The Macrauchenia is a unique mammal that seems to share many characteristics with llamas and camels, as well as elephants. However, it was not closely related to any of those animals. This prehistoric creature went extinct around 10,000 years ago.
Scientific and Common Name
Kingdom - Animalia
Phylum – Chordata
Class – Mammalia
Order – Litopterna
Family – Macraucheniidae
Genus – Macrauchenia
Name Meaning – "Long Llama"
Macrauchenia had long legs, a long neck, and a camel-like body. Its feet, however, more closely resembled those of a rhinoceros. Its most striking feature was the location of its nostrils: unlike most mammals, they were located on the top of its skull. This has led to much speculation among scientists about what the creature's head actually looked like. It was originally believed that Macrauchenia may have had a "blowhole" like modern day whales, though it is now more widely accepted that the animal possessed a short trunk, like that of a tapir or saiga antelope.
Height – 4.5 ft. (1.4 meters) at the shoulder
Length – 10 ft. (3 meters)
Weight – 2297 lbs. (1042 kg)
Macrauchenia's legs were long and sturdy, likely making it an excellent runner that was capable of sharp turns at high speeds. Its teeth and probable trunk were suitable for eating leaves from trees which it was able to reach with its long neck.
Macrauchenia fossils were first discovered by Charles Darwin in 1833 in Argentina, though he believed the bones to belong to a Mastodon. These fossils were described by paleontologist Richard Owen, who realized they were a new type of mammal similar to a llama.
The Princeton Field Guide to Prehistoric Mammals, Donald R. Prothero, 2017.