STL Science Center

STL Science Center

30 November 2014

Strange Kid's Shows

In 1983 the British produced a claymation show called Moschops about a Moschops and his friends. Words can hardly describe what that show was, but there are those that swear by it out there on the internet and it may be worth trying to get past the fairly rough models today because it is supposed to be a children's show. A number of episodes exist, but preview for yourself before sharing these potentially confusing and scary looking claymation beasts with your own young ones. The show refers to Moschops as a non-specific dinosaur throughout its run, but nomenclature problems happen in popular culture, so we should probably let this one slide all the way home. Things that are not weird and exceptionally strange also exist. Despite not being a dinosaur, KidsDinos has a typical fact page put up that is useful for relating facts to younger interested parties. They use one of the dopiest looking illustrations of Moschops ever, but that is okay in the long run. About also has a page for Moschops. Thankfully the mammal-like placement and lineage is discussed a little here as well, since it is not discussed in any level of detail on other sites. For those of you that forgot, because it has not been expressly mentioned in the past day or so, we are taking a small hopping path up the mammal family tree starting was back with mammal-like reptiles.

29 November 2014

Wrestling Bulldogs

Robert Broom's 1926 reconstruction
In a rather interesting turn of events in paleontology, Moschops has not changed much in stature since the original reconstructions by Robert Broom. Broom's mounted skeleton in the American Museum of Natural History possesses the same posture and pose that modern reconstructions and illustrations bear. The fact that this animal has not been "updated" in terms of posture does not necessarily mean that Moschops has not been studied or better understood in the past 90 or so years. In fact, Moschops has been studied well enough that many genera have been noted to be synonymous with Moschops and have therefore been grouped together. That does not happen without adequate study of the original and subsequent remains. The fact that the posture of Moschops has not been changed in the century since it has been discovered and described means that the posture is actually accurate and accepted by the majority of workers that have been associated with the animal. The posture is actually very much like that of a bulldog (though we know that a bulldog is not a "natural" breed of dog and its posture is somewhat artificial). This bulldog-like position puts the mass of the animal very low and behind the forelimbs, which were massively built. The shoulders are built so strongly in part for traction, as mentioned yesterday, and most likely to aid in intraspecies combat as well as for defensive posturing. It may not have been much of a wrestler, but making itself a much more difficult meal by having a lot of forebody strength would only have made it less susceptible to predators.

28 November 2014

Therapsids and Other Early Mammals

©Dmitry Bogdanov
Because of the last month's adventure into the history of the rhinoceros (and the intermediate horse/rhinoceros Megacerops) I have decided that we need to look, as we have done at least once and in a cursory manner, at the other end of mammalian evolution. We will not specifically attempt to trace any single line, however, a fairly comfortable sampling of very early mammals should suffice to examine where some of the familiar forms of today initially took root.

To begin this journey we will look, not in chronological order, but in the order of what I personally find most interesting (unless I get some good suggestions for the future as time goes on). This week, therefore, I have decided that the first ancient mammal to be discussed during December is the genus Moschops. Moschops consists of 4 recognized species, 2 of which are considered questionable. The remains of Moschops species have been recovered from the Karoo Basin of South Africa, long known and famous for its mammalian riches. Moschops was a large, hefty Therapsid Dinocephalian herbivore that possessed a uniquely opened elbow joint that allowed Moschops to move much more like a modern mammal and less like a crawling, sprawling reptile. The skeleton of the animal has led to the inference that Moschops used this newly adapted joint system to move the massive body that the skeleton represents as it fed, seemingly without end, on the low nutritive quality of the cycads and ferns that grew around it. Overall, it is a squat, but gigantic animal. It looks almost uninteresting, but I promise it has many more interesting characteristics to be seen over the week to come.

