The Macrauchenia was a mammal with long limbs and a long neck that gets is name from the Greek for ‘big neck’. This extinct mammal was native to South America, specifically Argentina where, to-date the only fossil specimens have been found. The first Macrauchenia specimen was found by Charles Darwin on the voyage of Beagle and is described to resemble a camel with a small trunk and no hump despite not being related to the camel at all.
The Macrauchenia belonged to the order litopterna and was the last of the Litopterna – the extinction of the Macrauchenia thus ended the line of Litopterna. It is believed that after the formation of the Central America land bridge that the Macrauchenia died out along with other hoofed animals from South America and North American species such as the American Ground Sloths and Saber-tooth Cats.
The Macrauchenia could grow up to a length of almost 10ft and had a body similar to that of a camel with its long neck and relatively small head. The feet of the Macrauchenia draw contrast to the camel-like features are these were mucb more like that of modern day rhinos.
Upon inspection of the Macrauchenia specimens some unique characteristics were discovered. Firstly the Macrauchenia is thought to have developed extremely well in terms of maneuverability, the structure of its ankles and shins point out that it was extremely mobile and could probably change directions effortlessly even at high speeds.
Secondly the Macrauchenia’s nostrils were actually situated on top of its head, at first scientists thought the may have been used as a snorkel however it is now believed this was to make breathing easier due to the Macrauchenia having a small trunk.
The Macrauchenia would have been at constant threat from predators and experts have explained that its habitat would have been like that of the savanna’s of Africa. As well as having increased mobility to escape predators it is also believed that the Macrauchenia used to travel in herds for extra protection. The Macrauchenia were herbivores and likely used their trunk to grasp food like leaves and grass, similar to how elephants use their trunks to eat.