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Shansitherium fuguensis, another Prehistoric Giraffe

Post 1


Here's the next one:

Shansitherium was a prehistoric member of the giraffe family, in the subfamily Sivatheriinae, which is extinct today. Sivatherines were shorter necked than modern giraffes, and many had heavy skulls with elaborate , branched 'horns' - called ossicones. Shansitherium lived in Asia, and its name means 'Beast from Shanxi' -Shanxi being a province in China, where excellent remains of it have been found. It lived in the late Miocene epoch.

Three species are currently recognised: Shansitherium fuguensis, S. tafeli, and S. quadricornis. They vary in minor details of the ossicone structure. This genus is known from very complete fossil remains, including skulls and most of the skeleton.

Here are photos from the 'net of Shansitherium skeletons and skulls:

(go forward from that photo - there are several)

Shansitherium is a close relative of Samotherium, of which good fossils are known from the island of Samos in Greece. Sometimes Shansitherium is in fact placed in the same genus. The three species recognised have much more elaborate ossicones than those of Samotherium (the Greek one). Each ossicone consists of two projections, a simple spike in front, and a larger prong to the rear, which in Shansitherium fuguensis had little 'knobs' along the front and back edges.

In the branched ossicones of this and other sivatheres, one can see a sign of the relationship between giraffes and deer. Unlike the antlers of deer, the ossicones of giraffids are never shed. Also, modern giraffes have the ossicones covered in a layer of skin and hair. However, adult bull giraffes fight with each other, which rubs the hair and skin off the tips of their ossicones. Presumably the same is true of Shansitherium.

Compared to its relative Sivatherium, Shansitherium had slightly smaller and less elaborate ossicones. It also had a much longer and more delicate face. It was somewhat smaller, with fairly slender limbs. It had the typical giraffid short body that slopes down from the shoulders to the hindquarters. Its tail appears to have been shorter than that of modern giraffes.

It was most probably a browser. The colour pattern of its coat is of course just a guess.

Shansitherium fuguensis, another Prehistoric Giraffe

Post 2

Dmitri Gheorgheni, Post Editor

That is a really smiley - cool one. Its thick neck puts me in mind of DNA's assertion that Ford Prefect had something to do with the development of the giraffe.smiley - winkeye

I was trying to find a quote for you, by Mark Twain on the subject of extinct animal reconstruction (I'll find it eventually, I'm sure it was in 'Is Shakespeare Dead?') - but I ran into this, instead.

Since it has no offensive words in the url, I will post it here in the hopes that you will find it as funny as Elektra and I did:

(Warning to everybody *not* from Ireland or Yorkshire: There is cussing on that webpage. Er, rather a lot of it.)

Note that this website manages to draw our attention to interesting species without 1) acting as if it had invented them, or 2) being appalling cute on the subject. Which is why I thought you'd enjoy it, since your own approach to the reconstruction process is to do a great job and share it with us, for which we are beaucoups grateful. smiley - biggrin

I have tears in my eyes about the ferrets - and am now imagining a world full of fascinating giraffoids.

We spent a couple of wonderful holidays on the island of Samos when we lived in Greece. Beautiful place, full of cats, mostly, who insist on being fed at the outdoor restaurants (and on the pier when the fishing boats come in). I think the kitties would have run from that giraffoid and his ossicones.smiley - blackcat

Shansitherium fuguensis, another Prehistoric Giraffe

Post 3


I am also astonished at the thought of giraffoids on Samos. I am not sure of my ancient geography, but isnĀ“t the Mediterranean a geologically recent event. Were some of the islands contiguous with a bigger mainland back when these critters were there?

Island ecology is always fascinating.

Shansitherium fuguensis, another Prehistoric Giraffe

Post 4


Hi there Dmitri and Elektra! Sorry I only reply now ... I was without internet access for a week.

Heh heh that fupenguin site is truly funny! AND the pictures are great and there's the bit of interesting info as well! I liked the hyrax one most:

Note how he casually slips in the comment about the hyrax's 'poorly developed internal temperature regulation'!

And there are some truly cute photos linked in the article.

Elektra, the Mediterranean is in fact fairly young ... but geologically speaking, that is ... where anything younger than a hundred million years can be considered 'young'. The Mediterranean formed as I have it, when the African continental plate bumped up against the European plate, 'trapping' most of the Tethys sea which used to link the Atlantic and Indian oceans, in between. That was as far as I have it, between 20 and 10 million years ago.

