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EMELA-NTOUKA: THE ELEPHANT KILLER, PART 2

Posted on June 19, 2012 at 7:35 PM

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EMELA-NTOUKA: THE ELEPHANT KILLER, PART 2

Researched, Compiled, Illustrated and Edited by R. Merrill


THE SUSPECTS


BLACK RHINO (Diceros bicornis)


It's scientific name "dicero" comes from the Greek "di", meaning "two" and "ceros", meaning "horn" and "bicornis" from the Latin "bi", meaning "two" and "cornis", meaning "horn." Black rhinos are actually not black at all, and the specie's common name Black rhinoceros probably derives as a distinction from the white rhino (itself a misnomer) and/or from the dark-colored local soil that often covers its skin after wallowing in mud. It's other common names, Prehensile or Hook-lipped rhinoceros, derive from the fact that the upper lip of the black rhino is adapted for feeding from trees and shrubs and is its best distinguishing characteristic.


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The black rhino lives in Africa, primarily in grasslands, savannahs and tropical bush lands. There are four black rhino sub-species. Black rhinos are browsers. Its prehensile upper lip is adapted for grasping and holding leaves and branches of shrubs and trees. This adaptation is the species' most distinguishing characteristic.


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Adult female black rhinos have overlapping ranges and are not really as solitary as often portrayed. Males are generally solitary and may be territorial.


Physical Characteristics


Size/Weight: 1,750 - 3,000 lbs (800 - 1,350 kg)


Height: 4.5 - 5.5 ft (1.4 - 1.7 m) tall at shoulder


Length: 10- 12.5 ft (3.0-3.8m) length of head and body


Horn: Black rhinos have two horns. The front (anterior) horn is larger and measures up to 4 feet 3 inches (0.5 - 1.3 m). The rear (posterior) horn is smaller and measures up to 22 inches (55 cm) long.


Other Features: Relatively broad snout with a prehensile lip adapted for grasping branches and leaves.


Parallels: Browsers; prehensile upper lip is adapted for grasping and holding leaves and branches of shrubs and trees. Males are generally solitary and may be territorial. Possesses a horn up to 4' 3" long (an excellent offensive/defensive weapon). Three toes.


Disparities: They live primarily in grasslands, savannahs and tropical bush lands. Not as large as the two largest species of rhinos. Species lives in long and short-grass savannahs. Animals are grazers; square upper lip is adapted for feeding on grasses. Skin is brownish-gray. Very small tail.


WHITE RHINO (Ceratotherum simum)


It's scientific name "ceratotherium" comes from the Greek "cerato", meaning "horn" and "thorium", meaning "wild beast" and "simum" from the Greek "simus", meaning "flat nosed." It's common name, White rhinoceros, is taken from the Afrikaans word describing its mouth: "weit", meaning "wide". Early English settlers in South Africa misinterpreted the "weit" for "white". White rhinos are also sometimes called the square-lipped rhinoceros. Its upper lip lacks the prehensile "hook" of some of the other rhino species.


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The white rhino, along with the roughly equal-sized Greater one-horned (Indian) rhino, is the largest species of land mammal after the elephant. The white rhino lives in Africa, in long and short-grass savannahs. White rhinos are grazers. Its wide, square upper lip is adapted for feeding on grasses.


White rhinos are semi-social and territorial. Females and subadults generally are social, but bulls are typically solitary. Sometimes, satellite males may reside within one another's territories.


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Physical Characteristics


Size/Weight: 4,000-6,000 lbs (1,800 - 2,700 kg)


Height: 5 – 6 feet (1.5 – 1.8 m) tall at shoulder


Length: 12.5-15 feet (3.8 - 5m) length of head and body


Horn: White rhinos have two horns. The front (anterior) horn is larger and measures 37 - 40 inches (94 - 102 cm), (northern subspecies), 37 - 79 inches (94 - 201 cm) (southern subspecies). The rear (posterior) horn is smaller and measures up to 22 inches (55 cm) long.


Other Features: Relatively broad snout with a square lip.


Parallels: One of the largest of the living rhinos. Possesses a horn up to 40 inches long (an excellent offensive/defensive weapon). Three toes.


Disparities: Species lives in long and short-grass savannahs. Animals are grazers; square upper lip is adapted for feeding on grasses. Skin is brownish-gray. Very small tail.


GREATER ONE-HORNED RHINO (Rhinoceros unicornis)


It's scientific name "Rhinoceros" comes from the Greek "rhino", meaning "nose" and "ceros", meaning "horn" and "unicornis" from the Latin "uni", meaning "one" and "cornis", meaning "horn". Common names include Greater one-horned rhinoceros, referring to the single large horn and Indian and/or Nepalese rhinoceros, referring to the species' range.


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The greater one-horned rhino lives in northern India and southern Nepal. In both areas, the species mainly inhabits riverine (flood plain) grasslands and occasionally utilizes some adjacent woodland. Greater one-horned rhinos are grazers, although occasionally they consume browse. When not grazing on land, animals like to immerse themselves in water, where they also graze on aquatic grass-like plants. This species is the most amphibious of the living rhinos.


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Greater one-horned rhinos are usually solitary except for females with young. Males maintain loosely-defended territories.


Physical Characteristics


Size/Weight: 4,000-6,000 lbs (1,800 - 2,700 kg)


Height: 5.75 - 6.5 feet (1.75 - 2.0 m) tall at shoulder


Length: 10- 12.5 feet (3.0-3.8m) length of head and body


Horn: As the name suggests, greater one-horned rhinos have a single horn 8 to 24 inches (20 to 61 cm) long.


Other Features: Brownish-gray, hairless, with folds of skin that resemble plates of armor with rivets. The upper lip is semi-prehensile, well-adapted to grasping branches and leaves.


Parallels: Largest of the living rhinos. Mainly inhabits riverine (flood plain) grasslands and occasionally utilizes some adjacent woodland; like to immerse themselves in water; most amphibious of the living rhinos. Males maintain loosely-defended territories. Possesses a horn up to 24 inches long (an excellent offensive/defensive weapon). The upper lip is semi-prehensile, well-adapted to grasping branches and leaves (in a forest environment). Skin is brownish-gray. Three toes.


Disparities: Animals are grazers, although occasionally they consume browse. Tail is very small.


JAVAN RHINO (Rhinoceros sondaicus)


Common names include the Javan rhinoceros and the Asian lesser one-horned rhinoceros (in contrast to the greater one-horned rhino) because of the Javan's smaller size. It's scientific name "Rhinoceros" comes from the Greek "rhino", meaning "nose" and "ceros", meaning "horn" and "sondaicus" (Latin -icus indicates a locality) referring to the Sunda islands in Indonesia, "Sunda" meaning "Java"


The Javan Rhino is the rarest of the rhino species with fewer than 60 animals surviving in only two known locations: one in Indonesia (approximately 40-50 animals) and the other in Vietnam (fewer than five individuals) primarily in lowland tropical rainforest. In Indonesia, Javan rhinos live only in Java's Ujung Kulon National Park.


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Javan rhinos appear to be more adaptable feeders than other rhino species; in the tropical rainforest where the species now survives, it is a pure browser, but it possibly was a mixed feeder (both browse and grass) in other parts of its historic range where the species is generally believed to have occupied more lowland areas, especially along watercourses. Javan rhinos are solitary in nature.


Physical Characteristics


Size/Weight: 2,000 - 5,060 pounds (900 - 2,300 kg)


Height: 5 - 5.5 feet (1.5 - 1.7 m) tall at the shoulder


Length: 6-11.5 feet (2.0-.4 m)


Horn: Javan rhinos possess a single horn 10 in (25 cm) long, at least in males; females have a smaller or no horn.


Other Features: Gray, hairless; armor plates (actually skin folds) apparent but less so than in the greater one-horned rhino.


Parallels: It lives primarily in lowland tropical rainforest, much like the swampy areas of the Republic of the Congo where the Emela-ntouka are said to roam. It is a more adaptable feeder than other rhino species; The species is an opportunistic feeder, consuming a wide variety of plant species in the tropical forest. It is believed to have once occupied more lowland areas, especially along watercourses. Three toes.


Disparities: Not one of the larger species of rhinos. Only possesses a 10 inch horn. Skin color is gray. Very small tail.


SUMATRAN RHINO (Dicerorhinos sumatrensis)


It's scientific name "dicerorhinu" comes from the Greek "di", meaning "two" and "ceros", meaning "horn" and "rhinos", meaning "nose" and "sumatrensis" referring to Sumatra (with the Latin-ensis, meaning locality). It's common names include Sumatran rhinoceros, Hairy Rhinoceros, which refers to its long, shaggy hair, in contrast to the other species which appear hairless, and Asian Two-Horned Rhinoceros, due to it's being the only two-horned rhino in the Asian region.


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The Sumatran rhino, also called the "hairy rhino" because of its hairy body and tufted ears. Fewer than 275 Sumatran rhinos survive in very small and highly fragmented populations in Southeast Asia. Indonesia and Malaysia hold the only significant populations. The Sumatran rhino lives in dense tropical forest, both lowland and highland, mainly on the Indonesian island of Sumatra and on Borneo. Sumatran rhinos are browsers with a very varied diet. The species is an opportunistic feeder, consuming a wide variety of plant species in the tropical forest. Sumatran rhinos are generally solitary in nature.


Physical Characteristics


Size/Weight: 1,300 - 2,000 pounds (600 - 950 kg)


Height: 3 - 5 feet (1.0 -1.5m) tall at shoulder


Length: 6.5 - 9.5 feet (2.0 - 3.0m) length of body


Horn: Sumatran rhinos have two horns. The front (anterior) horn is larger and measures 10 - 31 inches (25-79 cm) long. The second horn is smaller, generally less than 3 inches (10 cm).


Other Features: Fringed ears and reddish-brown skin, variably covered with sparse long hair (sparse to sometimes dense).


Parallels: It's a browser with a very varied diet. The species is an opportunistic feeder, consuming a wide variety of plant species in the tropical forest. It lives in dense tropical forest, both lowland and highland, much like the swampy areas of the Republic of the Congo where the Emela-ntouka are said to roam. It's front horn measures up to 31 inches long (an excellent offensive/defensive weapon). It has reddish-brown skin. Three toes.


Disparities: Not one of the larger species of rhinos, but possibly large enough to kill a forest elephant. Hairy.


WOOLLY RHINO (Coelodonta antiquitatis)


It's scientific name "coelodonta" comes from the Greek meaning "hollow teeth" and "antiquitatis" from the Latin "antiquus" meaning "old". It's common name, Woolly Rhino, refers to the fact that this rhino's entire body was covered with a thick and shaggy coat consisting of two types of hair, a thin dense undercoat and a long rigid covering hair.


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The Woolly Rhino may have survived until as recently as several thousand years ago. Their fossils are not uncommon and have been discovered throughout Europe and Asia, although apparently they did not manage to extend their distribution into North America or to Ireland. Well-preserved remains have been discovered frozen in ice and buried in oil-saturated soils. At Staruni in what is now the Ukraine, a complete carcass of a female Woolly Rhino was discovered buried in the mud. The combination of oil and salt prevented the remains from decomposing allowing the soft tissues to remain intact.


Common throughout Northern Europe and Eastern Asia (especially in what is now Russia), Coelodonta antiquitatis' range extended from South Korea to Scotland to Spain. At one time, the Woolly Rhino may have had the largest range of any known rhinoceros, living or extinct. The Woolly Rhinos frequently inhabited the same areas as Woolly Mammoths, however they apparently never managed to move across the Bering Strait (Bering Land Bridge) and extend their range into North America. A herbivore who grazed on grass, shrubby sprouts, forbs (small herbaceous plants), lichens and mosses. Woolly Rhinos had a broad front lip. The horns of Coelodonta antiquitatis fossils show abrasion marks that were presumably caused by to-and-fro motion of the head as it pushed the snow away while searching for grass. The Woolly Rhino lived just as their recent relatives do, alone or in very small family groups.


