Giant killer pigs from hell

i-d4aca1cc92c175f0ebe2904ab95c1376-Entelodont_Jaime_Chirinos.jpg

Entelodonts were covered briefly on Tet Zoo back in July 2007 (here), when life was oh so different. Here's a brand-new rendition of Entelodon from the Late Eocene and Early Oligocene of western Europe, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia and Japan (it's probably the most widely distributed entelodont), kindly provided by Jaime Chirinos of zooartistica.com and used with permission.

Closely related to Late Eocene-Oligocene Archaeotherium from North America, Entelodon was a large entelodont, with good remains of E. deguilhemi from France showing that it reached 1.3 m at the shoulder, and 65 cm in skull length. Archaeotherium and Entelodon had shallower skulls than the more familiar, gigantic entelodont of the Late Oligocene and Miocene, Daeodon (aka Dinohyus: it reached 1.8 m at the shoulder), but they would still have been formidable predators and scavengers. In the illustration here they're feeding on a dead horse.

Jaime's work has appeared on Tet Zoo before: see the Thylacoleo restoration used here. Anyway, back to work. Crypto-pinnipeds, don't you know.

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You may recall that we had a bit of an Andrewsarchus thing going on here back in August. As you'll know if you followed the articles in question, there is now some suggestion that Andrewsarchus was not the megawolf mesonychian once imagined, but instead a weird relative of those entelodont giant…
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Is there any recent comprehensive review on the phylogeny of the entelodonts? Given that the molecular phylogenies rather strongly break up the suid-hippo link and push them to the base of artiodactyla (extant forms at least) I wonder what would happen to the entelodonts. Especially, if we provide the molecular tree as a constraint. Perhaps they come out as primitive artiodactyls that retained their carnivorous past ? I wonder how the enigmatic mesonychids would do in this scenario. Have there been any additional studies on the purported carnivory of the entelodonts -- exciting but perhaps not objectively evaluated?

By Rajita Rajvasishth (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

In the illustration here they're feeding on a dead horse.

Some sort of eohippus resembling a small modern deer = "horse"?

Very impressive rendition - bravo, Chirinos!

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

Cool post, cool animal.

Why is it "Daeodon" now?

By William Miller (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

I've noticed whenever I see illustrations of entelodonts they always have that mowhawk fringe going along their head and shoulders. Maybe it would be more accurate to say they were giant punk pigs from hell.

It's a superb picture.

I wondered about the horse. If that is an Upper Eocene scene (or Lower Oligocene), which genus is it? The feet appear to be three-hooved with the lateral hooves considerably reduced.

I'm also intrigued at what the raptors in the scene are. Are they portraying one of the paleogene European cathartids?

I also await World of Warcraft introducing these beasties as mounts - my Dwarf Retribution Paladin would look good on the back of one of those! Maybe Andrewsarchus would be better though.

By Mark Lees (not verified) on 16 Sep 2008 #permalink

These grotesque creatures are magnificent.
I once saw on tv a lone boar in India defending (and winning) a battle against a pack of about 25 dholes.
They were gatherered around a dead sambar dear.
Imagine these gorgious beasties.
What could stand against these Dantesque creations ?

Maybe a Mesonychid like Harpagolestes or a large creodont (is there any good book in existence about these three highly interesting archaic families ?)
The nimravids in the late-Eocene and early Oligocene would be too small I guess.

Entelodonts came from Asia to America in Middle Eocene; true pigs reached America later. Suiforms's diffusion center was in Southern Asia, as the fossils in Thailand and Myanmar seems to point. True pigs was primarily endemic to tropical forest in South Asia; Entelodonts reached colder latitudes crossing Eocene Beringia to America like basal Omomyids and Canids.

So they were carnivores?

Actually, modern suids with largest teeth (warthog and giant forest hog) are specialized grazers, and their teeth serve as equivalent of horns/antlers.

Uff... sorry :sulks in corner: Well, :reads avidly:

Thanks! More like hyena analogues. Would future dogs and hyenas develop hooves?

The Denver museum of natural history has an excellent replica of an entelodont, complete with sound effects and realistic diorama. Just about scared my daughter to death when she was 5.

