are, the better they retain heat. The opposite is true for cold-blooded animals—in a warm climate, a bigger mass can help insulate an animal and keep it from overheating. And in , a paleontologist suggests that some plant-eating dinosaurs might have gotten so big because the foliage in that era was extremely tough and woody: A larger body frame meant a longer digestive tract and more time for bacteria to do its work, allowing the dinosaur to extract as much nutritional value as possible from each bite. National Geographic is working to avert the extinction of lions, cheetahs, and other big cats with the , a comprehensive program that supports innovative projects. Learn how you can help save these animals.