Fun Merycoidodon Facts For Kids

Mellisa Nair
Oct 20, 2022 By Mellisa Nair
Originally Published on Nov 02, 2021
Edited by Monisha Kochhar
Merycoidodon facts include details about its size, history, morphology, taxonomy, and fossil distribution.

This article will tell you everything there is to know about Merycoidodon mammals that lived during the Oligocene epoch. The Merycoidodon, named in 1848, was a genus of land-browsing herbivorous artiodactyl (oreodonts) belonging to the family Merycoidodontidae.

They were commonly known as Oreodon and were endemic to North America. They lived throughout the Middle and Late Eocene-Late Oligocene era, about 16-45 million years ago.

Their name was given by Joseph Leidy in 1848, along with several other Oreodont species like Merycoidodon culbertsoni, Merycoidodon halprin, and M. gracilis.

Even though the genus' name is Merycoidodon, many researchers and paleontologists prefer calling it Oligocene epoch oreodont, or Oreodon. The last of its lineage or descendants existed about 10 million years ago, likely around the end of the Miocene.

Read on to find out more about this mammal including details about the Merycoidodon timeline, and the taxonomy of its remains. For more related content, check out these Caviramus facts and Brachytrachelopan fun facts pages.


Merycoidodon Interesting Facts

Was the Merycoidodon a dinosaur?

No, it was an artiodactyl from the family Merycoidodontidae, and was also known as Oreodon (hillock teeth). It lived in North America from the Middle Eocene to Middle Miocene.

How do you pronounce 'Merycoidodon'?

The name Merycoidodon, given by Joseph Leidy in 1848, is pronounced as 'mery-coi-do-don'.

What type of prehistoric animal was a Merycoidodon?

It is an extinct genus of highly terrestrial herbivores commonly known as Oreodon (hillock teeth) and was discovered in North America. It lived during the Late Eocene-Early and Middle Miocene eras.

It belongs to the group called oreodonts, which consists of placental mammals. Joseph Leidy, a US vertebrate paleontologist described oreodonts as 'ruminating hogs'.

He also named and described several oreodont taxa belonging to this unique group such as the Oreodont genus called Eporeodon. The name Oreodon was inspired by the fish genus 'Orodus', and therefore, it is not considered a valid scientific term.

Taxonomically, this specific Oreodon belongs to Merycoidodontidae, previously known as Oreodontidae. This is a group of artiodactyls that are related to camels and Joseph Leidy was the one who classified and assigned it to Merycoidodontidae.

In which geological period did the Merycoidodon live?

It lived during the Middle Eocene-Middle Miocene which was about 46-16 million years ago. They were found abundantly in the Late Eocene-Late Oligocene era, approximately 34-32 million years ago.

When did the Merycoidodon become extinct?

M. gracilis (oreodont) was a diverse group of herbivorous North American artiodactyls that went extinct about 16 million years ago.

Where did a Merycoidodon live?

Fossils of oreodonts have been unearthed in Alberta, Canada, and in Florida, Texas, and Oregon in the United States. However, this particular member was endemic to North America.

What was a Merycoidodon's habitat?

Merycoidodon culbertsoni inhabited well-watered regions that had plenty of natural vegetation, and it preferred areas where succulent plants grew.

Who did a Merycoidodon live with?

They were social animals just like several other oreodonts and lived in medium to large-sized herds. They were considered highly migratory animals that moved from place to place. The lifestyle of many oreodonts can be compared to modern hyraxes, peccaries, and hippos.

How long did a Merycoidodon live?

Not much is known about the history of this dinosaur and so the lifespan of this animal is unknown.

How did they reproduce?

Animals belonging to this species reproduced via sexual reproduction and were viviparous, meaning females would give birth to young calves.

Merycoidodon Fun Facts

What did a Merycoidodon look like?

M. gracilis was a land-browsing herbivorous animal that had a short face and a long body. It was somewhat similar to larger modern pig breeds.

