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Time-travelling Rhinoceros

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Teleoceras major, the corgi-shaped rhinoceros from the Miocene of Nebraska, and a modern hippopotamus for comparison.

Teleoceras was apparently a rhino version of hippo, but it's so barrel-shaped and short-legged that it makes actual hippoes look quite athletic. It's known from hundreds or perfectly preserved skeletons known as the Ashfall Fossil Beds.

12 million years ago, a volcano erupted, and tons and tons of fine volcanic ash and dust was blown to the area where herds of Teleoceras lived. Fine shards of volcanic glass filled their lungs and soon, whole herds died and were buried into the endless ash. The animals still lie in the position they died in: on their stomachs or sides, some calves still in nursing position.

The title refers to an alternate explanation I came up with when submitting this to the graphics competition of a computer festival. To the nerds, I explained she's a time travelling secret agent rhinoceros that was sent to find out how life is in the Antropocene. As all the modern rhinos just laughed at her stubby legs, she went and seduced herself a male hippopotamus (pictured), who still hasn't realized there's something weird about the newest addition to his harem.

Photoshop trying to look like watercolor.
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© 2014 - 2022 Eurwentala
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olofmoleman's avatar
It looks, oddly cute...
d3in0nychu5's avatar
A lovely piece, though I must admit I'm even more exited by your use of the term Anthropocene. I actually decided a while back that we should be referring to the modern era by that term, not realizing many other people had already beat me to it!
Eurwentala's avatar
Thanks! I stumbled upon the term a few years ago and adopted it right away.

I think it's only sensible, given that smaller changes than what humans are causing have been enough to name a new geological period. I also kind of like the implication that it's going to be an actual geological period (and we're not going to kill ourselves off during the next decades or centuries).
mar16cris's avatar
now looking at it, it opens a place for speculative evolution there (fully acuatic rhinos FTW :v)
Aloodonguy67's avatar
This is so cooool!
vasix's avatar
Good lord Teleoceras seems to be even more extreme in its aquatic developments than a hippo! Were its legs really that short? I mean, for its stomach to almost touch the ground?
Eurwentala's avatar
Yeah, that's pretty much as accurate as I could manage (with my paleontologist boyfriend saying my first sketches were too leggy). It has far shorter and stubbier legs and barrel-like torso than a hippo: you can easily see that, if you try image searching both skeletons. Hippos are actually surprisingly gracile under all the fat.

It's actually very weird, as Teleoceras pretty much lacks the other aquatic adaptations hippoes have. Their eyes and nostrils aren't high on the top of their heads, and I'm having a bit trouble imagining how exactly did they wallow in water while still holding their eyes up.
vasix's avatar
So in other words Teleoceras is aquatic without being adapted so? Maybe it lived in very, very shallow water, even shallower than what hippos frequent, like little channels or something?
Eurwentala's avatar
Perhaps, yes. I also wonder if they simply didn't need to be very good at being aquatic, as in their environment there were no other semiaquatic mammals to compete with them, and apparently not many formidable predators either.

This page by University of Nebraska lists all (?) the animals found at the site where the Teleoceras killed by ash have been found: ashfall.unl.edu/ashfallanimals…

Teleoceras was, of course, more widespread than that, and is known from multiple species around North America, so Ashfall beds aren't the whole story.

Or it could be that the structure of the modern rhinoceros skull just isn't easily modified into a hippo-like form. The earlier amynodontid rhinos did have more obvious aquatic adaptations, but Teleoceras evolved later from animals that were essentially like modern rhinos. Perhaps the skull, with horn and everything, was just too specialized to change that fast.
vasix's avatar
Probably....
TheBattyCrow's avatar
I always learn something new when I see your pictures, about prehistoric life I never thought possible^^
Look forward to more!
Eurwentala's avatar
Thanks! :) That's nice to hear. Evolution has been drunk (and possibly also high) for most of prehistory, it seems. There's endless amount of unbelievable creatures.
TheBattyCrow's avatar
Drunk AND high? :giggle:
Eurwentala's avatar
I just found out sea spiders have such a small body that much of their digestive system is actually in their legs. And while the adult animals seem to be just a bunch of legs joined together in the middle, their larvae go the other way, and are actually just heads with some mouthparts attached. And they swim around waving said mouthparts. So yes, drunk AND high. :D
TheBattyCrow's avatar
Now that's awkward, I wonder - if animals actually had free will and/or a way ot express themselves - what would they say? :rofl:
Eurwentala's avatar
I think members of each species would be absolutely sure theirs is the only right way to live and look and would think the others are the spawn of Devil or something. :D
TheBattyCrow's avatar
Sounds a lot like humans :giggle:
Paleohyperspace's avatar
The theme for Jabba the Hutt came to mind immediately when I saw this pair. Great work as always!
Eurwentala's avatar
Marmot-of-Doom's avatar
whoah, I had no idea that this rhino even existet :O
And your little story to this picture is quite interesting, you should totally write a novel about it :D
RickCharlesOfficial's avatar
Amphibious corgi rhino. For. The. Win.
Eurwentala's avatar
Yeah!

Well, not actually for the win, but I did get third prize in the competition. :)
Qilong's avatar
Corgi rhino. Definitely apt comparison!
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