By DVMKurmes (not verified) on 17 Sep 2008 #permalink

> What could stand against these Dantesque creations ?

> Maybe a Mesonychid like Harpagolestes or a large creodont

In late Eocene Asia, *Andrewsarchus* (a mesonychid) and *Sarkastodon* (an oxyaenid - don't ask me if oxyaenids and hyaenodontids form a clade Creodonta or not) might have had the advantage of sheer size and strength.

In early Miocene North America, however, there was practically nothing what could stop *Daeodon*. Perhaps a large pack of amphicyonids - and even in his case half the pack would either be killed or severely injured.

"I also await World of Warcraft introducing these beasties as mounts - my Dwarf Retribution Paladin would look good on the back of one of those! Maybe Andrewsarchus would be better though."

Giant sabretooths, flying dragons, antelope and raptors - and possibly mammoths (to come in Wrath of the Lich King, I hope...) - not enough for you, eh?

don't ask me if oxyaenids and hyaenodontids form a clade Creodonta or not

Don't ask anybody if they do that! (Hwa ha ha ha haaaaah.) The poor beasts have never been in a phylogenetic analysis.

By David Marjanović (not verified) on 17 Sep 2008 #permalink

From the looks of that picture, entelodont meat would take a lot of marinating to be edible. It might work in crock-pot chili, though.

If anyone has a grant going (or even just a stack of references that I can use to stick the fossil taxa as a first guess) I'll happily cladify pretty much anything. (It doesn't even need to be vetebrate) I can't promise it'll be any good, but if you ask nicely and let me look at the specimens I'll rebox them for you...

By Dave Godfrey (not verified) on 17 Sep 2008 #permalink

How did something as bad-ass as this ever die out?

By Nathan Myers (not verified) on 17 Sep 2008 #permalink

That's a good question ... especially if they were somewhat omnivorous. Did the Miocene transition to drier grasslands get them? It seems like they died out about that time, but they don't seem like the sort of animals that would need forests.

However, they were huge and sturdily built. Maybe they were too big and unstealthy to get close enough to prey in an open grassland? (Of course, for that to be a factor, they'd have to be heavily dependent on meat, not just opportunistic meat-eaters; grizzly bears aren't exactly sleek, and they did fine in the Great Plains until repeating rifles arrived.) Do you have any ideas on this, Dr. Naish?

By William Miller (not verified) on 17 Sep 2008 #permalink

Wow, overlooked piece of prehistoric fiction! Voila:

Entelodont stew with wild mushrooms, chestnuts and Eohippus sausage

Serves 6

Preparation time overnight
Cooking time over 2 hours

Ingredients
1.5kg/3lb 5oz boneless shoulder of entelodont or Paraceratherium neck,
For the marinade
2 bay leaves
4 large thyme sprigs
3 x 18cm/7in rosemary sprigs
1 fat celery stick, roughly chopped
300ml/10½fl oz gusty red wine such as a Cabernet Sauvignon or the Corsican Niellucciu
8 cloves
2 medium onions, sliced
6 garlic cloves, lightly crushed
12 black peppercorns
1 tbsp juniper berries, lightly crushed
For the stew
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
200g/7oz small Eohippus sausage, cut into 4-5mm/¼in-thick slices
2 tsp tomato purée
2 tsp plain flour
100ml/3½fl oz red vermouth, such as the local Cap Corse
450ml/15¾fl oz beef stock
50g/1¾oz dried porcini mushrooms
50g/2oz chestnuts, cooked and peeled and vacuum-packed
1 tbsp butter
200g/7oz mixed wild mushrooms, including some chanterelles, wiped clean and sliced if large
salt and freshly ground black pepper
handful parsley, chopped, to garnish

