(Great lightning beast).
Named By: Hermann Burmeister - 1879.
Synonyms: Listriotherium, Mesembriotherium, Xylotherium.
Classification: Chordata, Mammalia, Astrapotheria, Astrapotheriidae.
Species: A. magnum (type).
Size: About 2.5 meters long.
Known locations: South America.
Time period: Early Miocene.
Fossil representation: Well preserved remains.
is noted for having high nostrils, something that has led to the idea
that a great amount of soft tissue was present upon this part of the
head. The exact kind of tissue however is still unknown, with
speculation that it could have been some kind of short trunk or
prehensile lip, or possibly an inflated nasal area. Other features
include four enlarged canine teeth that grew to form tusks that
probably protruded from the mouth when it was closed. Additionally
the incisors of the lower jaw grew large and possibly connected with a
tough pad in the upper jaw. The hind quarters also have a
surprisingly light build for such a large animal, indicating that
they were weak.
Altogether these things could point towards Astrapotherium being a semi aquatic animal that foraged around wetlands and swamps. In these habitats water buoyancy would support the body weight, removing the need for Astrapotherium to have strong supporting limbs. The tusk-like canines would also be capable of root up plants while the incisors could scoop plants from the water. The high nostrils of the skull would have either made it easier for Astrapotherium to still breathe as it fed in the water, perhaps even being so well developed into a trunk or lip to help manipulate food into the mouth.
- Nuevos restos de mamíferos fósiles descubiertos por Carlos Ameghino en el Eoceno inferior de la Patagonia austral. – Especies nuevas, adiciones y correcciones [New remains of fossil mammals discovered by Carlos Ameghino in the lower Eocene of southern Patagonia. – New species, additions, and corrections]. - Revista Argentina de Historia Natural 1:289-328. F. Ameghino - 1891.