STL Science Center

STL Science Center

19 March 2016

The Skeleton Game

There are a lot of skeletons of Chalicotherium on display in many different museums across Europe. The prominence of the fossils within the entirety of Eurasia is what led to the massive amounts of skeletal material that is on display in those museums. The fact that all the species are massive and have very unique morphologies helps to make those mounted skeletons key pieces of the museum displays as well. Nothing attracts museum goers like massive oddities of the fossil world. This image of a skeleton in an browsing posture is informative as well as nicely done. Though the soft tissue is absent and therefore not highly informative to us as such, but seeing how the articulated skeleton would be situated in a common behavioral situation is actually highly informative. This image is actually based on the skeleton of another genus within the Chalicotherian family known as Anisodon. The two genera are very similar with one major exception existing in the forelimb digits of Chalicotherium which actually have long ungals, or claws, on the end of each distal phalanx. These most likely caused Chalicotherium to walk on its knuckles when bearing weight on its forelimbs. Due to the size of the animal its knuckle walking was a common practice. However, the claws were extremely useful to the animal (why else have them afterall?) as defensive tools. The claws were not agile or dexterous enough to be used for stripping leaves. Instead, the pictured behavioral posture above was probably a typical sight at the forest edges of the Miocene as these massive herbivores browsed the branches.

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