27 November 2014

Well Known Ice Age Beasts

CollectA Megacerops
The fact that Megacerops is so well known that there are a fair number of popular outlets that enhance its popular culture reach. There are toys and references in books, though not in many younger reader books that show up online, and we know it has appeared in documentaries. The only terrible thing about all of this popular culture referencing is that sometimes the lineage of Megacerops still gets confused, lost, or ignored. Many people do not realize that these animals are not exactly and not exactly horses but are related to both; they are more closely related to horses we know. This is very important to note, especially since Kenneth Branagh specifically relates this information to the audience in the Walking With Series. Hopefully we will all remember that in the future since it has been mentioned so much this week.

26 November 2014

Ribs and Noses

©Dmitry Bogdanov
Megacerops is, as we have seen, very open faced, skeletally, on the rostral end of the animal. In life, of course, this is not the case at all. That open area is filled with the nasal sinuses and conchae that would have been required by the animal to detect smells sufficiently and to warm the air that it breathed. In colder times of the year this was obviously of great import as cold air in the lungs brings the temperature of the body core down; though being such a large animal to begin with breathing cold air was probably not very dangerous to the temperature of the animal. More interesting topics abound in that nasal area of the skull. We have noted the horns and how they could be used in combat at a pinch, but were they actually of any use? Fossils indicate that damage to the ribs of some larger males could only have been inflicted by other members of the species during ramming contests with the horns. These fractures did not heal properly, if at all, because of the large movements occurring during breathing.

25 November 2014

1905, A Big Year

1905 was a big year for Megacerops. Richard S. Lull, of the Massachusetts Agricultural College (presently UMass Amherst), published his description and plates of a fossil he named Megacerops tyleri in the Journal of Geology for the first time. Thirty five years before that the genus Megacerops was originally named and described by Joseph Leidy. Osborn discussed Leidy's description in his 1902 discussion on the Oligocene titanotheres. Either way, Lull's plates depict a skull and forelimb of the animal, far more than Leidy had in his initial descriptions. Prior to this, in the same compile volume, Lull detailed the restoration of the animal. This restoration was effected in clay and features a photograph of the skull, as opposed to the line drawings in the plates of the description. Papers and studies continue to be published, of course. The last well detailed description of a new specimen that I would recommend reading was published in 1995 in the Journal of Paleontology and introduced the new species Megacerops kuwagatarhinus from the White River beds of Montana.

24 November 2014

Brontotherium Walking

Walking with Beasts features a battle that is pretty interesting to watch. The confrontation is between Brontotherium (as they are calling it in the show) and Andrewsarchus, an animal known from an enormous solitary skull and thought to be related to pig-like omnivores and potentially whales as well. Regardless, the fight alone can be seen here, with background on Brontotherium. The entire episode is hosted on a different site. However, it may be worth watching to see what other information the BBC presented on these two animals and the other animals that lived at the same time.

23 November 2014

Megacerops For Kids

Megacerops, under either that name or Brontotherium is a popular fossil mammal. Multiple sites exist that host lists or paragraphs of facts. About continues to use the more popular Brontotherium on their site while Planet Dinosaur acknowledges the switch, somewhat begrudgingly since they use both names on the title of the page. Brontotheres as a group are addressed on a page dedicated to the fossils of the White River Badlands rather than any single genus in the group. This wider angle approach is good at times and is helpful for viewing all of the animals related to this animal rather than just looking at our target animal. It is always good to look at the bigger picture once in a while.

22 November 2014

What Is on Your Nose?

Menodus (junior synonym to Megacerops),
Field Museum, Chicago.
Megacerops has a pair of horn-like protuberances on the rostral end of the skull. In the mounted specimen from the Field Museum, shown here, those protuberances appear smaller than they are often illustrated. The nostrils do not appear, in this specimen, to be completely formed as external foramina, as one would expect. The nares are actually present in the concavity ventral to the the twin horns of the face. The nasal bones appear to extend over the premaxillae between the horns but do not recurve to meet the premaxillae at the chin. As expected in the list of rhinoceros-like traits, the optic foramina are small, relative to the entire skull, and offset laterally so that the animal most likely did not have a great deal of binocular vision. Not having depth perception, we can probably safely surmise that Megacerops was not adept at detecting predators visually. To make up for that deficit we can assume that the powers of smell and hearing may have been more sensitive in Megacerops (there may be more definitive answers that I have not found quite yet). Conversely, mixed herds and even the addition of non-mammalian (i.e. bird) members of the community may have aided in predator awareness, meaning that none of the senses would have had to have been highly adapted toward sensing predators. Either way, the horns on the face of Megacerops are not used for the purpose of combat primarily. As skeletal elements, a broken horn would be tremendously detrimental to the health of the animal. Such a danger would cause the animals to use their horns, both males and females possessed them, as a last resort in protecting themselves. The horns would have served to intimidate as much as the sheer size of the animal itself.