Method
1. Cut the entelodont into 5cm/2in chunks and put the pieces of meat into a large bowl. Add all the ingredients for the marinade, mix together well, cover and leave to marinate in the fridge for 24 hours, stirring it occasionally.
2. The next day, set a colander over another clean bowl and tip in the marinated meat. Drain well and reserve the wine collected in the bowl.
3. Separate the meat from the rest of the marinade ingredients and set aside. Heat half the oil in a large flameproof casserole dish and fry the meat in batches until it is browned all over. Season as you go and add a little more oil if needed.
4. Return all the meat to the casserole dish with a little more oil if necessary. Add the eohippus saussage and fry for a minute or two until lightly golden. Add the remaining marinade ingredients reserved in the colander and fry until soft and richly browned.
5. Stir in the tomato purée and fry for another minute. Stir in the flour followed by the red vermouth, the reserved wine from the marinade, beef stock, porcini mushrooms, 1 teaspoon salt and ten turns of the black pepper mill. Bring to the boil, cover with a tight-fitting lid and leave to simmer gently for 1-1½ hours.
6. Add the chestnuts to the casserole, replace the cover and cook for another 20-30 minutes or until the meat is very tender.
7. Shortly before the stew is ready, heat the butter in a large frying pan, add the wild mushrooms and some salt and freshly ground black pepper and fry briskly over a high heat for 1-2 minutes. Stir them into the casserole, sprinkle with the parsley and serve.

How large would a typical entelodont be? Popular depictions of extinct groups tend to focus on the biggest members, which in this case led me to presumably unjustified surprise that a 1.3 m at the shoulder should be characterized as large for an entelodont.

By Andreas Johansson (not verified) on 18 Sep 2008 #permalink

Thats great, Jerzy, Im just too scared to go out and catch the thing...

That image is so badass.

Sorry that this is my first comment. A rather superficial one, at that. But I'm an avid reader of this phenomenal blog, and felt the least I could do was chime in once in a while.

Chiming in is good - do it more :)

And... 'phenomenal'.. wow, thanks. You can visit again.

Great stuff. I've only heard of entelodonts rwelatively recently, but they went straight into my top ten list of 'favourite prehistoric mamm... er... synapsids?'

I've tried making one or two restorations myself, but some things still confuse me about what others have done. Maybe I'm fixating too much on the pig connection and similarities to hippo skulls, but to me a lot of entelodont restorations have fairly doglike noses and an almost reptilian lack of cheeks, as in Jaime's take here. Mauricio's drawing linked by Hai-Ren is more like the direction I've taken (but better), but is there any deliberation or concensus on the life appearance of entelodonts?

Catching entelodont is simple. You just kill Andrewsarchus and use the meat as a bait.

For weaker in heart, try hunting the same way as Squamp (after timeless Stanislaw Lem's The Star Diaries).

You probably already know, but they're in 'Walking with prehistoric beasts', together with Andrewsarchus.
Very very fascinating ...

I wish I'd seen this when it first came out, because entelodonts truly are among my favorite extinct mammals. Monstrous, slavering, pig-like animals with nasty dispositions-how can you go wrong with that?

By Raymond Minton (not verified) on 14 Feb 2009 #permalink

"Cool post, cool animal.

Why is it "Daeodon" now?"

Because it turned out that the name Daeodon preceeded Dinohyus, and thus Daeodon became the accepted name. Similar to the whole Apatosaurus-Brontosaurus thing.

"How large would a typical entelodont be? Popular depictions of extinct groups tend to focus on the biggest members, which in this case led me to presumably unjustified surprise that a 1.3 m at the shoulder should be characterized as large for an entelodont."

The titular genus Entelodon wasn't that bad, but good luck, and I mean it, to anyone who wants to catch an Archaeotherium or Daeodon.

"Thanks! More like hyena analogues. Would future dogs and hyenas develop hooves?"

Dogs nails are already somewhat hoof-like, compared with the claws of say, cats. They are non-retractable, and are more like cleats than weapons.

"So they were carnivores?

Actually, modern suids with largest teeth (warthog and giant forest hog) are specialized grazers, and their teeth serve as equivalent of horns/antlers"

"Jerzy, please read the previous entelodont article. These animals were definitely carnivorous (albeit not obligate carnivores). The big tusks of warthogs and giant forest hogs are irrelevant as goes this issue."

Yeah, well, say that to the numerous oreodonts who have entelodont fang-marks through their skulls, the camels who have their back half ripped off, and the rhinos who are torn limb from limb. While it appears the entelodonts were not obligate carnivores, probably taking roots and tubers on occasion during droughts, entelodonts were definitely the top predators of their environment.

