An exploration of our Earth's ever-captivating fauna through musings on the bizarre side of Zoology, Cryptozoology, Paleontology, and Paleoanthropology

Friday, May 1, 2015

Rhinoceros Giants: A Fresh Look at the Largest Land Mammal Ever

The cover of Rhinoceros Giants, with brilliant artwork by Carl Buell. (Source)
The ungulates are an exceptionally diverse group of mammals, with members having conquered a wide range of niches and even returning to the sea. One of the most interesting representatives of this clade was the impressive fossil perissodactyl Paraceratherium, the focus of a book recently published by Dr. Donald Prothero. Paraceratherium holds the title of the largest terrestrial mammal ever, having stood twenty-two feet tall at the shoulder and outweighing the largest modern elephant by twice its bulk. This animal possessed a skull which could grow to six feet in length and exhibited a pair of conical tusks. Prothero details an intriguing new interpretation of the skull's anatomical features which suggest that this rhinocerotoid would have possessed a form of trunk or proboscis and relatively large ears: striking morphology illustrated in the vibrant cover of this book. Rhinoceros Giants provides an exciting narrative on both the discovery and evolutionary history of Paraceratherium, shedding much light on the diverse past of the rhinoceros. I feel that a book of the nature as this one has been well-warranted for quite some time now. Prothero helps to clear up controversy over the proper name for these behemoths, and provides a better understanding of the ecology and potential life behavior of the indricotheres in detail not matched by the documentaries which helped Paraceratherium gain its fame. Rhinoceros Giants gives the unprecedented textual attention that this remarkable fossil mammal deserves.

The breathtaking skull of Paraceratherium: note the long nasal incision which give clues as to a rather peculiar trait revealed in Prothero's new book. (Source)
This superb book was published by Indiana University Press, and you can purchase it here.
Written for everyone fascinated by the huge beasts that once roamed the earth, this book introduces the giant hornless rhinoceros, Indricotherium. These massive animals inhabited Asia and Eurasia for more than 14 million years, about 37 to 23 million years ago. They had skulls 6 feet long, stood 22 feet high at the shoulder, and were twice as heavy as the largest elephant ever recorded, tipping the scales at 44,100 pounds. Fortunately, the big brutes were vegetarians. Donald R. Prothero tells their story, from their discovery just a century ago to the latest research on how they lived and died.

9 comments:

  1. So I guess this site is pretty well finished now?

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    1. Finished? No. On a bit of a sabbatical? Yes :)

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  2. Took nearly a month to answer: finished.

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    1. Oh now you're just being accusatory ;)

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  3. No. Just drawing a conclusionnnnnnnnzzzzzz.

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  4. Are there any dinosaur-type or extremely large reptiles, marine or terrestrial, left in the world? Any new sightings, pictures, videos that are not fake?

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    1. PS I know there are still some 1,000 lb. + crocs and alligators around, but it seems every time they find one of these they end up being killed...

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    2. Well there are birds if you're looking for extant dinosaurs ;)
      Are you asking about reports/photographs associated with cryptozoological animals which have at some point been suggested to be relict nonavialan dinosaurs or other relict Mesozoic-grade reptiles?

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    3. Well, yes, as well as large unknown reptiles such as giant monitor lizards in Australia and New Guinea and reptilian aquatic cryptids...

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