The Merycoidodon culbertsoni skull was relatively large and had a pit in front of the eyes, similar to the pits seen in the skulls of modern deer. It likely had similar glands as well, which were used to mark one's territory.

However, just because the skulls and glands are similar, it does not mean that this species is directly related to deer.

How many bones did a Merycoidodon have?

Fossil remains collected from North America consist of a Merycoidodon skull and a partial skeleton, however, the exact number of bones is unknown.

How did they communicate?

Communication methods between mammals from the Oligocene are still a mystery.

How big was a Merycoidodon?

Curious about the Merycoidodon size? Well, its size was not super impressive, it grew up to 4.6 ft (1.4 m) in length and was 2.3 ft (70 cm) tall.

How fast could a Merycoidodon move?

The speed rate of this pre-historic animal is unknown. However, because of the way its limbs are shaped (short limbs with the fore (first) limbs having five toes and the hind (rear) limbs having only four) paleontologists speculate that this species had good speed and ran fast, unlike modern ruminants.

How much did a Merycoidodon weigh?

Adults weighed around 209-307 lb (94.8-139.2 kg).

What were the male and female names of the species?

It did not have sex-specific names for its male and female members, they were simply denoted as males and females.

What would you call a baby Merycoidodon?

There is no specific term to describe a baby of this animal, however, based on some theories that suggest they were viviparous, their offspring could be referred to as a calf.

What did they eat?

Members of this genus followed a herbivore diet. The Merycoidodon teeth were adapted to its diet, which consisted of chewing leaves and other plant materials that they grazed on. They were preyed upon by carnivores present during the same era.

How aggressive were they?

These animals were not aggressive, as they were quite small and avoided contact with their predators.

Did you know...

Joseph Mellick Leidy was an American paleontologist, anatomist, and parasitologist.

The number of fossils found in South Dakota revealed that oreodonts were as plentiful there as modern-day zebras are, near the region known as Serengeti plains, today.

Artiodactylids (belonging to oreodonts) do not have any living relatives but were closely related to camels and pigs. Its ancestors lived during the Eocene period and the last of its descendants lived during the Pliocene.

The name oreodont is believed to have inspired the name of the popular cookie brand 'Oreos'.

Why are Merycoidodons such an important fossil?

Oreodonts were a group of small, medium, and sometimes large hoofed creatures, that lived during the Late Eocene-Early Miocene, nearly 40 million years ago (based on the studies conducted on North American fossil remains).

Oreodonts have the most common, abundant, and well-preserved fossil material in fossil history, and are found across the globe.

Since 1848, numerous people related to this field have visited archeological sites in North America to excavate oreodonts for public museums or private collections. The rich fossil material available made the process of studying several oreodonts fairly easy.

These studies informed us of many things including changes and evolution to the shape of their teeth and head, changing vegetation, diet, and the climatic conditions of North America 66 million years ago.

Why are they also called oreodonts?

Oreodont fossil remains are considered the most common pre-historic resources. They first appeared during the end of the Early Miocene era and lived until the end of the Miocene era, which would be about 5-40 million years ago.

Their members have no living relatives.

The name oreodont is derived from the Greek word 'oreo' which means mountain, and the word 'dont' is a reference to its teeth, perhaps related to English words like orthodontist and dentist. When these words are put together, the name roughly translates to 'mountain tooth', which is exactly what their molars looked like - small mountain ranges.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly prehistoric animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other dinosaurs from our Brontotherium facts and Hipparion fun facts for kids pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable Merycoidodon coloring pages.

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Written by Mellisa Nair

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Economics and English Literature

Mellisa Nair picture

Mellisa NairBachelor of Arts specializing in Economics and English Literature

Specializing in the creation of SEO-friendly content, Mellisa brings enthusiasm and expertise to our team. Her work in digital marketing and social media is complemented by her academic background in economics and English literature, as she holds a Bachelor's degree in these subjects from Wilson College Chowpatty, Mumbai. Mellisa's experience working with clients from various industries, including retail, education, and technology, reflects her ability to adapt her skills to different contexts and audiences.

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