STL Science Center

STL Science Center

07 May 2016

The Long Llama

Some fossil animal names mean rather strange things. The name Macrauchenia patachonica carries the meaning "Long llama of Patagonia." The fossils of this long nosed evolutionary end have been found only in Patagonia. The geographic limitation of the fossil may be due to the fact that Macrauchenia represents the last South American ungulate and last member of the litopternan order. Litopterans were odd-toed animals of South America possessing three toes most often, but one group reduced their toes to a single digit, much like horses. Macrauchenia and its order arose independent of other ungulates and lasted until the end of the Pleistocene. The dental battery of 44 teeth aided the animal in being highly successful, as did a lack of large predators. The largest predators at the time would have been the last of the terror birds of South America and the smilodon-like Thylacosmilus, which we have discussed before. Another unique feature of this animal was its trunk-like nose and camel-like body.

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