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Vertebrate Paleontology

Fossil Species of Florida

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Mammalia, Artiodactyla, Camelidae, Camelinae

AEPYCAMELUS MAJOR (LEIDY, 1886)

Common Name: Leidy’s giraffe camel

Alternate Scientific Names: Auchenia major; Procamelus major; Megatylopus major

Source of Species Name: Leidy (1886) did not explicitly state the origin of the name, but it is clear that he applied this name to the largest of the three species of camelid at the type locality, which he only distinguished by size (in the initial description). So the name refers to the large size of this species.

Age Range: late Miocene epoch; late Clarendonian to early Hemphillian (Cl4-Hh2) land mammal ages; from about 9.5 to 6 million years ago.


Florida Fossil Occurrences:

Florida map with occurrences indicated

Figure 1. Map of Florida, with black circles indicating counties where fossils of Aepycamelus major have been found (the circles do not indicate a specific location within the county where the fossils were found, and some counties may have two or more different locations producing this species).


Florida Fossil Sites with Aepycamelus major:
Alachua County—Haile 16C; Love Site; Tyner Farm
Levy County—Mixson’s Bone Bed
Marion County—Crystal Springs Mobil Home Park; Emathla; Withlacoochee River 5E

Overall Geographic Range: definitively known only from north-central Florida; Honey et al. (1998) also indicate its presence in Nebraska, but that record has yet to be published in detail. Type locality is Mixson’s Bone Bed, Levy County, Florida (Leidy, 1886).

Comments: The giraffe camels of the Miocene of North America and the true giraffes of Africa represent a great example of convergent evolution. In both, the ability to browse in the canopy of trees was attained by greatly increased limb and neck length. Aepycamelus major was the last and largest of the North American giraffe camels, with an estimated shoulder height of at least 13 feet (4 meters) plus an additional 5 to 6 feet (ca. 2 meters) for the neck (Webb et al. 1981). In terms of height, the species was likely the tallest land mammal known from Florida, possibly eclipsed only by the largest individuals of the giant ground sloth Eremotherium when they took on a bipedal stance. Based on the circumference of the humerus, MacFadden and Hulbert (1990) were able to use regression analysis to estimate the mass of Aepycamelus major at slightly more than 1000 kilograms (2200 pounds). Giraffe camels were widely distributed in North America in the middle Miocene, with records ranging from California to Nebraska and the Gulf Coastal Plain. Towards the end of the Miocene, the group was apparently limited to Florida (and perhaps other areas of the east that lack a fossil record).

astragalus of Aepycamelus major

Figure 2. UF 276252, left astragalus of Aepycamelus major in A, anterior; B, medial; C, posterior; and D, lateral views. Specimen is from Haile 16C, Alachua County, Florida; late Miocene.


That Leidy’s species was a member of the giraffe camel group was not immediately apparent, as the specimens collected at Mixson’s Bone Bed in the late 1800s consisted mostly of foot bones and isolated teeth, with no complete major limb elements or cervical vertebrae (Leidy and Lucas, 1896). The species was transferred to the genus Procamelus by Lucas in the preface to Leidy and Lucas (1896), where it remained for about 35 years. Simpson (1930) suggested that it might belong with Megatylopus instead, and it remained in that genus for about 50 years (e.g., Webb, 1965). The Love Site produced the first complete metacarpal (with a length of about 34 inches or 87 cm) and cervical vertebra of the species, whose extreme lengths clearly showed that it was a giraffe camel. Therefore, Webb et al. (1981) referred the species to the genus Aepycamelus, where it has remained until the present time (e.g., Harrison, 1985; Honey et al., 1998). A complete metatarsal of Aepycamelus major from Tyner Farm has a length of about 24 inches (60 cm), while a cervical vertebra is 13 inches (34 cm) long.

maxilla of Aepycamelus major

Figure 3. UF 39042, left maxilla of Aepycamelus major with third and fourth premolars and first through third molars (anterior to left). A, occlusal; and B, lateral views. Specimen is from Love Site, Alachua County, Florida; late Miocene.


The relative abundances of the three late Miocene camelids at Florida fossil localities varies greatly, and may reflect differences in habitat or enviroment wnen the sites formed. Aepycamelus major is rare at the Love Site and absent at McGehee Farm, Haile 19A, Moss Acres Racetrack Site, and Withlacoochee River 4A. But it is the most common camelid at Mixson’s Bone Bed, Haile 16C, Emathla, and Crystal Springs Mobil Home Park. At Tyner Farm it is a close second in terms of abundance to the smallest of the late Miocene Florida camelids, Hemiauchenia minima.


Scientific Publications and Other References Cited:

Harrison, J. A. 1985. Giant camels from the Cenozoic of North America. Smithsonian Contributions to Paleobiology 57:1-29. http://www.sil.si.edu/smithsoniancontributions/Paleobiology/pdf_lo/SCtP-0057.pdf

Honey, J. G., J. A. Harrison, D. R. Prothero, and M. S. Stevens. 1998. Camelidae. Pp. 439-462 in C. Janis et al. (eds.), Evolution of Tertiary Mammals of North America, Volume 1. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Leidy, J. 1886. Mastodon and llama from Florida. Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 38:11-12. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4061317

Leidy, J., and F. A. Lucas. 1896. Fossil vertebrates from the Alachua Clays of Florida. Transactions of the Wagner Free Institute of Science of Philadelphia 4:1-61. http://books.google.com/books/download/Fossil_Vertebrates_from_the_Alachua_Clay.pdf?id=7bkrAAAAYAAJ&output=pdf&sig=ACfU3U11WDC2nkV_RKWW8XdaVzGnt5orCA

MacFadden, B. J., and R. C. Hulbert. 1990. Body size estimates and size distribution of ungulate mammals from the late Miocene Love Bone Bed of Florida. Pp. 337-363, in J. Damuth and B. J. MacFadden (eds.), Body Size in Mammalian Paleobiology. Cambridge University Press, New York.

Simpson, G. G. 1930. Tertiary land mammals of Florida. Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, 59:149-211. http://hdl.handle.net/2246/344

Webb, S. D. 1965. The osteology of Camelops. Bulletin of the Los Angeles County Museum, No. 1, 54 p.

Webb, S. D., B. J. MacFadden, and J. A. Baskin. 1981. Geology and paleontology of the Love Bone Bed from the Late Miocene of Florida. American Journal of Science 281:513-544. http://www.ajsonline.org/content/281/5/513.citation


Original Author(s): Richard C. Hulbert Jr.

Original Completion Date: October 1, 2013

Editor(s) Name(s): Richard C. Hulbert Jr.

Last Up-dated On: October 2, 2013

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number CSBR 1203222, Jonathan Bloch, Principal Investigator. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
Copyright 2013 by Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida