ARSINOITHERIUM (so called from the Egyptian queen Arsinoë), a gigantic horned mammal from the Middle Eocene beds of the Fayum, Egypt, representing a sub-order of Ungulata, called Barypoda. The skull is remarkable for carrying a huge pair of horn-cores above the muzzle, which seem to be the enlarged nasal bones, and a rudimentary pair farther back; the front horn-cores, like the rest of the skull, consist of a mere shell of bone, and were probably clothed in life with horny sheaths. The teeth form a continuous even series, the small canines being crowded between the incisors and premolars; the crowns of the cheek-series are tall (hypsodont), with a distinctive pattern of their own. Although the brain is relatively larger, the bones of the limbs, especially the short, five-toed feet, approximate to those of the Amblypoda and Proboscidea; but in the articulation of the astragalus with both the navicular and cuboid Arsinoitherium is nearer the former than the latter group.
It is probable, however, that these resemblances are mainly due to parallelism in development, and are in all three cases adaptations necessary to support the enormous weight of the body. On the other hand, the marked resemblance of the structure of the tarsus is probably indicative of descent from nearly allied condylarthrous ancestors (see Phenacodus). No importance can be attached to the presence of horns as an indication of affinity between Arsinoitherium and the Amblypoda; and there are important differences in the structure of the skulls of the two, notably in the external auditory meatus, the occiput, the premaxillae, the palatal foramina and the lower jaw.
From the Proboscidea Arsinoitherium differs broadly in skull structure, in the form of the cheek-teeth, and in the persistence of the complete dental series of forty-four without gaps or enlargement of particular teeth. Whether there is any relationship with the Hyracoidea cannot be determined until we are acquainted with the forerunners of Arsinoitherium, which is evidently a highly specialized type.
It may be added that as the name Barypoda has been used at an earlier date for another group of animals, the alternative title Embrithopoda has been suggested in case the former should be considered barred.
See C.W. Andrews, Descriptive Catalogue of the Tertiary Vertebrata of the Fayum, British Museum (1906).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)