Not to mention, they were fast. I talked with a scientist from Wyoming, and I found that entelodonts actually had longer legs than any other contemporary predators. If you don't believe that, there's always the trackway at Toadstool Park...a Subhyracodon (running rhino) is walking along, and then breaks into a sprint. Right behind it, sprinting the entire way, is an Archaeotherium. Imagine that thing coming at you full throttle, the jaws open, the breath fetid, and the teeth about to puncture your rib cage.

"Is there any recent comprehensive review on the phylogeny of the entelodonts? Given that the molecular phylogenies rather strongly break up the suid-hippo link and push them to the base of artiodactyla (extant forms at least) I wonder what would happen to the entelodonts. Especially, if we provide the molecular tree as a constraint. Perhaps they come out as primitive artiodactyls that retained their carnivorous past ? I wonder how the enigmatic mesonychids would do in this scenario. Have there been any additional studies on the purported carnivory of the entelodonts -- exciting but perhaps not objectively evaluated?"

They arise about the same time and same place as the peccaries first do, so I would expect them to be the sister group to the peccaries. However, I wouldn't be surprised if they turned out to be tylopods or a sister group to them instead. The skulls of the earliest entelodonts, like Brachyhyops, look nothing like pigs, nor the croc-pig crossbreeds that we know and love such as Archaeotherium. In fact it reminds me a little of the oreodont Promerycochoerus. We may just be lumping entelodonts in with the pigs because of the skulls of the derived members. And don't forget, entelodonts have actual two-toed hoves, rather than the four-toed feet of suids (not sure about the earlier genera though).

By Metalraptor (not verified) on 14 Feb 2009 #permalink

Furthermore, the juveniles of at least some entelodont species had serrated canines.

Judging from Indohyus, the striking similarity in skull shape, tooth shape and tooth arrangement between early whales and entelodonts is convergent, but who knows...

By David MarjanoviÄ (not verified) on 15 Feb 2009 #permalink

David, no offense, but do you seriously follow me around? It just seems odd, because every time I post you end up posting on the same post nearly right behind me. Ah, well, I guess its just a strange coincidence.

By Metalraptor (not verified) on 15 Feb 2009 #permalink

Big David is watching you...

Anway, it would be interesting to see how the serrations in entelodonts and whales correlate. Did they develop them simultaneously, or are these convergent evolutions towards the same trait, meat eating ungulates? It would be rather odd if it turns out that ungulates tend to develop big, nasty serrations like the meat eating dinosaurs on their teeth, but still cool.

Just another hypothesis, but perhaps the serrations have something to do with ontology, seeing as they are present in juvies and wear away in adults. Perhaps the juveniles took on smaller prey, causing it to bleed to death with their serrated teeth, while the adults acted like big, brusing grizzlies, battering their victims to death. Alas, we cannot go back in time and see giant killer entelodonts, no matter how much we want to.

By the way, I just realized something. There is no entelodon in any prehistoric creature movie! Where's my entelodont! I want my entelodont!

By Metalraptor (not verified) on 15 Feb 2009 #permalink

> There is no entelodon in any prehistoric creature movie!

An entelodont appears in the 2001 BBC miniseries "The Lost World", not to be confused with JP II. It has, however, only a short cameo, and is quickly killed by Roxton (Tom Ward) with a boarspear. Don't try this with a real entelodont.

I'm guessing that David just keeps an eye on the "recent comments" listing. So he's not just following you around, he's following everyone around ;-)

Exactly. I don't want to miss anything.

Anway, it would be interesting to see how the serrations in entelodonts and whales correlate.

No whale with serrated teeth is known. What you find on, say, the molars of Basilosaurus are fairly large cusps.

By the way, I just realized something. There is no entelodon in any prehistoric creature movie!

There are entelodonts in Walking With Beasts, the series that introduced the term "killer pig".

By David MarjanoviÄ (not verified) on 16 Feb 2009 #permalink

An entelodont also makes a brief appearance in episode 6 ('The Opportunists') of David Attenborough's The Life of Mammals.

"There are entelodonts in Walking With Beasts, the series that introduced the term "killer pig"." "An entelodont also makes a brief appearance in episode 6 ('The Opportunists') of David Attenborough's The Life of Mammals."

I mean a movie where they actually run around and attack people, a la Jurassic Park, and not just in a cameo role like in the Lost World.

