|Name Meaning||Fearful tooth||Height||1.77-2.4 meters (5.8-7.9 feet) tall at the shoulder|
|Pronunciation||Day-oh-done||Length||3.4 meters (11.2 feet)|
|Era||Cenozoic – Paleogene Period||Weight||750-900 kilograms (1,653-1,984 pounds)|
|Classification||Mammalia, Artiodactyla & Entelodontidae||Location||North America|
Although not the most famous prehistoric mammal, the Daeodon carries significant paleontological information.
After all, it is the latest known entelodont, and besides this, it is the largest member of the family, with a skull surpassing 1 meter long!
Daeodon fossils were discovered in North America, and supposedly, this omnivorous artiodactyl roamed Earth roughly 29-15 million years ago.
Although it has been labeled a pig-like creature, Daeodon is only very distantly related to pigs, and they evolved separately.
The Daeodon was an entelodont, a pig-like creature with a large head, a narrow gait, and a low snout.
Entelodonts were quite large animals, and the Daeodon was the largest member in the family, reaching approximately 1.77 meters (5.8 feet) tall at the shoulder.
Other estimations suggest it reached 2.1-2.4 meters (6.9-7.9 feet) tall at the shoulder.
Its skull only measured 1-1.5 meters (3.2-5 feet), which is as long as a gazelle!
Based on these calculations, scientists estimate a length of approximately 3.4 meters (11.2 feet) long.
The Daeodon also likely weighed around 750-900 kilograms (1,653-1,984 pounds).
Entelodonts are renowned for their huge heads, but what distinguishes them among other mammals and artiodactyls, in particular, are the unusual skull and mandible derivations.
Like its relative, the Archaeotherium, the Daeodon had distinctive bony protrusions on the base of its jaw.
The cheekbones featured a thick bony flange rising from the side of the face.
However, in Daeodon, the chin tubercle and the cheekbone flanges were relatively smaller than those of other entelodonts.
Most entelodonts had narrow and elongated snouts, but this hasn’t been confirmed for the Daeodon, whose skull’s rear was likely shorter than the snout.
Although the skull was remarkably large, the brain case was quite small, and the cerebrum was underdeveloped.
On the other hand, the paranasal sinuses and the olfactory bulbs were large, indicating that the Daeodon had a keen sense of smell.
Since the eye sockets are oriented forward, the Daeodon likely had binocular vision, a common trait in predatory species.
The Daeodon also had typical mammalian teeth with the following features:
- Three pairs of robust incisors on each row
- A pair of canines on each row
- Four pairs of pointed premolars on each row
- Three pairs of flat molars on each row
Despite having such a large skull, the neck was relatively light and short, with the size and weight of the skull supported by the tall spines and their muscles and tendons.
These made the Daeodon look like it had a spinal hump.
The Daeodon had a rather bulky body shape and a muscular build, looking like a modern bison.
Its limbs were long and slender, and the foreleg bones (radius and ulna) were fused, with each forelimb bearing two toes.
Habitat and Distribution
Daeodon fossils were recovered from North America, primarily in Oregon’s John Day Formation and Agate Fossil Beds National Monument, located near Harrison, Nebraska.
However, they may have lived in other parts of North America where fossils either hadn’t been preserved or found.
Scientists estimate the Daeodon lived from the Mid-Oligocene until the Middle Miocene.
During the Oligocene, the world registered a major cooling event, and the best climatic records come from North America.
This territory registered a temperature drop of 7-11 degrees Celsius (13-20 degrees Fahrenheit).
During the Late Oligocene, however, the world started warming up, and with the Oligocene-Miocene transition came lower temperatures, eventually replaced by warmer ones approximately 16 million years ago.
At the time, North America switched from dense forests to patchy scrublands with riparian forests and was covered in cashew and lychee trees and various woody plants.
The John Day Formation likely featured climatic shifts and volcanic conditions during the Miocene, and the climate was probably semi-arid and featured multiple seasons.
Behavior and Diet
Fossil evidence shows that the Daeodon wasn’t a social creature.
On the other hand, it might have engaged in face-biting intraspecific competition over territories or mates.
However, this has been suggested for entelodonts based on the tooth marks found on fossilized skulls.
This aspect has yet to be fully confirmed for the Daeodon, but we cannot rule out the possibility.
The Daeodon was an omnivorous mammal and likely fed on nuts, vines, roots, meat, and even bones.
Scientists suggest that the herbivorous part of its diet was similar to that of hippos and bears.
As carnivores, Daeodon probably hunted large herbivores or scavenged their carcasses, but the hunting part is highly debated.
While the Daeodon did indeed have binocular vision, which is often observed in predators, and was quite a good runner, the skull might have been too large for it to hunt effectively and take down large prey.
This suggests that Daeodon may have gone only for smaller prey, but the structure of their teeth and jaws suggests they were adapted for processing large, tough food items.
The reproductive behavior of the Daeodon is poorly studied.
However, we can discuss what is known about even-toed ungulates (Artiodactyla) and mammals in general, hoping that not much has changed over the 16 million years that separates the Daeodon and modern even-toed ungulates.
Most mammals are viviparous, meaning the embryos develop within the mother.
They are also gonochoric, which means that the animal is born either with male or female genitalia.
Males have testes and a penis used for urination and copulation, while females have a vagina, paired oviducts, 1-2 cervices, and 1-2 uteri.