But what happened then is also very interesting: the Mediterranean went through several cycles of drying up completely, and then getting filled again! Here's a Wikipedia article about it:

During these dry periods, the very bottom of the Mediterranean was exposed, and was pretty much the most extreme environment on the land surface of the Earth, totally dry and barren and with temperatures up to 80 degrees Celsius/176 degrees Fahrenheit. But the more 'shallow' parts of the exposed basin would have had milder temperatures, and allowed access to what had been islands before.

These giraffids (they are giraffids proper - in the giraffe family itself) lived in the Miocene period (20 to 5 million years ago) - thus, the same time that the Mediterranean formed, and then went through its drying-up cycles. Even when the sea itself was there, there might also have been differences in the elevation of certain areas of land, so what is now an island, might not necessarily also have been an island 5 or 10 million years ago. But whatever the case, certainly, giraffes and other large mammals reached these Grecian isles, and for a time at least, formed a complete and diverse ecology dominated by large animals - like I said, more like Africa of today.

What happened on *other* islands of the Mediterranean ... such as Crete, Malta, Sicily and others ... is that, at times when the sea filled in again, communities of mammals that had moved in from the mainland areas - and had been in communication with those mainland areas while the sea was dry - now were cut off from the mainland, and from each other, by the rising waters. And then interesting things happened. Large things like elephants and hippos became smaller - because their habitats shrunk, less food was available to them, and their ranges contracted. So we get dwarf elephants - only a metre at the shoulder in the case of the smallest ones (and their ancestors were 4 m at the shoulder) - and dwarf hippos, the size of the modern pygmy hippo. But at the same time, certain *small* creatures like rabbits and hedgehogs, became huge - perhaps as the result of the extinction of large predators, or certain large herbivores, giving them new 'niches' to exploit.

But sadly so far we don't know if this kind of process happened on Samos, if and when it had become cut-off by the rising Mediterranean ... but what fun it would be if they found some fossils of pygmy giraffes there!

Shansitherium fuguensis, another Prehistoric Giraffe

Post 5


Glad you are back, Willem. Congratulation on being on the Front Page today!

Shansitherium fuguensis, another Prehistoric Giraffe

Post 6


smiley - applause Willem!

Hey, no such thing as co-incidence, more like synchronicity maybe?

I have started writing a screenplay named "Google the Giraffe" and today a guy arrived to count our rare species here (rural Ireland, organic farm, wildlife corridor)

He's an Ecology expert, lived in S.A, very interested in communicating with you and your projects.

His email is


(Email me at the usual zendevil address if you want first, to confirm he is genuine etc)


Shansitherium fuguensis, another Prehistoric Giraffe

Post 7


Hi Elektra - yes I'm happy to be back! AND happy my entry has finally made it, too.

Hi there Terri - nice to see you here! I would love to read that screenplay of yours!

The guy counting the rare species also sounds very interesting! I'll contact him!

I might email you as well, anyway!


Shansitherium fuguensis, another Prehistoric Giraffe

Post 8







Forgive strange fonts. I get tired vrery easily now. !!smiley - cheers
WED. 2ND jUNE, 2010 18.20

Shansitherium fuguensis, another Prehistoric Giraffe

Post 9

Malabarista - now with added pony

Christiane, your capslock is on - that's why your captial and lowercase letters are swapped. Better turn it off (it's the key over the left-hand shift key), because on the internet, people assume you're shouting if you type in allcaps! smiley - ok

Shansitherium fuguensis, another Prehistoric Giraffe

Post 10


Hello Christiane AR80! It's great to hear from you again. How do I know so much? Well I know far less than what I would like to know, but as for what I know, I read a lot - as simple as that!

Heh heh I don't have a problem with your strange fonts - but take Mala's suggestion anyways!

I'll soon post you some messages on your other threads as well.

Beste wense,


Shansitherium fuguensis, another Prehistoric Giraffe

Post 11


Hi there Mala!

Shansitherium fuguensis, another Prehistoric Giraffe

Post 12

Dmitri Gheorgheni, Post Editor

Hi to Christiane from me, as well. smiley - smiley

The BBC's been acting strangely lately (=stranger than usual). They're working on the problem. smiley - hug

Aren't the prehistorica giraffes cool?



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