Macrauchenia

By | September 9, 2016

Seven million years ago, this odd-looking herbivore was common on the plains of South America. It looked like a mixture of different animals, with a body like a horse’s, a long neck like a camel’s, and perhaps even a short trunk. Macrauchenia belonged to an extinct family of hoofed mammals that existed only in South America and Antarctica.

Macrauchenia (mack-row-KAY-nee-ah)

macrauchenia-png


When: 7 million–20,000 years ago (Neogene)

Fossil location: S. America

Habitat: Grasslands

Length: 10 ft (3 m)

Diet: Leaves and grass

Macrauchenia’s nostrils were high up on its skull, between the eyes, leading some experts to suggest that it had a short trunk. Its long neck would have allowed it to feed on trees as well as grazing on the ground. Short thigh bones imply it was not a fast runner, but its leg bones were arranged in such a way as to allow it to twist and turn when running, helping it outfox predators such as the saber-toothed cat Smilodon.

 macrauchenia-smilodon

The snout may have looked like a short trunk.

charles DarwinDID YOU KNOW…?

When he was in his twenties, the English scientist Charles Darwin spent two years traveling around the world on the ship HMS Beagle. He came across many exotic plants and animals. In 1834, on a stopover in Argentina, South America, he found a half skeleton of what appeared to be some kind of prehistoric camel or llama. In fact, it was the first fossil of Macrauchenia.

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