Temporal range: Late Oligocene to Early Pliocene
|Fossil remains of a Chalicotherium|
J. J. Kaup, 1833
Chalicotherium (Ancient Greek χαλιξ/khalix, khalik-: pebble/gravel + θηρίον/thērion, diminutive of θηρ/thēr : beast) is a genus of extinct odd-toed ungulates of the order Perissodactyla and family Chalicotheriidae, found in Europe, Africa, and Asia from the Late Oligocene to Early Pliocene, 28.4–3.6 million years ago, existing for approximately .
Chalicotherium, like many members of Perissodactyla, was adapted to browsing, though the chalicotheres were uniquely adapted to do so among ungulates. Its arms were long and heavily clawed, allowing them to walk on their knuckles only. The arms were used to reach for the branches of large trees and bring them close to its long head to strip them clean of leaves. The horse-like head itself shows adaptation to a diet of soft vegetation, since, as the animal reached sexual maturity, the incisors and upper canines were shed, suggesting that its muscular lips and the resulting gum pads were enough to crop fodder which was then processed by squarish, low-crowned molars.
Callosities on the ischium imply that these animals would sit on their haunches for extended periods of time, probably while feeding. Pad-supporting bony growth on the dorsal side of the manual phalanges is interpreted as evidence of knuckle-walking, which would probably be useful to avoid wearing down the claws, preserving them for use either as a forage-collecting rake or as a formidable defensive weapon, or both.
The type specimens for Chalicotherium goldfussi were found in the Upper Miocene strata of the Dinotherien-sande beds near Eppelsheim, in the Grand Duchy of Hesse, Germany. Johann Jakob Kaup, when describing this new animal in 1833, found the teeth to be pebble-like and named the creature accordingly. Later on, limbs found in strata located at Sansan in the department of Gers, Southwestern France, were first described as Macrotherium by Édouard Lartet in 1837. Further study of these fossil remains and subsequent finds by Filhol warranted a referral of the material described as Macrotherium to Chalicotherium.
Referral history for each species is detailed in the species list below along with morphological and geographical data where available.
- Chalicotherium goldfussi J. J. Kaup, 1833.
- The type species, it was found in Upper Miocene beds located in Germany. It weighed around 1500 kg and was 2.6 m high at the shoulder.
- Chalicotherium brevirostris
- First described as Macrotherium brevirostris Colbert 1934, this species hails from the Upper Miocene Tung Gur Formation, Inner Mongolia, China.
- Chalicotherium salinum
- First described as Macrotherium salinum Forster Cooper, this species was first discovered at the Lower Pliocene Lower Siwaliks beds in India; its chronological and geographic range was later extended to the Middle and Upper Miocene, and to Pakistan and China, respectively.
- Chalicotherium antiquum J. J. Kaup, 1833.
- Found at the same locality as the type species, it was later found wanting of diagnostic features and sunk into the type species.
- Chalicotherium cf. C. brevirostris Wang et al., 2001.
- "Chalicotherium modicum" Stehlin, 1905.
- A nomen nudum, actually a Schizotherium priscum tooth.
- "Chalicotherium" bilobatum Cope.
- Hailing from the Oligocene of Saskatchewan, this very fragmentary specimen was the type on which Russel erected the genus Oreinotherium.
- Chalicotherium spp.
- Specimens found in two Tajikistan localities, thought to pertain to at least two different species.
This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (September 2017) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
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- Wang, Xiaoming; Wang, Banyue (2001): New material of Chalicotherium from the Tsaidam Basin in the northern Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, China. Paläontologische Zeitschrift, Vol 75, Fascicle 2. Pages 219-226.
- Margery Chalifoux Coombs. Additional Schizotherium material from China, and a review of Schizotherium dentitions (Perissodactyla, Chalicotheriidae). April 24, 1978. American Museum Novitates nr 2647. pages 1-18. The American Museum Of Natural History. New York City, N. Y.
- Edwin H. Colbert. Distributional and phylogenetic studies on Indian fossil mammals. III – A classification of the Chalicotherioidea. May 8, 1935 American Museum Novitates nr 798, 56.9 (54). The American Museum Of Natural History. New York City.