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Saturday, January 7, 2012

Creature Feature: Synthetoceras.

Here at the Wonderful World, we do occasionally try to stick to the old title and make a mythical creature real. There was a whole week devoted to the possible sources of mythical creatures, including how, and if, they ever existed or potentially could exist. Bear in mind that these entries were not necessarily complete, meaning that I could have totally missed something obvious. In this case, it was our bad twice over. Ladies and gents, we present to you...the quadricorn:



Actually, Synthetoceras looks more like a kirin from Twelve Kingdoms, but the joke was too silly to resist.




Synthetoceras ('fused horn') was a genus of artiodactyls that lived in the Miocene Epoch - 13.6-5.33 m.y.a., or "after the dinosaurs" for those of you keeping track at home. Fossils of this genus have been found from Wyoming to the lowermost tip of Illinois. Synthetoceras ran parallel to modern cervids in terms of size (ranging from roe deer to elk) and presumably niche, but was not directly related beyond having cloven hooves. It may have been more closely related to camels than to deer.

We know what you're here for, however. How about that crazy horn?


(c) Murray Alcosser.

The type species of the genus, S. tricornatus, had three horns in total. It was about 7 feet (2m) long, making that strange horn quite imposing. The two near its eyes looked fairly normal, being short and curved like cow horns. The last horn, located on its nose, was bifurcated at the tip (making it not quite a quadricorn). Since only males had these horns, it is assumed that it was used for territorial battles or courtship.

Beyond that, we do not know very much about Synthetoceras. We think it lived in herds and overall behaved much like modern deer. The only real difference would have been the headgear, which even the most crazy conspiracy theorist could not mistake for the head of Satan. Satan with a slingshot horn...come on.

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