The extinct, giant giraffid Sivatherium giganteum: skeletal reconstruction and body mass estimation

Sivatherium giganteum is an extinct giraffid from the Plio–Pleistocene boundary of the Himalayan foothills. To date, there has been no rigorous skeletal reconstruction of this unusual mammal. Historical and contemporary accounts anecdotally state that Sivatherium rivalled the African elephant in terms of its body mass, but this statement has never been tested. Here, we present a three-dimensional composite skeletal reconstruction and calculate a representative body mass estimate for this species using a volumetric method. We find that the estimated adult body mass of 1246 kg (857—1812 kg range) does not approach that of an African elephant, but confirms that Sivatherium was certainly a large giraffid, and may have been the largest ruminant mammal that has ever existed. We contrast this volumetric estimate with a bivariate scaling estimate derived from Sivatherium’s humeral circumference and find that there is a discrepancy between the two. The difference implies that the humeral circumference of Sivatherium is greater than expected for an animal of this size, and we speculate this may be linked to a cranial shift in centre of mass.

Last Updated
January 28, 2021
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