And as for the serrated teeth, I heard that early whales had serrated teeth on this blog, either here or in the other entelodont post. I hadn't heard anything about it before, and I am not sure if it is true, but if it is true, it would be interesting.

By Metalraptor (not verified) on 16 Feb 2009 #permalink

I haven't seen stills, and it's hard to get much morphology from a movie scene, but the "wargs" the orc-cavalry rode in one of the "Lord of the Rings" movies made me think of entelodonts. So, since there currently seems to be an extinct taxon with the vernacular name "hobbit"...

By Allen Hazen (not verified) on 25 Aug 2009 #permalink

No, wargs are definitely members of Carnivora - not at all like entelodonts.

By Bradley Fierstine (not verified) on 25 Aug 2009 #permalink

> So, since there currently seems to be an extinct taxon with
> the vernacular name "hobbit"...

There are actually quite a few extinct taxa with scientific names refering to Tolkien, the most prominent example is probably the mesonychid *Ankalogon* - the correct Sindanrin spelling would have been *Ancalogon*, but this was preoccupied by a priapulid worm.

> No, wargs are definitely members of Carnivora - not at
> all like entelodonts.

The wargs in the books are obviously carnivorans in general and canids in peculiar - in fact, they are called Wölfe (wulves) in older German translations of The Hobbit. The wargs in the film might be carnivorans or hyaenodonts or oxyaenids or even mesonychians - AFAIK, no shot in the film allows a detailed view on their dentition.

I don't know about their dentition, but I've read somewhere that in terms of overall apperance, the wargs in the LOTR movies* were mainly modeled after real-life hyenas. It was thought that audiences wouldn't like it if the wargs looked too wolf-like (or rather, dog-like), since they were on the 'evil'** side and thus destined to be killed by Legoland et al. Incidentally, I've also heard rumours that in the forthcoming Hobbit movie(s), the wargs will be re-designed to look slightly different (more canid-like?).

* Wargs can briefly be seen in a couple of scenes in The Return of the King too.

** One should keep in mind that history is written by elves, not orcs.

Johannes:

There are actually quite a few extinct taxa with scientific names refering to Tolkien, the most prominent example is probably the mesonychid *Ankalogon*

Don't forget the killer whale Orca which is named after the orcs... oh, who am I kidding?

Here is a list of taxa named after Tolkien characters:
http://www.curioustaxonomy.net/etym/fiction.html
Many of these, including Ankalagon, are Paleocene mammals named by Leigh van Valen, whose lab was called the "Lothlórien Laboratory of Evolutionary Biology".
By the way, "varg" is the Swedish word for wolf.

By Lars Dietz (not verified) on 25 Aug 2009 #permalink

Entelodonts are Swine equivent of Sabre-Toothed. Since Felines has Sabre-Toothed Cats, Entelodonts was killer Pigs, just like Dinofelis was killer Cats! Cats are odd-toed Carnivores, and Pigs are related to even-toed Carnivores (Mesonchids)!

By Koichi Ito (not verified) on 06 Feb 2010 #permalink

wow those were awesome,,thanks god we live in this age jaja,
eventhough pigs has kiler instincts yet

When hunting the fierce entelodont, get all Robert Ruark on his [aft] -- for God's sake USE ENOUGH GUN.

Say, after a stroll through the Google hinterlands, .450-400, .375 H&H, .450 Rigby No. 2 (the long .450). And your pro hunter should be backing you with a .470 NE.

By Urbane Guerrilla (not verified) on 29 Jul 2010 #permalink

I'm totally obsessed with dinosaurs and prehistoric animals cuz my mom got me hooked when i was 4.
Among my fav prehistoric creatures: Entelodont WOO
Dilophosaurus
Celophysus
Megolodon
Basilosaurus
Dracorex hogwartsia (yes I am a Harry Potter Nerd)
Dollychorincops
Leoplurodon!!!!
Andrewsarchus
Hyaenodon
Dire Wolf
Iguanadon
Eoraptor
Utah Raptor
Zooniceratops
Geez, that horse is so tiny...but back then they were super small...but it's still tiny!

By panelomnprincess (not verified) on 26 Oct 2010 #permalink