21 November 2014

Rhinos or Horses?

Though not a rhinoceros and much more closely related to horses, Megacerops was a very rhinoceros-like relative of horses and is therefore a bit confusing on first glance. Known more popularly as Brontotherium, Megacerops Leidy 1870 was far larger than any modern horse or rhinoceros. Its distinctive look, two large bony protuberances above its nose, make it look slightly more like a rhinoceros, but are significantly different from any known rhinoceros horn as well. The use of these protuberances is well documented, as we shall discuss. This animal is yet another North American Eocene mammal.
Robert Bruce Horsfall, 1913

20 November 2014

Star of the Show

After having more than a few handfuls of information written about Paraceratherium and an entire episode of the Walking With Series about one of them, this magnificently large mammal has certainly shown that it has a great deal of popular culture credit. The animal has been shown in video games as well, particularly where it can be modded in, like in Zoo Tycoon 2. It has also shown up in a non-modded form in Jurassic Park Builder as well, to be fair, as a Glacier Park animal. In both games it is seen under the popularized name Indricotherium. There are toys out there, but I would stress caution with buying them under the impression that they are accurate models. Many of the toy images I have seen show extremely muscular giraffe-like animals or emaciated camel-like animals. Considering all of the attention that this animal has received in the last decade, it is very difficult to figure out why the toy models are so ridiculously off base.

19 November 2014

What About That Head?

The head of Paraceratherium on the cover of that book yesterday got me thinking. What does the head of a giant rhinoceros ancestor look like exactly? Is it fantastical to have elephantine ears? The simple answer is that we will never really know and artistic license can do whatever it wants to the head. The fact that the illustrator of that book cover went with the head design he did, maybe at the behest of Donald Prothero, only backs up that point. To be fully honest though, that idea is much more innovative than the rhino-on-a-giraffe-neck design that is typically depicted. There is nothing wrong with the usual interpretation because it is usually aligned to the paleontological interpretation of the skull, but with the ears not being preserved on any specimens, to my knowledge, and they could have looked like anything. The open mouth and down-turned lip is sort of mandatory, because of the skull, so the interpretation of that does not often change. Regardless of whether you liked it or not, the new and old interpretations both have merits and you have to admit the idea of a rhinoceros head on a giraffe sized neck is interesting. Seriously though, look at that rhino head on a giraffe neck!
Paraceratherium herd: Elizabeth Rungius Fulda 1923

18 November 2014

A Tome of Knowledge

I love original descriptions. That has probably been said many times over. I hate when they are not available for free to anyone and everyone (because it is hard to get articles for some of our younger readers). Despite that happening, there is an absolute mountain of work out there on Paraceratherium. This is due in part to the fact that there are more than a handful of junior synonyms for this animal, meaning that there are a fair number of initial description papers for these now dubious names. There are also new remains still being discovered and described under the currently accepted generic name as well. Rather than listing out hundreds of papers today though, I am encouraging the audience to instead check out, inter-library loan, or even buy a book! This is not because I love mammal paleontology or specifically the work of the author (though anyone into fossil mammals knows the name Prothero), but because anyone that is really interested in Paraceratherium and its family would enjoy and get a lot from Donald Prothero's book Rhinoceros Giants: The Paleobiology of Indricotheres. The first link to the book is a Google powered preview, but this link right here goes to the Indiana University Press. Why would I encourage anyone to buy directly from the publisher instead of shopping around (assuming that purchasing is the intent)? The answer is actually a matter of savings. The publisher is offering the book electronically for $8 less. I love the smell and feel of a new book (almost as much as an old book), but sometimes less is more. You can carry an electronic copy more easily as well. Regardless, I cannot say I have read through this entire book, but the reviews I have seen and the snippets I have previewed point to it being part historical, mostly technical, but very informative overall. As a collector of subject literature (e.g. I get books about birds and dinosaurs whenever I can to compare the information presented regardless of author) I have to say, even if you do not agree with the author, this is a comprehensive work on the animals we have been discussing all week and well worth the investigation on your part! Plus, check out the head on the Paraceratherium on the cover. Pure gold!

17 November 2014

See the Models

All of the instances of Paraceratherium are well exhibited in this short video. There is not much to really say about it, but watch this one. The entire episode, if that is more interesting to folks out there, is available here on EntireDocumentaries.

16 November 2014

Teach That Memo

Most of the time when a name changes it takes a few years for the internet and sometimes even technical literature to adopt, accept, and print that change. Some of the pages of facts for younger readers today never changed their information and still list animals under their junior synonyms like Indricotherium and Baluchitherium. Any way you pull them apart though, these are all the same animal, Paraceratherium. Enchanted Learning is the biggest offender in that regard, but if one were to go through all of the synonymous names and read the descriptions there would be a wealth of information at their hands. About and the BBC have their naming conventions better put together than Enchanted Learning does however, which is a bit nicer and vastly more convenient. The BBC, of course, uses stills and information from the Walking With Series while About does an even shorter version of what we take all week to do here; integrating technical science and popular sources as much as possible to make the information readable.

15 November 2014

Giants and Their Babies

©Roman Uchytel 2010
Knowing that Paraceratherium is the elder synonym of Indricotherium, the name most often associated with this animal, conjures up certain images, mainly those associated with the Walking With Series. The models used for that series are not terribly inaccurate though, to be honest. Some of their models, we have seen in the past, range from not perfect to tolerable with a few outliers in the "oh no, that's not right" category. Regardless, the models for the Paraceratherium/Indricotherium used in the show are exceptionally accurate for a television documentary. The animal is not that difficult to replicate really though. The body is vaguely like that of its cousins, the extant rhinoceroses, but it has an exceptionally long neck in comparison. Its neck is not like that of a giraffe, so calling it a cross between a rhinoceros and a giraffe is not accurate (it has been done). The head is also characteristically rhinoceros-like. As stated yesterday, the best defense for these animals was their size. The babies were already particularly large at birth, but they still required the protection of their much larger mother for a year or so, until a sibling was born, the first calf was weaned, and subsequently shunned b the mother. In much the same way as many large mammals, it is suspected that the mature males were loners that only really socialized for mating purposes, meaning that this illustration is most likely of a mother and child.

14 November 2014

He Without Horn

Henry Fairfield Osborn, 1923
Aceratherium is a genus of early rhinoceros that was quite short, without a horn, and fairly unremarkable. Its taller cousin Paraceratherium, however, is remarkably similar but significantly better known. Recognized more readily under the junior synonym Indricotherium. This Eurasian rhinocerotoid and cousin of extant rhinoceroses was one of the largest land mammals of all time. The shoulder of Paraceratherium was approximately 6 m (20 ft) high and its head was capable of reaching another 2 m (6 ft) out from the shoulders. The head itself was approximately 1.3 m (4.3 ft) long. Size, more than anything else, was the primary weapon of this enormous animal. Even their babies are fairly enormous, as we will see at some point during this week.

13 November 2014

A Long Horned Devil

I may not have said this this week, but Teleoceras means "Long Horned One". As one of the most common large mammal fossils of North America, Nebraska especially, Teleoceras is also one of the more popular of the "Ice Age" megafauna with the general public. As such, it does appear in a few popular cultural areas including Spore and Zoo Tycoon. The rhinoceros does not appear in many books, strangely enough, and it also does not appear in any documentaries or other video programs. Small rhinoceros toys have been altered by collectors to look like Teleoceras. Unfortunately, that is the extent of the toy presence. Most of the wonderful things about Teleoceras that we have seen this week are exactly how we have seen them; online and in the world of physical fossils only.

