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Forgotten Fauna: Uintatheres

by Ark Encounter on November 6, 2014

In this series, we thought it might be fun to show you some extinct animal “kinds”—varieties that Noah interacted with that we do not. We’ve already covered the entelodont, macraucheniid, barylambdid, and chalicothere kinds. We now present you with the last mammal in our series: the uintathere kind.

Uintatheres

The prototypical dinoceratan, Uintatherium, compared to a six-foot-tall (183 cm) human; artwork by research artist, Joel Briggs.

Although uintatheres resembled certain perissodactyls, they belonged to an extinct family—Uintatheriidae—within an extinct order—Dinocerata. Since the order presently contains only one family, this group may also be called dinoceratans. Most uintatheres sported large canine tusks (some, like Uintatherium, even had lower jaw flanges forming tusk “sheaths”), but they were clearly herbivorous animals—that is, they ate plants.

Prodinoceras was buried the lowest of any known uintatheres. Its remains were encased in the upper Paleocene sediment of Mongolia—layers that likely correspond to early post-Flood catastrophes. Nearly all other known uintatheres were buried in slightly higher sediment in North America. This evidence may be interpreted as pointing to a post-Flood eastward migration across the Bering Strait land bridge. Uintathere remains are presently only found below Ice Age sediment.

Uintatheres looked most similar to rhinoceroses overall, but there are many important differences. While some uintatheres likely had keratin-covered horns on their noses, many had pairs of ossicones on their heads as well. Ossicones are skin-covered bony knobs, known today only from giraffes. Not all uintatheres had these particular bony projections, however. The uintathere Gobitherium, for instance, lacked horns, ossicones, and even tusks, but its nasal bones formed a nearly spherical shape, and it exhibited cheekbone flanges. Prodinoceras, on the other hand, did have tusks, but it lacked any notable ornamental projections. Uintathere feet were also dissimilar to rhinoceros feet; in fact, they looked very similar to elephant feet.

Uintatheres were an amazing part of God’s world. Let us marvel at His creativity!