Walter Colvin

Showlow, United States

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3d art render of a herd of Elasmotherium in a Pleistocene Forest.

Made with Bryce 3d.


Elasmotherium sibiricum was a genus of giant rhinoceros which stood 2 meters (6.6 ft) high and was about 6 meters (20 ft) long, and weighed about 5 tons. A single horn in the forehead was the main characteristic that set it apart as it traveled through Southern Russia, Ukraine and Moldova during the Pleistocene Era.
The Giant Unicorn (Elasmotherium sibiricum) was a giant rhinoceros which stood two meters high and six meters (20 feet) long, with a single two-meter-long (7 feet) horn in the forehead. The animal may have weighed up to 5 tonnes. Its legs were longer than those of other rhinos and were designed for galloping, giving it a horse-like gait. It was probably a fast runner, in spite of its size. Its teeth were similar to those of horses, and it probably grazed low herbs.

E. sibiricum lived in Southern Russia, Ukraine and Moldova during the Early Pleistocene. It appeared during the Late Pliocene in Central Asia. Its origin appears to be connected to the genus Sinotherium. E. inexpectatum and E. peii inhabited Eastern China during the Upper Pliocene – Lower Pleistocene. They disappeared approximately 1.6 Ma. The earliest records of Elasmotherium species in Russia are known from the Upper Pliocene assemblages near the Black Sea. E. caucasicum was widely distributed in this area between 1.1 Ma and 0.8 Ma. The more advanced E. sibiricum appeared in the Middle Pleistocene. It occupied all of the southwestern part of Russia, reaching eastward to western Siberia. Elasmotherians persisted in eastern Europe until the end of the Middle Pleistocene.

Morphological peculiarities of elasmotherians have generated two main hypotheses concerning their appearance and the character of their habitat. The first, most widely accepted view which was also described above, portrays them as large woolly animals with a large forehead horn that thrived on an open steppe. Fossils of the horn, however, have not been found. The other view assigns elasmotherians to riparian biotopes. It is probable that elasmotherians dwelt in both riparian and steppe biotopes. The riparian biotope is suggested by dental and skull morphology. The combination of such characters as the absence of canines and strongly developed lateral processes of the atlas implies lateral movements of the head, presumably for grasping grass. The hypsodont dentition indicates presence of mineral grains in the food. Such food could be obtained by pulling out dense plants from the moist soil. These conditions are typical for riparian biotopes. On the other hand, a steppe biotope is indicated by their rather long and slender limbs, which would have served well for creatures grazing over vast areas.

Artwork Comments

  • Dawn B Davies-McIninch
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  • Dave Law
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  • Steven  Agius
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  • Cindy Schnackel
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