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Sunday, July 3, 2011

Prehistoric Mammal Week: Mesonyx

Look under Andrewsarchus's tags for a bit. Wondering why I put 'artiodactyl' there? Y'know, under a carnivore?

Weeeelllllll...

This is not a wolf. Stay away from its kill, furries.

At one time, there was such a thing as a hoofed carnivore.  Although the favorite among most people seems to be Andrewsarchus, the genus Mesonyx shows a more typical hoofed carnivore, sporting four small hooves instead of claws on each toe. Mesonyx lived during the Eocene, a time when there were enough cool mammals to get their own week. Fossils of it have been found in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming.

Here's a small exercise in case you do not understand the true terror of a hoofed carnivore: Go to a farm (or Google) and pay a visit to a cow or pig. Now imagine said cow or pig using extremely powerful jaws to bite your neck, and you were too slow to run away because plantigrade feet really suck for that. Your feet are lame compared to those of a hoofed animal, which Mesonyx ate on a regular basis. Those not-wolf teeth would get you for that reason alone.

Hooved carnivorids went extinct simply by being Darwinized out. You can still see their modern relatives...

 http://bigrigbible.com/WeeklyPhotos/W008/W008-04.JPG

...at Sea World.

Whales and dolphins are the closest relatives we have to Mesonyx.  As time went on, Mesonyx's relatives became more and more water-worthy to pursue their fishy diets. Flipper's great great granddaddy could have torn you a new one easily.


http://evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/images/evo/whaleancestors3.gif


Every whale from dolphins to orcas to the largest mammal alive at the current moment came from a wolf-like carnivore with hooves. Some whales and dolphins occasionally wind up with vestigial legs as a reminder. Evolution does some weird-ass things. This is one of them.

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