Chalicotherium goldfussi: The Miocene Giraffe

Article by: J. D. Dixon and Lewis Haller
Edited by: Jack Wood

Two Chalicotherium sp., an adult and a juvenile, browsing from a tree. Artwork by Julio Lacerda. Available at: https://252mya.com/products/chalicotherium-sp-royalty-free?variant=31771326477.

Name: Chalicotherium goldfussi
Name Meaning: Pebble Beast
Age: Miocene
Diet: Herbivore
Location: Europe

Chalicotherium goldfussi was first described in 1833 by Johann Jakob von Kaup after his find in Germany. It is the type species of the genus Chalicotherium, which has been found throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa. Chalicotherium was a bizarre genus of perissodactyl, belonging to the Chalicothere group, which arose in the Middle Eocene and died out in the Pleistocene. The evolutionary history of this group has been difficult to reconstruct, as fossil evidence is lacking, even though the species Chalicotherium salinum from Pakistan has provided rich material.

Chalicotherium would’ve looked like some sort of horse-gorilla hybrid, with extended forelimbs, toes ending in long claws, and short hindlimbs equipped with shorter claws. This morphology indicates that it probably walked on its knuckles, with its hands curled, which is seen in modern giant anteaters or gorillas. Chalicotherium also had a low and broad pelvis, meaning it could probably stand on its hind legs.

A skeletal reconstruction of a Chalicotherium from the Miocene of Europe. Taken from Carroll (1988).

The head of Chalicotherium is structurally similar to the head of a horse. When analysed, the teeth of two Chalicotheres (Chalicotherium goldfussi and Anisodon grande) showed evidence of wear caused by highly abrasive or unusual materials. This has been attributed to twigs and bark, as well as leaves, and provides evidence for a browser diet, such as that in modern giraffes. The ability to stand bipedally meant that the animal most likely pulled leaves from trees with its clawed forelimbs.

Chalicotherium was a strange animal with a combination of features not seen elsewhere. It was a unique creature unlike anything in the modern world, and worthy of a great deal of admiration.

Image References 
[1] Two Chalicotherium sp., an adult and a juvenile, browsing from a tree. Artwork by Julio Lacerda. Available at: https://252mya.com/products/chalicotherium-sp-royalty-free?variant=31771326477.
[2] A skeletal reconstruction of a Chalicotherium from the Miocene of Europe. Taken from Carroll (1988).

Information References and Further Sources
[1] Aiglstorfer, M., Heissig, K., and Böhme, M. (2014). ‘Perissodactyla from the late Middle Miocene Gratkorn locality (Austria)’, Palaeobiodiversity and Palaeoenvironments, 94 (1), pp. 71-82. DOI: 10.1007/s12549-013-0138-4. Accessed 11th January 2019. Click Here.
[2] Benton, M. J. (2014). Vertebrate Palaeontology. 4th ed. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 378-379.
[3] Chavasseau, O., Chaimanee, Y., Coster, P., Emonet, E-G., Soe, A. N., Kyaw, A .A., Maung, A., Rugbumrung, M., Shwe, H., and Jaeger, J-J. (2009). ‘First Record of a Chalicothere from the Miocene of Myanmar’, Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, 55 (1), pp.13-23. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4202/app.2009.0033. Accessed 11th January 2020. Click Here.
[4] Paleobiology Database. Available at: https://paleobiodb.org/#/. Accessed 11th January 2020.
[5] Schulz, E., Fahlke, J. M., Merceron, G., and Kaiser, T. M. (2007). ‘Feeding ecology of the Chalicotheriidae (Mammalia, Perissodactyla, Anclyopoda). Results from dental micro-and mesowear analyses’, Verhandlungen des naturwissenschaftlichen Vereins in Hamburg, 43, pp. 5-31. Accessed 11th January 2020. Click Here.
[6] Sein, C., and Thein, T. (2013). ‘A New Record of Chalicotherium from the Irrawaddy Formation in Migyaungye Area, Magway Region’, Universities Research Journal, 6 (5). pp. 207-218. Accessed 11th January 2020. Click Here.
[7] Carroll, R. L. (1988). Vertebrate Paleontology and Evolution. New York: W. H. Freeman and Company. pp. 533.

[2] A skeletal reconstruction of a Chalicotherium from the Miocene of Europe. Taken from Carroll (1988).

Information References and Further Sources
[1] Aiglstorfer, M., Heissig, K., and Böhme, M. (2014). ‘Perissodactyla from the late Middle Miocene Gratkorn locality (Austria)’, Palaeobiodiversity and Palaeoenvironments, 94 (1), pp. 71-82. DOI: 10.1007/s12549-013-0138-4. Accessed 11th January 2019. Click Here.
[2] Benton, M. J. (2014). Vertebrate Palaeontology. 4th ed. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 378-379.
[3] Chavasseau, O., Chaimanee, Y., Coster, P., Emonet, E-G., Soe, A. N., Kyaw, A .A., Maung, A., Rugbumrung, M., Shwe, H., and Jaeger, J-J. (2009). ‘First Record of a Chalicothere from the Miocene of Myanmar’, Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, 55 (1), pp.13-23. DOI: https://doi.org/10.4202/app.2009.0033. Accessed 11th January 2020. Click Here.
[4] Paleobiology Database. Available at: https://paleobiodb.org/#/. Accessed 11th January 2020.
[5] Schulz, E., Fahlke, J. M., Merceron, G., and Kaiser, T. M. (2007). ‘Feeding ecology of the Chalicotheriidae (Mammalia, Perissodactyla, Anclyopoda). Results from dental micro-and mesowear analyses’, Verhandlungen des naturwissenschaftlichen Vereins in Hamburg, 43, pp. 5-31. Accessed 11th January 2020. Click Here.
[6] Sein, C., and Thein, T. (2013). ‘A New Record of Chalicotherium from the Irrawaddy Formation in Migyaungye Area, Magway Region’, Universities Research Journal, 6 (5). pp. 207-218. Accessed 11th January 2020. Click Here.
[7] Carroll, R. L. (1988). Vertebrate Paleontology and Evolution. New York: W. H. Freeman and Company. pp. 533.