12 November 2014

Most Common Fossil in Nebraska?

Teleoceras is considered the most common fossil in Nebraska's Ashfall Fossil Beds. Considering that, one would imagine that the information around Teleoceras would be more plentiful. Wikipedia's page is less than a printed page. Regardless, the point today is that the fossil amount in Nebraska is copious enough that the building housing the fossils is called the "Rhino Barn". The state park is home to largely complete specimens, which is even more amazing than simply stating that there are so many remains that there is a building dedicated to housing them. The story of the Ashfall Beds is detailed very well on the park's website. The site is maintained by the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, which may explain why the site is well maintained, in part at least.

11 November 2014

Humble Opinions

Scan from the Time-Life book North America (Jay Matternes)
As far as I am concerned there are only two papers that are important today. That is not true, of course. However, for today, the only papers I thought were worth reading are MacFadden's comparison of the Floridian genera Teleoceras and Aphelops and Mead's discussion on sexual dimorphism in Teleoceras. Bruce MacFadden's paper is exhaustive in the most wonderful way. It explores all sorts of levels of the two genera including ecology and niches, diet, and grazing habits. Alfred Mead, meanwhile, explores a single species, Teleoceras major. His in depth study explored the differences in sex, of course, but also in intraspecies habits including herding behaviors and defense mechanisms. Nearly anything that one could want to know, as rudimentary knowledge at least, about Teleoceras is included within these two papers.

10 November 2014

Motion Capture-less

Unlike last week's popular Elasmotherium that has charmed its way onto television (and then the internet), Teleoceras has somehow not managed to do so as yet. In fact, it has not managed to make it into any motive media at all. The only mention of it is in a short video of someone showing a Teleoceras molar. It probably is not worth viewing for anyone unless one is that interested in the molars of extinct rhinoceroses (I say this knowing someone that is in fact that interested in that very subject).

09 November 2014

Hippo-like for Your Enjoyment

Teleoceras, as mentioned, was an extremely short built rhinoceros. The hippo-like qualities make it much more accessible, or likeable at least, to children, I have found. Regardless, the education component of this post is taken care of in these two PDFs below (Yay for educational material when it is available!). They are actually quite short, but they give students/children something to think about in terms of Teleoceras and extant rhinoceroses rather than just having them color a picture or watch a video. It is a quality endeavor and different versions are available for up to 3rd grade and up to 6th grade. There is one other resource that I like today. The East Tennessee State University Natural History Museum has a neat little page on their site where one can look at the bones of a rhinoceros (labelled Teleoceras sp.). It gives some information about the bones that are being looked at and is generally pretty interesting and worth a few moments of time.

08 November 2014

The Weird Eyed Rhino

Heinrich Harder's depictions of ancient wildlife were probably at the top of the world at the time that they were created. To be honest they are still quite beautiful works of art depicting prehistoric animals of all ages and varieties. The Harder Teleoceras is not an exception to this rule. The depictions of Teleoceras over time have certainly changed, but Harder's accurately, perhaps more accurately than many of his other works, portrays the animal in question. The rhinoceros is depicted much like an Indian or Sumatran rhinoceros, but its squat body is what Teleoceras would appear like as well. Remember that Teleoceras has some of the shortest legs of any known rhinoceros, extinct or extant. The only strange aspect of the appearance is the indent behind the eyes. The size of the horn is variable amongst specimens so Harder's depiction is not inaccurate in that respect.

