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Temporal range: Ypresian, 56.0–47.8 Ma
Restored P. hassiacum skeleton
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Perissodactyla
Family: Palaeotheriidae
Genus: Propalaeotherium
Gervais, 1849
Type species
Propalaeotherium isselanum
Cuvier, 1824
  • P. argentonicum Gervais, 1849
  • P. hassiacum Haupt, 1925
  • P. helveticum Savage et al., 1965
  • P. isselanum (Cuvier, 1824)
  • P. sudrei Remy, Krasovec & Marandat, 2016
  • P. voigti Matthes, 1977

Propalaeotherium was an early genus of perissodactyl endemic to Europe and Asia during the early Eocene. There are currently six recognised species within the genus, with P. isselanum as the type species (named by Georges Cuvier in 1824).[1]


Fossil in Vienna.

Propalaeotherium was named by Paul Gervais; its name means "before Palaeotherium". It was considered a member of Palaeotheriidae by Hooker (1986).[2] A 2004 study found it to be an equid instead.[3] A 2016 study lumped the genus back within the Palaeotheriidae.[1]

The species P. parvulum and P. messelensis have been alternately assigned to the equid genus Eurohippus.[4]


Eurohippus parvulus (on rock) and P. hassiacum (in water).

Propalaeotherium was a small animal, ranging from 30–60 cm at the shoulder (2.9 to 5.9 hands), and weighing just 10 kg (22 lb).[5] It looked similar to small tapirs. It had no hooves, but instead several small nail-like hooflets. The well-preserved Messel fossils showed their herbivory, specifically their preference to eat berries and leaf matter picked up from the forest floor.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Remy, Jean A.; Krasovec, Gabriel; Marandat, Bernard (2016). "A new species of Propalaeotherium (Palaeotheriidae, Perissodactyla, Mammalia) from the Middle Eocene locality of Aumelas (Hérault, France)". Palaeovertebrata. 40 (2): e1. doi:10.18563/pv.40.2.e1.
  2. ^ J. J. Hooker. 1986. Mammals from the Bartonian (middle/late Eocene) of the Hampshire Basin, southern England. Bulletin of the British Museum (Natural History) 39(4):191-478
  3. ^ Franzen, J. L. (2004). "First fossil primates from Eckfeld Maar, Middle Eocene (Eifel, Germany)". Eclogae Geologicae Helvetiae. 97 (2): 213–220. Bibcode:2004SwJG...97..213F. doi:10.1007/s00015-004-1115-8.
  4. ^ Franzen, J. L. (2006). "Eurohippus n.g., a new genus of horses from the Middle to Late Eocene of Europe". Senckenbergiana Lethaea. 86: 97–102. doi:10.1007/BF03043638. S2CID 84192738.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Wilde, V.; Hellmund, M. (2010). "First record of gut contents from a middle Eocene equid from the Geiseltal near Halle (Saale), Sachsen-Anhalt, Central Germany". Palaeobiodiversity and Palaeoenvironments. 90 (2): 153. Bibcode:2010PdPe...90..153W. doi:10.1007/s12549-010-0028-y. S2CID 128890140.

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