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Paraceratherium (Indricotherium)

Paraceratherium was a gigantic herbivore (plant eater) that lived in the subtropical woodlands and forests of Asia (including in Pakistan, India, China, Mongolia and Kazakhstan) between about 30 million years ago and 20 million years ago. It was an odd-toed ungulate (a member of the order Perissodactyla) and seems to have been related to rhinoceroses, although Paraceratherium did not have a horn.

While Paraceratherium may not have had a horn, one thing it did have was a truly gigantic body size. The animal stood around 25 feet (7.5 meters) from the ground, and even its shoulders were around 18 feet (5.5 meters) above the ground. Paraceratherium was probably around 28 feet (8 meters) in length, not counting its tail, and weighed somewhere between 10 tons and 20 tons. These statistics put Paraceratherium in the same size range as smaller sauropod dinosaurs, and as far as we know, Paraceratherium was the largest land mammal in history.

In terms of food, Paraceratherium was probably a browser. We know that it lived in subtropical forests, its great height would have allowed it to reach the tops of many trees, and its teeth seemed to be designed for easily and quickly stripping leaves from tree branches.

The first description of Paraceratherium was made by Forster Cooper in 1911. Since then, fossils of a number of other similar animals were found both by Forster Cooper and other scientists. When these subsequent fossils were found, they were generally each given their own name. Today however it is widely believed that all these fossils belong to animals of the same genus, and although other names such as “Indricotherium”, “Baluchiterium”, “Indricothere” have all passed into popular usage, by scientific convention the first chosen name takes priority – which means (assuming these animals are from the same genus) that Paraceratherium is in fact the technically correct name.

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