07 November 2014

Game of Teleoceras

The family tree of the rhinoceroses has branches occupied by some rather large animals. Elasmotherium we know was a tall and stout animal and the extant members of the family are typically large and stout regardless of how short they might be (Javan and Sumatran rhinoceroses are significantly smaller than their other living cousins). The small members of the family are not limited to these small extant rhinoceroses though. One of the smallest members of the family tree is most famously known from North America (although also known in France), which is not considered, usually, prime rhinoceros country compared to the extant taxa. Often portrayed as a rather portly rhinoceros, members of the genus Teleoceras (consisting of 10 species), were also shorter than their living cousins and ranged the land between around 15.5 and 2.6 million years ago. The holotype species is Teleoceras major Hatcher 1894. Teleoceras possessed a very un-rhinoceros like trait aside from its rather hippopotamus-esque stature, it lacked a prominent horn (let alone a pair of horns) on its snout. Also, the armored skin of this rhinoceros genus is different from that of other rhinoceroses and is portrayed along a line from thick hide alone to thickened armored hide.

06 November 2014

Chinese Unicorns

Elasmotherium is repeatedly referred to as a basis for the unicorn myth and moreso in China than in any other place in the world. Due to this there have been entire books dedicated to explaining Chinese unicorn mythology that include hefty chapters on our rhinoceros friend Elasmotherium. These include Jeannie Thomas Parker's book called The Mythic Chinese Unicorn. There are times when the popular culture outlets for Elasmotherium are a little less scientific than even these books about mythology; believe it or not these myth discussions do tend to discuss the actual science behind the life histories of the animals. Regardless, the toys are not always entirely scientifically accurate, however, one of the most accurate is well represented on the internet. The model is from Papo and is reasonably well done, but in this discussion on The Dinosaur Toy Forum the author of the post repainted and enlarged the horn with sculpting material, making for a fairly accurate reconstruction of Elasmotherium. Perhaps the most telling popular culture references are in the multitude of illustrations that have been done in the various styles of illustrators and time periods in which they were drawn. Rather than discussing each style and period of time in which they were drawn, they are presented here in a gallery format:
E. sibiricum ©Dmitry Bogdanov, 2006
E. caucasicum  ©Dmitry Bogdanov, 2009
First published restoration (1878) of E. sibiricum, by Rashevsky
E. sibiricum  ©Philip72, 2002

E. sibiricum  ©Stanton F. Fink, 2011

05 November 2014

Rhinoceros Horns

The size of Elasmotherium is greater than that of extant rhinoceroses. The person pictured here is about average height but that really does not tell us much about the height and size of Elasmotherium beyond the fact that it is taller and larger than a person. Then San Diego Zoo keeper Laura Weiner posed near a young Black Rhinoceros and with some Indian Rhinoceroses in the not too distant past that gives us a much better image of the height of an extant rhinoceros next to a human being. Obviously they are large animals and their overall size dwarfs ours, but Elasmotherium would have done a much better job of making us look miniscule when standing next to it. The horn alone was particularly enormous, and fortunately we have materials that allow us to make inferences into what that horn looked like. One such piece of material is the skull at the Natural History Museum of London. This skull has a well preserved base for the horn that allows for well informed extrapolation of the structure. The length of the horn based on that extrapolation may not be entirely correct, but that is a question of math and inferences and topics that I am honestly not well-enough versed in to describe. Either way, these enormous horns would probably have caused Elasmotherium to become endangered just as fast or faster than their extant cousins because of the wealth they would have represented. They would have been pretty awesome to see roaming the plains though, that cannot really be denied.
NHM London specimen User: Ghedoghedo

04 November 2014

Elasmotherium on Paper

A multitude of Elasmotherium studies have been conducted since the naming and describing of the initial materials. Limb bones have been described and there have been ecological studies conducted. Geographic populations have been described for areas like China and Kazakhstan. The phylogenetics of the genus have even been studied, probably multiple times to be honest. The original description of the Moscow Mandible and Fischer's inferences about the ancient rhinoceros are lost to the internet, as far as I can tell. That is, of course, rather unfortunate given how important naming and describing articles are to the history of any fossil species and the study of them. Fortunately, however, Zoya Bessudnova recently tackled the history of Fischer in 2013, describing his scientific endeavors in Russia and upholding his fame as the "Russian Cuvier", a term for Fischer I was not familiar with. The most interesting fact about that statement is that Johann (Grigory) Gotthelf Fischer Von Waldheim was German born (1771 in Saxony) and moved to Russia in 1804. Either way, his description of Elasmotherium sibiricum  is not in our hands today, but many other quality papers about the animal are available for reading!