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Physical Characteristics


Size/Weight: 4.2 to 4.3 tons


Height: 6 ft (2m) tall at shoulder


Length: 10- 12.5 ft (3.0-3.8m) length of head and body


Horn: There are two horns. The front, larger (anterior) measured up to 3 ft (1m) and has a flattened shape from side to side, like a wooden plank.


Other Features: Cave paintings suggest they may have had a band of darker fur around their middles.


Parallels: It's front horn measured up to 3 ft long (an excellent offensive/defensive weapon). Three toes.


Disparities: It's entire body was covered with a thick and shaggy coat consisting of two types of hair, a thin dense undercoat and a long rigid covering hair (seemingly poorly adapted to a warm tropical climate). It grazed on grass, shrubby sprouts, forbs (small herbaceous plants), lichens and mosses (not the type of vegetation found in the swampy areas of the Republic of the Congo where the Emela-ntouka are said to roam). Very small tail.


ELASMOTHERIUM (Elasmotherium sibiricum)


Elasmotherium ("Thin-Plate Beast") was a genus of giant rhinoceros which stood, on average, two meters (7 feet) high and six meters (20 feet) long, with a single two-meter-long horn in the forehead. The animal may have weighed up to 5 tons. Its legs were longer than those of other rhinos and were designed for galloping, giving it a horse-like gait. It was probably a fast runner, in spite of its size. Its teeth were similar to those of horses, and it probably grazed low herbs.


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The largest species, E. sibiricum, lived in Southern Russia, Ukraine and Moldova until several thousand years ago. It occupied all of the southwestern part of Russia, reaching eastward to western Siberia.


The combination of such characteristics as the absence of canines and strongly developed lateral processes of the atlas implies lateral movements of the head, presumably for grasping grass. The hypsodont dentition indicates presence of mineral grains in the food. Such food could be obtained by pulling out dense plants from the moist soil. These conditions are typical for life in a forested area of land adjacent to a body of water. On the other hand, a steppe environment is indicated by their rather long and slender limbs, which would have served well for creatures grazing over vast areas.


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It is believed that Elasmotherium died out in prehistoric times. However, according to the Nordisk familjebok and to science writer Willy Ley, the animal may have survived long enough to be remembered in the legends of the Evenk people of Russia as a huge black bull with a single horn in the forehead.


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There is also a testimony by the medieval traveller Ibn Fadlan which has been interpreted by some to indicate that Elasmotherium may have survived into historical times. Ibn Fadlan's account states:


There is nearby a wide steppe, and there dwells, it is told, an animal smaller than a camel, but taller than a bull. Its head is the head of a ram, and its tail is a bull's tail. Its body is that of a mule and its hooves are like those of a bull. In the middle of its head it has a horn, thick and round, and as the horn goes higher, it narrows (to an end), until it is like a spearhead. Some of these horns grow to three or five ells, depending on the size of the animal. It thrives on the leaves of trees, which are excellent greenery. Whenever it sees a rider, it approaches and if the rider has a fast horse, the horse tries to escape by running fast, and if the beast overtakes them, it picks the rider out of the saddle with its horn, and tosses him in the air, and meets him with the point of the horn, and continues doing so until the rider dies. But it will not harm or hurt the horse in any way or manner.

 

The locals seek it in the steppe and in the forest until they can kill it. It is done so: they climb the tall trees between which the animal passes. It requires several bowmen with poisoned arrows; and when the beast is in between them, they shoot and wound it unto its death. And indeed I have seen three big bowls shaped like Yemen seashells, that the king has, and he told me that they are made out of that animal's horn.

 

Some have argued that the survival of Elasmotherium into historical times may be the source of the unicorn myth, as the animal's description could be argued to fit with the Persian karkadann unicorn, and the Chinese zhi unicorn.


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PLINY'S UNICORN


An interesting aside to the discussion of whether or not Elasmotherium may be the cryptid known as Emela-ntouka, is whether Elasmotherium could possibly have been the source for the tales of another legendary cryptid: the Unicorn.


