Sivatherium

Name: Sivatherium ‭(‬Siva’s beast‭)‬.
Phonetic: See-vah-fee-ree-um.
Named By: Hugh Falconer‭ & ‬Proby Thomas Cautley‭ ‬-‭ ‬1836.
Synonyms: Libytherium maurusium.
Classification: Chordata,‭ ‬Mammalia,‭ ‬Artiodactyla,‭ ‬Giraffidae,‭ ‬Sivatheriinae.
Species: S.‭ ‬giganteum‭ (‬type‭)‬,‭ ‬S.‭ ‬hendeyi,‭ ‬S.‭ ‬maurusium,‭ ‬S.‭ ‬olduvaiense.
Diet: Herbivore.
Size: 2.2‭ ‬meters tall at the shoulder.
Known locations: Across Africa,‭ ‬India.
Time period: ‭L‬ate Pliocene through to early Holocene.
Fossil representation: Multiple specimens.

       Initially thought to be some form of elephant and later an antelope,‭ ‬the correct identification of Sivatherium as a giraffe did not come about until Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire identified it as one.‭ ‬However this theory was not universally accepted until close analysis found that the skull horns would have been covered by skin like in giraffes,‭ ‬and not keratin like in antelopes.‭ ‬The skull ornamentation of Sivatherium‭ ‬is composed of two small ossicones‭ (‬similar to those of a giraffe‭) ‬that are above the eyes,‭ ‬and two larger horns that rise up from the back of the skull.‭ ‬It is these two horns that have given rise to the term‭ ‘‬moose-like‭’ ‬which is often applied to Sivatherium.
       Moose-like has also sometimes been used to describe the general build of Sivatherium which has also has a strong build around the shoulders on a body that is supported by long relatively thin legs.‭ ‬Sivatherium‭ ‬likely had powerful neck muscles that supported and stabilised the head from the additional weight to the horns on top of it.‭ ‬This form may seem bizarre to us today,‭ ‬but many prehistoric giraffes had similar body proportions to Sivatherium and today the closest living animal in form is the okapi‭ (‬Okapia johnstoni‭)‬,‭ ‬another conservatively proportioned giraffe from central Africa.
       Back in the early days of is discovery Sivatherium was once considered to have had a specialised soft tissue development around the mouth like a trunk or extended movable lip that would help it to reach and scoop up food from the ground.‭ ‬Today in light of the fact that we know Sivatherium to have been a giraffe this is highly unlikely for two reasons.‭ ‬First is that giraffes carry their heads high so that they can reach to feed from trees,‭ ‬something that reduces competition between them and other herbivores that can only feed from lower down.‭ ‬Second is that giraffes today have long prehensile tongues that they can wrap around branches to strip off surprisingly large amounts of vegetation.‭ ‬Although so far not known for certain,‭ ‬it would be reasonable to think that Sivatherium as well as many other prehistoric giraffes had similar tongues adapted for this way of feeding.

Further reading
- On the Sivatherium giganteum, a new fossil Ruminant Genus, from the Valley of the Markanda, in the Siválik branch of the Sub-Himálayan Mountains - Philosophical Magazine Series 3 - Vol 9, issue 53 - Hugh Falconer M. D. & Captain P. T. Cautley - 1836.
- Sivatherium maurusium (Pomel) (Giraffidae, Mammalia) du Pléistocène de la République de Djibouti [Sivatherium maurusium (Pomel) (Giraffidae, Mammalia) Pleistocene of the Republic of Djibouti]. - Paläontologische Zeitschrift - Vol 59, issue3-4 p311-321 - Denis Geraads - 1985.
- Pliocene Giraffidae (Mammalia) from the Hadar Formation of Hadar and Ledi-Geraru, Lower Awash, Ethiopia - Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 33(2):470-481. - Denis Geraads, Kaye Reed & Rene Bobe - 2013.



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