Named By: Florentino Ameghino - 1888.
Classification: Chordata, Mammalia, Pyrotheria, Pyrotheriidae.
Species: P. romeroi (type), P. macfaddeni. Additionally, P. giganteum, P. planum, P. sorondoi.
Size: Around 3 meters long, 1.5 meters tall at the shoulder.
Known locations: South America.
Time period: Rupelian of the Oligocene.
Fossil representation: Several specimens.
was a fairly large and heavily built quadrupedal mammal that seems to
have been similar to primitive elephants that were living in other
parts of the world. This is yet another case of convergent evolution
that is displayed by South American mammals which during this time
would have been living upon a continent that was isolated from the rest
of the world. Other examples include later litopterns such a
which resembled a primitive horse and Macrauchenia
looked like a bizarre camel.
Pyrotherium possesses highly modified incisors that grew into short tusks that extended from both upper (two pairs) and lower jaws (one pair). The anterior portion of the skull is also shaped so that a short trunk grew from the end of the snout. Together Pyrotherium would have used the tusks to root up plants and then manipulate them into its mouth with the trunk. Once inside the molar teeth at the back of the mouth would process the food before it was swallowed.