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Skeleton of Brontotherium

Brontotherium hatcheri

This Skeleton of Brontotherium is an extinct species of the prehistoric hoofed mammal family Brontotheriidae, an extinct group of rhinoceros-like browsers related to horses. It was endemic to North America around 56–34 million years ago and existed for approximately 4.1 million years.

The North American brontothere Megacerops (“large-horned face”, from méga- “large” + kéras “horn” + ōps “face”) evolved large paired horns above their noses. The horns suggest that brontotheres were highly social and the males may have performed some sort of head clashing behaviour in competition for mates. However, unlike rhinos, the horns of brontotheres are composed of bone, the frontal bone and nasal bone, and were placed side-to-side rather than front-to-back.

Brontotheres probably became extinct due to an inability to adapt to drier conditions and tougher vegetation such as grasses that spread during the Oligocene geologic epoch.

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Essential Facts:

  • Title:                Skeleton of Brontotherium
  • Age:                  56–34 million years ago
  • Kingdom:        Animalia
  • Phylum:          Chordata
  • Class:               Mammalia
  • Order:             Perissodactyla
  • Suborder:       Hippomorpha
  • Family:            Brontotheriidae
  • Museum:         National Museum of Natural History

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“Isn’t it astonishing that all these secrets have been preserved for so many years just so we could discover them!” Orville Wright

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Photo Credit: 1) Postdlf from w [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons