|Palaeotherium curtum skull|
Palaeotheriidae is an extinct family of herbivorous perissodactyl mammals related to tapirs and rhinoceros, and probably ancestral to horses. They ranged across Europe and Asia from the Eocene through to the early Oligocene 55— 33Ma, existing for approximately .
Living in dense forests, they ate soft leaves, shoots, berries, and leaf matter picked up from the forest floor.
Palaeothere sizes ranged from 20 to 75 cm (8 to 30 in) at the shoulder, and weighed an estimated 10–30 kg (20–70 lb).
Evidence suggests that the palaeotheriidae went extinct in Eurasia during the Early Oligocene, approximately 33 Ma, as part of a faunal turnover event known as the Grande Coupure. The Eocene-Oligocene transition marked a significant global cooling event caused by the onset of antarctic glaciation. This resulted in drier and more open habitats dominating the early Oligocene, and the loss of the dense forests that characterised the Eocene epoch. This environmental change, coupled with the arrival of new and better-adapted mammalian groups from Asia, triggered a decline in endemic European mammals such as the palaeotheriidae and anoplotheridae. In the Hampshire Basin of southern England the last record of the paleotheriidae is from the Lower Hamstead Mbr. of the Bouldnor Formation, dating to approximately 33.6 Ma.
- Creechbarrow Hill Site, Dorset, England
- Geiseltal, Mittelkohle, Zone III, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany
- Egerkingen, Alpha & Beta fissures, Baselland, Switzerland
- La Debruge, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur Region, France
- The Caucasus Mountains in Georgia
- S. Legendre. 1988. Les communautes de mammiferes du Paleogene (Eocene superieur et Oligocene) d'Europe occidentale: structure, milieux et evolution. Ph.D. thesis, Universite des Sciences et Techniques du Languedoc, Montpellier, France. 2 volumes. 1-265
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