Chalicotherium was a bizarre hoofed mammal that looked like a cross between a horse and a gorilla. Its front hooves had evolved into massive, hooklike claws, which it probably used to pull branches down from trees so it could reach the leaves. When not on the move, Chalicotherium sat on its haunches feeding.
It may also have been able to rear up on its hind legs to reach the highest branches. Its odd-toed feet show that it was a distant relative of horses and rhinos.
■ When: 15–5 million years ago (Neogene)
■ Fossil location: Europe, Asia, Africa
■ Habitat: Plains
■ Length: 6. ft (2 m)
■ Diet: Plants
Taller than a grizzly bear, this animal had a horselike head, long, clawed forelimbs, and stout hind legs that bore its immense body weight. When fossils of its claws were first discovered, scientists thought it was a type of carnivore. Further research showed it was actually a plant-eating mammal that first appeared during the Neogene Period, 15 million years ago.
Chalicotherium means “pebble beast.” The animal was so named because the first fossil teeth looked like pebbles. When Chalicotherium became an adult, it shed the teeth at the front of its mouth, leaving only fleshy lips and gums to strip leaves from branches. Mouthfuls of leaves were then ground to a pulp with teeth at the back of the mouth.
This animal’s front legs were much longer than its hind legs. Each front leg ended in long, curved claws, which meant that Chalicotherium couldn’t place its foot flat on the ground. So, it probably shuffled along on its knuckles, just like gorillas do today.