*Rare* South American Toxodon Tooth
Specimen size: approx 6cm at longest length.
Toxodon is an extinct herbivorous (plant eating) mammal from South America. It is often reconstructed to look like a cross between a hippopotamus and a rhinoceros, although it is not closely related to either. It was first described by Richard Owen based on specimens collected by Charles Darwin on the Voyage of the Beagle.
Toxodon (meaning "bow tooth") is an extinct genus of South American mammals from the Late Miocene to early Holocene epochs (Mayoan to Lujanian in the SALMA classification) (about 11.6 million to 11,000 years ago). It is a member of Notoungulata, one of several now extinct orders of hoofed mammals indigenous to South America. It was among the largest and last members of its order, and was probably the most common large-hoofed South American mammal of its time.
Toxodon was about 2.7 m (8 ft 10 in) in body length, with an estimated weight up to 1,415 kg (3,120 lb) and about 1.5 m (4 ft 11 in) high at the shoulder and resembled a heavy rhinoceros, with a short and vaguely hippopotamus-like head. Because of the position of its nasal openings, it is believed that Toxodon had a well-developed snout. It had a massive skeleton, which suggests that it supported a large muscular body. It had short stout legs with three functional toes, with most of the body weight being borne by the central toe.
The vertebrae were equipped with high apophyses, which most likely supported the massive weight and muscles as well as its powerful head. Toxodon had broad jaws which were filled with bow shaped teeth and incisors. These teeth would have allowed the animal to tear through and bite off plants and leaves.
It was initially believed to have been amphibious, but after examining the proportions of the femur and tibia, as well as the position of its head, below the top of the spinal column, palaeontologists realized that it had features similar to terrestrial animals such as elephants or rhinoceroses. The fossils are also usually found in arid and semi-arid areas, typically an indication of a primarily terrestrial life.
Toxodon would have had a very unusual gait, due to its peculiar proportions. It may have galloped to escape predators, but like a rhino, it probably relied more on its size as protection against predators.