Although a member of the elephant family, this species adopted a lifestyle closer to that of hippos.
Meaning of scientific name
"Moeris beast" named after the Lake Moeris where the first fossils were found.
Pronunciation of scientific name
0.7m at the shoulder.
By the end of the Eocene, there were already several members of the elephant family - some of them looking pretty similar to modern elephants. Moeritherium, however, was a bit of a side branch who seems to have adopted a hippo-like lifestyle, and didn't have the familiar trunk or tusks.
The first fossils of Moeritherium were discovered in the Fayum in 1904, but it is also found in other sites around North and West Africa.
They inhabited the coastal swamps of north Africa.
They browsed on sea-grass and other floating/waterside vegetation.
Moeritherium's long body, short legs, and eyes and nostrils near the top of its head all suggest that it had a partly aquatic lifestyle. Its skull also suggests that it had a mobile proboscis to help it crop waterside vegetation.
They lived 36-33 million years ago. The early history of the 'native' African mammals - the Afrotheres - is little known as yet. Now DNA analysis has clarified our understanding of the group then further fossils may be more easily placed in the family tree.
Best place to see
Natural History Museum; Hunterian Museum, Glasgow; Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences; Royal Museum & Museum of Scotland
Modern elephants, and (more distantly) sea cows.