Atom Smasher, Mark Renz 1-239-368-3252

What Am I?

by Mark Renz

I found this symphysis with a pronounced canine tooth and portion of mandible in a Labelle highway retention pond. It belongs to a 500,000 year-old Paleolama mirifica. The large canine indicates a male.

Although they were the size of rabbits and probably more closely related to miniature horses, the first camels (and horses) evolved in North America. Protylopus was small with no hump, had four toes and low-crowned teeth. It lived during the Eocene 54 to 37.5 million years ago.

In the Oligocene (37.5 to 24.5 million years ago), camels flourished in the woodlands of South Dakota. They were growing in size, standing about two feet high at the shoulders, and had lost two lateral toes.

Florida's earliest record of camels turns up during the Miocene (5.0 to 24.5 million years ago), with the genra Floridatragulus and Nothokemas. Before that epoch ended, three tribes emerged: the extinct giraffe camels, the true camel, and the llamas. Although all three are known from Florida, members of the llama tribe, such as Hemiauchenia, were always the most common. By the Pliocene (5 to 1.8 million years ago) in Florida, only Hemicauchenia had survived, living on through the Pleistocene as well (10,000 years before present to 1.8 million years).

During the Pliocene, llamas moved into South America. There, they further diversified into llamas and the vicuna, both of which were ideally suited to graze in high altitudes.

Also during the Pliocene, some camels migrated into Europe and Africa. Camels and llams became extinct in North America about 10,000 years ago.