STL Science Center

STL Science Center

10 March 2017

Quality Tapir-like Fire Beasts

Robert Bruce Horsfall, 1913
There are surprisingly a lot of images of reconstructions and interpretations of Pyrotherium posted online. As one of those fossil mammals that is slightly less popular, it is fairly interesting that the illustrations are as numerous as they are. There are illustrations like the first one that represent the truly old guard of illustration; a time that was powered as much by fantasy as it was by scientific interpretation. We can admit that the scientific interpretation of the day was not quite up to the same standards as modern scientific interpretations are. More current illustrations and interpretations have appeared here numerous times this week and have looked quite dynamic and plausible. Horsfall's illustration is not entirely unrealistic, but compared to the modern illustrations it is a little off from something we could accept as a real live animal. In contrast, and I admit the surroundings of this image help its realistic plausibility significantly, Roman Uchytel's version of Pyrotherium standing in a calm river bank patch of grass looks much more like an animal we might happen upon while walking in a somewhat wild area of the modern world.

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