However, these details may vary slightly depending on the species.
It is generally believed that even-toed ungulates have long gestation periods, varying from four to fifteen months, depending on the species.
The litter size is typically 1-2 babies, although a pig’s litter size can reach ten newborns.
Even-toed ungulate newborns are precocial, meaning they are relatively mature when born and do not require much adult help.
They are born with their eyes open and their bodies already covered in hair, and as they grow older, coat patterns may change slightly.
Some newborns remain alongside their parents for the first few weeks of their lives, while others do not stay nearby for more than a few hours or days.
Specialists argue that Daeodon could have been sexually dimorphic.
The jugal projections of Archaeotherium, another entelodont, have been confirmed to be sexually dimorphic – they were larger in males than in females.
Moreover, these projections are often compared to horns and antlers in modern artiodactyls, used for display or intimidation.
Since the Daeodon had no such structures, these bones may have served the same purpose, so scientists are positive about this possibility.
Furthermore, modern mammals have a life expectancy of approximately 20-30 years, and some can live for 40-50 years, with a few even reaching almost a century!
However, the lifespan of the Daeodon remains unknown.
Evolution and History
The first entelodont fossils were named and described in the 1840s.
They belonged to the Entelodon magnus species and were discovered in Europe, and over the years, other European discoveries followed.
In the 1850s, fossils belonging to large entelodonts started surfacing in North America as well, and only 50 years later, after unearthing multiple fossilized specimens, scientists were already well-acquainted with these creatures.
In the 20th century, the studies expanded, as entelodont fossils were also recovered from Asia.
At first, entelodonts were considered true pigs, and although they’re still part of the Artiodactyla order, it is now well-known that they evolved separately from pigs.
The Daeodon genus was established in 1878 by Edward Drinker Cope.
American paleontologists initially classified the creature as a perissodactyl, meaning an odd-toed ungulate.
This description remained valid until 1905, when another similar creature was discovered, leading to the genus’ reclassification under the Entelodontidae family.
The type species of the Daeodon genus, Daeodon shoshonensis, was described based on a lower jaw fragment.
Years later, a complete skeleton was recovered from Nebraska.
Studies show that entelodonts first appeared in China in the Middle Eocene, and by the end of the Eocene, they reached North America, represented by the Brachyhyops.
By the Early Oligocene, entelodonts reached Europe and replaced the European choeropotamids in terms of ecological niche.
In Asia, they replaced helohyids (Helohyidae), while in North America, a creature known as Archaeonodon.
By the last part of the Oligocene and the first of the Miocene, they reached the peak of their evolution, and the Daeodon is considered the most evolved entelodont form.
It was also the last discovered entelodont, although its discovery didn’t reveal anything about what may have led to its extinction.
After entelodonts disappeared, no other pig-like creatures replaced them, and only in the Late Miocene were they replaced by peccaries.
Interactions with other Species
The Daeodon likely shared its habitat with many interesting yet bizarre creatures.
Here are some of such creatures:
- Prehistoric horses like Miohippus and Parahippus
- Rhinoceros like Diceratherium and Menoceras
- Bear dogs like the Daphoenodon and the Ysengrinia
- Oroedonts like Promerycochoerus and Merychyus
- Camelids like Stenomylus and Oxydactylus
- Land beavers like Paleocastor and other rodents
- Chalicotheres like Moropus
- Antelope-like mammals (Syndyoceras)
- Various carnivorans
- Squamates like Dyticonastis
Although the Daeodon lived with many carnivores, it remains unknown whether it had any predators.
However, given its size, weight, and body build, the likelihood of a Daeodon falling prey to these carnivores is low, as they were much smaller than the famous large entelodont.
As already mentioned, the Daeodon may have engaged in intraspecific competition.
It may have also competed for food with other herbivores/carnivores, but this remains a mystery until further research.
Entelodonts are now quite well-known in popular media.
In fact, we can say that they are infamous in popular media, as they’re often called “terminator pigs” or “hell pigs.”
Although not all media appearances focus on the Daeodon for inspiration, since it is not the type genus of the family, some shows portray the Daeodon alongside the Entelodon.
For example, one episode of the Prehistoric Predators show focuses on entelodonts and their evolution, and the Daeodon also makes an appearance.
The Daeodon is also a creature in ARK: Survival Evolved, where it is nicknamed the Hell Pig, just as we’ve mentioned!
So, if you are a player, don’t forget to check this creature out!
The Daeodon is the latest and the largest known entelodont.
Today, its discovery marks a turning point in the evolution of entelodonts, ungulates, and mammals.
These pig-like creatures lived in North America approximately 29-15 million years ago.
They were huge omnivores and had distinctive cheekbone flanges and chin tubercles.
The Daeodon had a muscular build marked by the tall spines of the thoracic vertebrae, which made it look like a bison.
Why did the Daeodon go extinct?
It is unknown why the Daeodon went extinct.
However, we can associate it with the Middle Miocene extinctions, except that it occurred roughly 14 million years ago, while the Daeodon is thought to have gone extinct roughly 15-16 million years ago.
Some sources suggest that the transition from dense forests to expansive prairies may have led to these mammals’ extinction.
Are Daeodons related to pigs?
Although the Daeodon was a pig-like mammal, it was only distantly related to pigs by being in the same order – Artiodactyla.
What is Daeodon’s closest relative?
Daeodon’s closest relatives are the following: