Monday, June 11, 2012

Protylopus

Protylopus
It's pretty amazing to think about the origins of some of the animals that we know so well. When you picture a camel, you probably envision a large, humped mammal with cloven, padded feet. But did you know that their earliest discovered ancestor was comparatively tiny, had no humps, and had four toes?

Meet Protylopus, the oldest known camel. These guys lived during the Eocene, around 45-40 million years ago. They were absolutely diminutive by modern camel standards. They were barely two feet tall, and about the same measurement in length. Protylopus probably weighed no more than around 50lbs. Think of them as about the size of a medium sized dog!

There are five different species within the Protylopus genus, with P. petersoni being the type species. All lived in what is now North America. Based on their teeth, they most likely fed on leaves and other soft plants, and it is possible that they even stood up on their hind legs to feed, as their front legs are shorter and they carry their weight in the 3rd and 4th toes. Fossils also indicate that these toes probably had small hooves, instead of the giant toe pads that our modern camels have.

Status : Extinct for 40 million years
Location : North America
Size : Length up to 2.5ft (80cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Order : Artiodactyla
Family : †Oromerycidae -- Genus : †Protylopus

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