STL Science Center

STL Science Center

27 March 2015

Age of Mammals

The diversity of this blog is about to really take off now. As we venture into random directions and sometimes talk about dinosaurs and sometimes not, I will probably ask people what their favorite animals are to get ideas for future directions. Today is one of those instances. That means that we will sometimes have similar taxa back to back and sometimes not. Sometimes we may not even discuss dinosaurs for an extended period (I might want to change the name of the blog I realize as I type this).

Either way, this week's fossil animal comes to us from the heart of the age of mammals. An extinction date as recent as 8,000 years ago makes this fossil artiodactyl an astonishingly young fossil taxa for a site typically discussing taxa millions of years old. There are a number of reasons that this animal is wonderful and intriguing though. First of all, rock paintings in the Sahara Desert are thought to resemble this animal, though perhaps they are simply terrible drawings of one of their living descendants. Those living descendants, okapi and giraffes, look very similar to Sivatherium giganteum Falconer and Cautley 1836. Sivatherium was an odd "giraffid" that had a known range from Northern Africa to the Indian subcontinent; the type species material was discovered in a valley at the feet of the Himalayas. This odd looking animal is nestled, in height, between giraffes and okapi at around 2.2 m (7 ft 4 in) tall at the shoulder. The head of the animal was considerably well built, far more robust than either of its living relatives, and the neck, accordingly, was extremely muscular to support the head.
Museum of Evolution of Polish Academy of Sciences By Hiuppo (Own work) [GFDL (httpwww.gnu.orgcopyleftfdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (httpcreativecommons.orglicensesby3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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