Millions of years ago, everything was bigger — and pigs were no exception. In fact, an entire family of massive pig-like species once existed called entelodonts. The largest member of this family, daeodon, was dubbed “terminator pig,” and it’s no surprise why.
The daeodon population was wiped out along with several other species during the Miocene epoch. Today, you can view an almost complete daeodon skeleton at the Agate Fossil Beds National Monument in Nebraska.
People tend to associate daeodon with true pigs (suids) and peccaries (tyassuids), but this is based on physical appearance. After all, they did have similar noses and two toes on each foot, as you see with today’s pig species. But after morphological + genetic studies, it was determined that the extinct creature is more closely related to hippos and whales.
Daeodon stood 5.8 feet tall at the shoulder — taller than some humans! Lengthwise (from snout to tip of tail), they stretched to about 12 feet. Their bodies were bulky and muscular, and it’s estimated that daeodon weighed an average of 1,650 lbs.
Heads were relatively large, with wide pointing cheekbones. Their snouts extended outward, forming a long and narrow shape. And on each side of the snout was a nostril which gave daeodon their directional sense of smell.
What’s most remarkable about the creature was its chompers. As an omnivore, it had a wide array of teeth. Each row of teeth contained 3 pairs of incisors, a pair of razor-sharp canines, 4 pairs of pointed premolars, and 3 pairs of flat molars. Not only this, but daeodon could open their mouths freakishly-wide — perfect for capturing large prey. Picture a yawning hippo!
Daeodon inhabited the Northern Hemisphere, particularly in North America. Most of the fossils we have today were unearthed in the Agate Fossil Beds. Although, remains have been found sparsely scattered between Oregon
During the daeodon existence, the Agate Springs transitioned from a floodplain during its wet season to grasslands during the dry season. Daeodon likely ruled their habitats as the largest animal species around. They lived alongside creatures including merycoidodon (small camel species), chalicothere Moropus (distant relative of horses), and several coyote-related species.
With such an assortment of teeth, the daeodon’s diet was versatile. As an omnivore, its meals ranged between branches, roots, nuts, fruits, and meat. Molars ground down tough plant matter, while canines and incisors catered towards the carnivorous side of its diet.
Daeodon teeth (specifically canines) show similar patterns of wear to a cat’s. This suggests that the animal had no problem breaking through the flesh and bones of its prey. Evidence of this can also be observed in the puncture wounds left in merycoidodon skulls and necks. Scientists deduce that the animal was opportunistic, scavenging on the occasional carrion.
There are a few clues left on daeodon fossils that give us an idea of its behavior. For one, male snouts are covered in puncture marks — which means they were probably an aggressive and competitive species. Males likely fought each other for dominance and used their mandibles in defense.
We can also assume that this was a solitary creature, as daeodon bones are usually found few and far between.
Daeodon (along with the entire entelodont family) most likely went extinct during the middle Miocene. The environment in which daeodon fossils were found underwent a massive transformation during this period — with spells of severe drought.
Where there were thick forests are now sweeping prairies. Such an environmental shift would have presented daeodons (and other inhabitants) with a new set of survival challenges — which led to mass extinction. Daeodon and other entelodonts are estimated to have gone completely extinct around 16 million years ago.