Fascinated by this Merycoidodon (Oreodont) fossil skull. An extinct herbivore from the Oligocene (~25 Million Years Ago) with no known close living relatives today.
Related to the camel but ‘sheep-like’, it would have likely resembled a pig in appearance, but with a longer body, at about 1.5 metres with short limbs and probably moved in herds on savannahs.
Unlike modern ruminants (cattle, sheep, goat, moose, giraffe etc), they had a full set of teeth, although the molars were adapted for grinding and cutting up tough vegetation like leaves. They most likely did not eat grass – as grasses did not appear until late Oligocene times.
Notably, they had strong, and very striking, canines you can see from the skull I’m holding. It has been suggested these may have been used in ‘threat displays’ like Hippos today.
Artist impression from:
The skull I’m holding is Merycoidodon culbertsonii from the Chadron/Brule Formation, South Dakota.