Many a time out of great interest or perhaps just out of curiosity you must have wanted to know, what is the largest land mammal? The largest land animal alive today is the African elephant, but even the largest African elephant alive today is very small in size compared to the largest mammal that ever existed, and that is the giant herbivore Paraceratherium.
Paraceratherium, also known as Indricotherium, and Baluchitherium is a prehistoric animal that evokes fascination and admiration even today. The mammal was known by three different names because earlier it was believed that they were three different species. However, in 1989, after a research conducted by J. C. Sobus and S. G. Lucas, it was confirmed that all these three are the names of the same species.
When was it discovered?
Fossils of Indricotherium were first discovered in the Balochistan province in 1910. The remains were found by a team of English paleontologists, which was led by Sir Clive Forster Cooper.
Indricotherium existed during the Oligocene period, about 25 million years ago, and it was endemic to Central Asia and Eurasia. It shared its environment with animals like Entelodont, Bear dogs, Hyaenodon and Chalicotherium.
Their characteristic features
Paraceratherium was a huge, hornless rhinoceros, which easily could be differentiated from its current-day cousin owing to their lack of a horn. It had a very thick and massive torso. The skull of this largest land mammal was short if compared to its entire huge body, as it was about 53.14 inches. The neck of Indricotherium was really long, about 2 meters. This made it easy for the mammal to fetch food even from the highest tree branches.
Indricotherium had muscled and slender legs and owing to its length it could take longer steps and easily cover long distances. These mammals also had nice muscled lips which allowed it to manipulate and spin their food before they would eat it.
The largest mammal that ever lived, Indricotherium�s total body length was about 10 meters and its height at shoulders was about 5 meters. It weighed somewhere between 10 to 20 tons.
What did they eat?
Despite being huge in size, Paraceratherium was a very calm animal, and its diet comprised of plants only. Owing to its long neck and huge size it could easily eat their food from the tree branches without facing any trouble.
Owing to their huge size the adult Indricotherium had no fear of predators. Young ones stayed under the protection of their mothers until they were self-sufficient. Fights between males for dominance are believed to have occurred occasionally, thus leading to tougher male skulls. As per experts, these mammals had a long life span, and could easily live up to 100 years.
The most important factor that contributed to the extinction of Paraceratherium is said to be drastic changes in climate in the Miocene epoch. Such changes were a result of the tectonic uplifting of the Himalayas, and it resulted in great temperature drop, the disappearance of the forest ecosystems, and green areas became deserted. As their food source became scarce and their numbers started getting lower, they may have become more vulnerable to other threats, thus leading to their complete extinction.
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