03 November 2014

Lack of Evidence

I find it quite disturbing that the movies of Elasmotherium out there are a bit thin. Considering that we are talking about a well known mammal that is a pretty interesting bit of (non)information. One of the only clips that appears widely on the internet that is not game or cartoon related comes from the show Prehistoric Park. The clip is mentioned to be cut from the show, but if it was, that is a terrible idea, because it was very well modeled and looks pretty fantastic.

02 November 2014

Not so Much a Dinosaur

Dinosaur Jungle hosts a page describing Elasmotherium that looks fairly whimsical. However, it also looks fairly accurate, so there are not any really large complaints about this either. Even more important, Enchanted Learning has a short synopsis and a coloring sheet. It is not the best, as we typically expect from Enchanted Learning, but it is a rather nice thing to have all in one place.

01 November 2014

History in Pictures

Moscow mandible, J. Fischer
The first images released to the public of Elasmotherium have been lost, for the most part. Named in 1808 (Fischer published the account in 1809), that is really a small matter, all things considered. The famed Moscow Mandible was illustrated many times, here by Johann Fischer in the 1809 description. At that time Fischer was the director of the Natural History Museum at Moscow University. The material is quite nice appearing, in this illustration at any rate. Mammal jaws are well known and researched and Fischer's description of this jaw element, which would go on to become the holotype of the genus, was about as typical as one would expect given the material and the time frame of its description. Completely regardless, this jaw and later material began painting a picture of one of the most interesting predecessors of the extant rhinoceroses. Fischer named the ancient mammal based on the teeth that he found in this jaw, making it even more important than if it were just a simple jaw. The name Elasmotherium is derived from the Greek elasmos (layered) and references the tree-ring like layering of enamel on the molars of the jaw. Those molars have large high crowns and are considered hypsodontid. Inferences made from hypsodont teeth include MacFadden (2000)'s statement that "as a general rule, extant herbivores with low-crowned teeth are predominantly browsers and species with high-crowned teeth are predominantly grazers." This is not a new inference, however, as the Russian paleontologist and contemporary/colleague of Darwin, Vladimir Onufryevich Kovalevsky, had proposed a connection between hypsodonty and grazing as early as 1873. The fragment -therium is derived from the Greek therion (beast), simply referencing the fact that this is an animal. The specific epithet of the type, sibiricum, is in reference to the Siberian origin of the jaw.
Heinrich Harder, 1920

Over the decades many things changed surrounding the knowledge of Elasmotherium, including the addition of many more complete, but still fragmentary, specimens of all three species of the genus. The shape of the body and the giant horn took shape. The horn, easily explaining some forms of unicorn legends (though of course these are probably not localized to any one region or type of animal), was enormous and, despite recognizable placement on the skull, was often illustrated in a much more unicorn-like posture. Newer images, we will see during the week, have become much more reminiscent of extant rhinoceroses but older images were significantly horse-like in appearance. This could be partially because of the then emerging knowledge of the relationships between horses and rhinoceroses or it could also be because the body simply appeared that way to earlier illustrators and scientists. Either way, the first full body illustrations were rather interesting because of the horse-rhinoceros cross over of the body shape.

Fischer, J. (1809). "21. Sur L'Elasmotherium et le Trogontothérium". "Memoires de la Société Impériale des Naturalistes de Moscou". Tome II. Moscou: Imprimerie de l'Université Impériale. p. 255

MacFadden, Bruce J. 2000. "Origin and evolution of the grazing guild in Cenozoic New World terrestrial mammals". In Sues, Hans-Dieter. Evolution of Herbivory in Terrestrial Vertebrates: Perspectives from the Fossil Record. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 223–244