Moeritherium Lived: 36-33 million years ago. The first fossils of Moeritherium were discovered in the Egyptian Fayum in 1904. It is also found in other sites around North and West Africa.

Type: Early Elephant
Diet: Herbivore
Size: About 0.7m high at the shoulder.
Protection status: Extinct
Pronunciation: mee-ri-THEER-ee-um
Latin name: Moeritherium trigodon
Meaning: "Moeris beast" named after the Lake Moeris where the first fossils were found
Animal Type: Mammal - proboscid (elephant family)
Dietary Type: Herbivorous - browsing sea-grass and other waterside vegetation
Closest Living Relative: Elephants
Size: 0.7m at the shoulde

By 36 million years ago there were already several members of the elephant family - some of them looked 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 elephants are one of Africa's 'native' groups of animals, and evolved there whilst it was an isolated island. Although many of the elephant family living at this time would have been recognisable to us, Moeritherium looked quite different. In the mangrove forests of the late Eocene it filled the role of a hippo.

The fossilised plants from the Fayum deposits of Egypt show that the coast was covered with rivers and marshes. These were filled with plants that Moeritherium seemed to feast on. Unlike its distant relatives the sea cows, however, Moeritherium was not well adapted to swim or feed underwater. Its ears showed that it could not have heard well underwater, although they were especially tuned to hear deep rumbling sounds, similar to the hearing of modern elephants