Fleshing out Andrewsarchus, the giant tenrec

All we know of Andrewsarchus
is its skull — without a mandible. A few days ago the dentary of a sister taxon, Sinonyx, was added to the skull of Andrewsarchus ((Osborn 1924; middle Eocene, 45 mya; AMNH 20135; 83cm skull length; also see Fig. 1) just to see if it would fit.

Before that…
everyone forever has always fleshed out Andrewsarchus like a giant bear/dog, moving the eyeballs to the top and giving it a bear/dog nose. Image googling Andrewsarchus will give you an idea what a widespread and accepted tradition that has been. I even followed that tradition back in 1989 in the book Giants, which you can see here as subset 1 of a larger pdf of the entire book.

Unfortunately,
Andrewsarchus does not nest with bears, dogs or mesonychids. It nests with tenrecs and Rhynchocyon (Fig. 2.), one type of elephant shrew. (The other type of elephant shrew is unrelated, as we learned here, Fig. 2). Tenrecs have a long flexible nose.

So, here, without further adieu
is a first shot at adding tenrec soft tissue to the skull of Andrewsarchus (Fig. 1). Is it close to being correct? I hope so, given the present evidence.

Figure 1. Andrewsarchus restored as giant tenrec alongside, Canis, the wolf to scale. Note the small and low-set eyes on Andrewsarchus. The mandible comes from Sinonyx. Note the natural tilt of the canid skull permitting binocular vision. Andrewsarchus had low-set eyes, rather un-canid-like. We have to give up the bear-dog restoration of Andrewsarchus.

Figure 1. Andrewsarchus restored as giant tenrec alongside, Canis, the wolf to scale. Note the small and low-set eyes on Andrewsarchus. The mandible comes from Sinonyx. Note the natural tilt of the canid skull permitting binocular vision. Andrewsarchus had low-set eyes, rather un-canid-like. We have to give up the bear-dog restoration of Andrewsarchus.

Now, just imagine the post-crania…
and the best clue we have is the living tenrec, Rhynchocyon (Fig. 2) with long legs, robust torso and short tail, only ten times bigger.

Figure 6. Rhynchocyon (above) and Macroscelides (below) compared. Though both are considered elephant shrews, they nest in separate major mammal clades in the LRT.

Figure 3. Rhynchocyon (above) and Macroscelides (below) the other type of elephant shrew compared. Though both are considered elephant shrews, they nest in separate major mammal clades in the LRT.

Maybe it’s time to 
give up the bear-dog restoration for Andrewsarchus and give it the giant  tenrec restoration it deserves based on phylogenetic bracketing and phylogenetic analysis.

Figure 3. The skull of Andrewsarchus mated to the body of Leptictis to make a chimaera.

Figure 3. The skull of Andrewsarchus mated to the body of Leptictis to make a chimaera.

References
Osborn HF 1924. Andrewsarchus, giant mesonychid of Mongolia. American Museum Noviattes 146: 1-5.

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