Photo of the Day: Andrewsarchus

6 07 2007


Andrewsarchus is one of my all-time favorite prehistoric beasts, even though we know surprisingly little about it. It’s huge skull, on display in the “Advanced Mammals” hall on the 4th floor of the American Museum of Natural History (a smaller replica also residing in the Rutgers Geology Museum) definitely is one of the more impressive that I’ve seen, and hopefully someday someone will be able to recover the rest of this magnificent extinct predator.

The above fossil as it appeared in the paper “Andrewsarchus, Giant Mesonychid of Mongolia” by H.F. Osborn (American Museum Novitiates, Nov. 11, 1924)

You can read more about this fossil and its discovery via the AMNH archives here.




10 responses

6 07 2007

It is really a pitty that there are so many spectacular beasts which are still only known from partial fossils. Andrewsarchus is one of them, but there are still many others, for example Megalania or especially Gigantopithecus. Although I´m in general not very interested in extinct primates (with the exception of subfossil lemurs), Gigantopithecus is still one of my personal hopes for futher more complete fossils in the future.
But to keep on Andrewsarchus, this is really a magnificient beast. The size alone is breathtaking, but the way it lived, and the biological niche it filled, would be even more interesting. It was surely no scavenger, because it would be much too large to life only from carion. The question is therefore what it ate then.
BTW, one of the very best life-restorations of Andrewsarchus is still the already many decades old painting from Burian.

6 07 2007

Thanks for the comment Sordes! After doing a quick search, I will have to check out more of Burian’s work; absolutely wonderful stuff. Perhaps some of the appeal Andrewsarchus holds for me (outside my love for carnivores and it being so big) is that it reminds me of the Tasmanian Tiger, and it appears this superficial resemblance has helped influence various depictions of it as far as coloring go.

I may be visiting the fossil halls of the AMNH this weekend or next, and hopefully I’ll have more pictures to share.

6 07 2007

The paintings of Burian were and are very often used as models for many paleontological illustrations. I know no other artist how made such impressive and life-like paleo-illustrations. Even if the great pictures of Mauricio Anton, John Sibbick or Carl Buel show often more details and look more scientificly, those of Burian are often very dramatic and in fact many of them look more like not very sharp photographs than painted pictures.

8 07 2007

The classification of Andrewsarchus confuses me: everyone says it’s a mesonychid, but, according to Mikko’s Phylogenic Archive, it’s a basal condylarth near the ancestry of all other mesonychids, nevermind that it was around when the last mesonychids were dying off.

8 07 2007

Stanton; I’ll have to take a look at what the current consensus is. The original paper lists it as a mesonychid, but given that so much of the rest of the skeleton is missing (and reconstructions are based upon North American mesonychids). I’ll have to check it out, although I’m surprised no one has gone looking for more specimens as of late.

8 07 2007

I always figured that they never went about looking for more fossils of it was because either everyone is more concerned with Mongolian dinosaurs, rather than Mongolian mesonychids, or the locals used the rest of the skeleton to make a prescription.

24 03 2009
Don Valich

Brian, Hi! I need to know the source of the Andrewsarchus photo above. Did you take this picture yourself? If do we have permission to publish it on Wikipedia. Please contact me via email. Thanks. Don

13 07 2009
Steve Missal

Given the questions about where Andrewsarchus really fits in, what would be your best guess as to its general appearance? I’m about to do a reconstruction for Prehistoric Times, and am looking for advice. Thanks…..

6 08 2009
Behrooz Arasteh

Please see the (( the vlord of the rings )) & (( kingdom of the heaven )).

1 06 2018
David Hicks

“Its huge skull…”

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