Science, Tech, Math › Animals & Nature Deinotherium Share Flipboard Email Print Deinotherium (Heinrich Harder). Animals & Nature Dinosaurs Prehistoric Mammals Basics Paleontologists Carnivores Dinosaurs & Birds Herbivores Marine Reptiles Amphibians Birds Habitat Profiles Mammals Reptiles Wildlife Conservation Insects Marine Life Forestry Evolution View More By Bob Strauss Science Writer B.S., Cornell University Bob Strauss is a science writer and the author of several books, including "The Big Book of What, How and Why" and "A Field Guide to the Dinosaurs of North America." our editorial process Bob Strauss Updated March 17, 2017 Name: Deinotherium (Greek for "terrible mammal"); pronounced DIE-no-THEE-ree-um Habitat: Woodlands of Africa and Eurasia Historical Epoch: Middle Miocene-Modern (10 million to 10,000 years ago) Size and Weight: About 16 feet long and 4-5 tons Diet: Plants Distinguishing Characteristics: Large size; downward-curving tusks on lower jaw About Deinotherium The "deino" in Deinotherium derives from the same Greek root as the "dino" in dinosaur--this "terrible mammal" (actually a genus of prehistoric elephant) was one of the largest non-dinosaur animals ever to roam the earth, rivaled only by contemporary "thunder beasts" like Brontotherium and Chalicotherium. Apart from its sizable (four to five ton) weight, the most notable feature of Deinotherium was its short, downward-curving tusks, so different from the usual elephant appendages that puzzled 19th-century paleontologists managed to reassemble them upside down. Deinotherium wasn't directly ancestral to modern-day elephants, instead inhabiting an evolutionary side branch along with close relatives like Amebeledon and Anancus. The "type species" of this megafauna mammal, D. giganteum, was discovered in Europe in the early 19th century, but subsequent excavations show the course of its peregrinations over the next few million years: from its home base in Europe, Deinotherium radiated eastward, into Asia, but by the start of the Pleistocene epoch it was restricted to Africa. (The other two generally accepted species of Deinotherium are D. indicum, named in 1845, and D. bozasi, named in 1934.) Amazingly, isolated populations of Deinotherium persisted into historical times, until they either succumbed to changing climatic conditions (shortly after the end of the last Ice Age, about 12,000 years ago) or were hunted to extinction by early Homo sapiens. Some scholars speculate that these giant beasts inspired ancient tales of, well, giants, which would make Deinotherium yet another plus-sized megafauna mammal to have fired the imaginations of our distant ancestors (for example, the single-horned Elasmotherium may well have inspired the legend of the unicorn).