Pliny the Elder (1st Century) wrote:


But that the fiercest animal is the Unicorn, which in the rest of the body resembles a horse, but in the head a stag, in the feet an elephant, and in the tail a boar, and has a deep bellow, and a single black horn three feet long projecting from the middle of the forehead. They say that it is impossible to capture this animal alive.

 

This description of Monokeros, the unicorn, said to live in India, made it to numerous medieval bestiaries, forming the base for the mythical unicorn known in west European lore. However, as we can see, the description is far from the antelopean creature seen in most illustrations, and nothing like the white cloven-hooved horned horses of modern fantasy.


Let's assume for a moment that Pliny's text is a fairly accurate description of a yet undiscovered mammal. A robust beast of horse-like features, not unlike a rhino either. It would therefore stand to reason that the unicorn is a perissodactylid, a member of a once much more diverse mammalian clade that includes horses, rhinos, tapirs as well as such strange extinct creatures as calicotheres. Based on this reasoning, one artist has tried to illustrate Pliny's description in ways the medieval illustrators wouldn't—or indeed couldn't.


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Parallels: Reported to be larger than an elephant, fast and aggressive. Very large horn. Thrived on the leaves of trees. Dentition indicates it fed on dense plants from moist soil, conditions typical for life in a forested area of land adjacent to a body of water.


Disparities: Rather long, slender limbs ideal for creatures grazing over vast areas, possibly indicating life in a steppe environment. Very small tail.


ARSINOITHERIUM (A. zitteli; A. giganteus)


Arsinoitherium is an extinct genus of paenungulate mammal. These species are rhinoceros-like herbivores that lived until several thousand years ago in areas of tropical rainforest, and at the margin of swamps. Arsinoitherium's most distinctive feature was a pair of enormous knife-like horns that projected from above the nose. The horns were hollow and possibly used to produce loud mating calls as well as to compete with rival males. A second pair of tiny, knob-like horns was located on top of the head, immediately behind the larger horns. Arsinoitherium was a hefty creature with thick, hairless skin resembling elephant hide.


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When alive, it would have superficially resembled a rhinoceros, and have been about 1.8 meters (4' 3") tall at the shoulders, and 3 meters (10 ft) long. The skeleton is robust, but shows that the beast may have been able to run if it had to, like a modern elephant or rhinoceros. Its limb bones also suggest that the columnar legs of the living animal were elephant-like (especially since they ended in five-toed feet), rather than rhinoceros-like. Arsinoitherium had a full complement of 44 teeth, suggesting that it was a selective browser in the types of fruit and leaves it ate. Its size meant it had to eat a lot of food—it probably spent much of its day chewing on vegetative matter.


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Arsinoitherium lived in small groups and would have been in the water most of the time. It couldn't straighten its legs, suggesting they were better for wading and swimming than for walking. Its large size kept it safe from most predators, although creodonts might tackle a young Arsinoitherium.


Parallels: Lived in areas of tropical rainforest, and at the margin of swamps. It would have been in the water most of the time. As large as a forest elephant, fast and aggressive. Very large horns. Selective browser. Smooth skin. Dentition indicates it fed on dense plants from moist soil, conditions typical for life in a forested area of land adjacent to a body of water.


Disparities: Two large horns. Five-toed feet. Very small tail.


TELEOCERAS (Teleoceras major)


Teleoceras is an extinct genus of grazing rhinoceros that lived in North America until several thousand years ago. Teleoceras had shorter legs than modern rhinos, and a barrel chest, making its build more like that of a hippopotamus than a modern rhino. Like the hippo, it was also semi-aquatic. Teleoceras had a single small nasal horn. Teleoceras often grew to a length of 13 feet and may have weighed a couple of tons.


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Teleoceras is the most common fossil in the Ashfall Fossil Beds of Nebraska. In fact, its remains were so numerous and concentrated that the building housing the greatest concentraion of Ashfall fossils is dubbed the "Rhino Barn". Most of the skeletons are preserved in a nearly-complete state. One extraordinary specimen includes the remains of a Teleoceras calf trying to suckle from its mother.


Parallels: Large and heavy. Semi-aquatic.


Disparities: Horn was very small. Very small tail. More than three toes.


 


 


 


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