Megacerops (hatcheri) coloradensis was a large mammal that looked like a rhino. It had a large skull with a high brow and two horns on its snout. Unlike the horns of a rhino which are made of keratin, the same material that makes up hair and finger nails, the horns of brontotheres were made of bone, like those of a cow, and stuck out on the snout like a pair of upward facing prongs. The horns are sexually dimorphic, with males having larger horns than females. It is thought that the horns were used for combat between males and that the animals likely hit each other on their flanks (Mader 1998). A brontothere skeleton housed at the American Museum of Natural History has broken ribs that would have healed while the animal was alive, which supports this idea (Mader 1998). The cheek bones were very robust providing extra protection to the head while the two animals grappled with their horns (Osborn 1929; Mader 1998). The spines on the vertebrae above the shoulder region were tall, suggesting the presence of large neck and shoulder muscles to support the short but powerful neck and head.
Brontothere jaw bones and teeth suggest that these animals used their teeth to shear off leaves and were also capable of crushing hard objects (Osborn 1929; Mader 1998). The shoulder and hip girdles (scapulae and pelves) of these animals were massive and broad and were supported by large broad limbs.
It has been estimated that these animals stood at least 2.4 m (8 feet) or more high at the shoulder and were about 5-6m (15-18 feet ) long from head to tail (Osborn 1929).
- Mader, B. 1998. Brontotheriidae. Pp. 525–536 in C. M. Janis, K. M. Scott, and L. L. Jacobs, eds. Evolution of Tertiary Mammals of North America. Volume 1: Terrestrial Carnivores, Ungulates, and Ungulatelike Mammals. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.
- Osborn, H. F. 1929. The Titanotheres of ancient Wyoming, Dakota and Nebraska.
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