Kong: Skull Island dominated the box office this past weekend and seemed to generate some pretty positive response. While previous incarnations of Kong—at least in America—have more or less focused on pitting the giant ape against real-world beasts, Skull Island takes the neat approach of designing new creatures to inhabit the island. Things like the Skullcrawlers never existed, of course, but they have similarities to other prehistoric creatures. As do all of the other monsters featured in the film.
Given that, we thought it would be fun to take a look at the film’s imaginative beasts and attempt to best place their real-world counterparts. None of them will be nearly as big as the creatures featured in the movie, but that won’t stop them from being awe-inspiring on their own.
Sometimes the real world is the best place to draw inspiration from. There are things that have walked this Earth that are, to this day, simply unbelievable. With that in mind, let’s take a journey back to Skull Island to see what animals truly could have lived there.
Psychovulture – Giant Walking Bat
This recently discovered prehistoric species of bat is pretty close to the psychovultures we saw in the movie. Originating in New Zealand, they were about three times the size of any bat living today, which puts them only a little under the size of the bats seen in Skull Island. Their diet, like their modern cousins, was omnivorous. They ate mostly fruit and insects. It’s unlikely they would have been able to take down a full-size human being, though that doesn’t make them any less intimidating.
This one’s neat because, in a way, it kind of reflects the movie itself. Though this large stick insect is not even close to the log-camouflaged creature in the movie, it is a giant bug that was thought extinct for millions of years before being discovered alive and well in the modern era. It only goes to show you that we never truly know what’s out there. We’re only going off our best guess.
Mire Squid – Colossal Squid
The giant squid that appears in the movie is, frighteningly, the closest thing on the list to having a true real-life counterpart. The colossal squid is the largest known species of giant squid. While the monster in the film is roughly a hundred feet in length, the colossal squid is expected to max out at around half that size. The largest specimen ever found was 46 feet. There is definitely evidence to suggest that they could have gotten much bigger, of course. Keep in mind, for most of history giant squids were expected to simply be a myth. There was no proof of their existence until the early 2000s.
Okay, this was only a cameo in the movie, but it’s still worth pointing out. Most Kong movies in the past gave us actual species of dinosaurs in the lost world of Skull Island. We don’t get much of that in the new film, but we do get evidence that dinosaurs lived here at one point. In one scene, a character mounts a gun on top of the skull of a triceratops. This is a very infamous and recognizable three-horned dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous period. It was a rival to the Tyrannosaurus itself. They fought often and judging by fossil records, it won a good chunk of the time. On Skull Island, sadly, it didn’t seem to fare as well.
Sker Buffalo – Bison Latifrons
The closest thing history gives us to the Sker Buffalo seen in Skull Island is the giant Bison Latifrons—and even though it’s not a water buffalo, it’s pretty close. Like most giant mammals, this one thrived during the last ice age. This one reached a height of eight feet and lived in mid-North America before going extinct around 30,000 years ago. It’s not at quite the size of the counterpart depicted in the movie, but it’s really not far off, either.
Skullcrawlers – Megalania
This one’s a bit tougher. The Skullcrawlers were clearly designed for the movie. They’re totally fictional monsters. They take the place of the T-Rexes that Kong’s been known to fight in the past. Unlike dinosaurs, these truly are just giant lizards. But it’s not like giant lizards never existed. Monitor lizards regularly reach lengths of six feet or more, komodo dragons—the largest living today—can come just shy of ten feet. But their ancestor Megalania reached lengths of 23 feet. No, that’s not anywhere close to the size of the Skullcrawlers, but that’s still a huge lizard.
Kong – Gigantropithicus
Let’s make this clear: Kong is impossible. Part of the fun of the movie is that this is an impossible creature on an island full of impossible creatures. But the real world version of Kong is still pretty cool. Gigantropithicus was an ancestor of the modern orangutan that actually coexisted with early humans. It’s believed to have maxed out around ten feet in height and regularly reached heights of eight feet. It was a massive animal when standing on two legs, fiercely intelligent as well. It mostly fed on a diet of bamboo, a pacifist that kept to itself. Much like Kong, actually.