Last updated: May 27, 2024
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The Coryphodono looked like a fancy rhinocerous, but it was more related to elephants


Coryphodon Scientific Classification


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Coryphodon Conservation Status

Coryphodon Locations

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Coryphodon Facts

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The Coryphodono looked like a fancy rhinocerous, but it was more related to elephants

Coryphodon Physical Characteristics


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Shortly after the non-avian dinosaurs disappeared at the end of the Cretaceous period, mammals began to gain dominance. The Coryphodon was one of the groups of mammals that came to prominence on the North American continent from the Late Paleocene to the Early Eocene epoch. Paleontologists have also found this large mammal in Europe and eastern Asia. Coryphodon belongs to a group of large mammals called Pantodonts, the first giant mammals that appeared on the planet after the dinosaurs. It was among the largest members of this group and lived from 63.5 to 52 million years ago.

Description & Size

A Coryphodon, an extinct mammal and pantodont

The Coryphodon is an extinct genus of large mammals, which were widespread in North America when they lived.

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Coryphodon is an extinct genus of large mammals widespread in North America during the late Paleocene to early Eocene Epochs (about 63.5 to 52 million years ago). The genus name, Coryphodon, means peaked tooth, a reference to the angled ridges which grew into points on the Coryphodon’s molars.

Coryphodon was a pantodont. The pantodonts are the first group of large browsing mammals, which appeared shortly after the dinosaurs disappeared. While mammals lived alongside the dinosaurs, they were comparatively small-sized animals and shrew-like in form. The disappearance of the dinosaurs allowed large-sized mammals like the Coryphodon to rise to prominence. The Coryphodon was the biggest of the pantodonts.

The largest species of this genus measured about 7.4 feet (2.25 meters in body length and had a shoulder height of about 3.3 feet (1 meter). Coryphodons weighed about half a ton, which made them the largest land mammals of their time.

The Coryphodon was heavily built with a small brain-to-body mass ratio of any mammal, both living and extinct. Scientists estimate that their small brain would have measured only 3.2 ounces, compared to an average body weight of 1,1000 pounds. Being such heavily-built creatures, Coryphodons were slow and sluggish. It had long upper limbs and short lower limbs which were stocky to support its weight.  

Their canines were large and prominent, with the males having larger canines compared to the females. The Coryphodon’s skull had a prominent sagittal crest with powerful temporal muscles, but they didn’t have horns. Their limbs were pretty strong, and their broad feet had five toes, with four hooves at the end.

Diet – What Did Coryphodon Eat?

The Coryphodon was a herbivorous mammal. This creature most likely ate leaves, young shoots, flowers, and marsh vegetation since it lived in semi-aquatic environments. Coryphones had strong neck muscles and short tusks. Paleontologists believe that these were probably useful for uprooting swamp plants for food.

The climatic condition during the Eocene when the Coryphodons lived was significantly different from the conditions today. The climate was warmer, but the regions above the Arctic Circle still experienced months of total darkness during winter and full summer days. Based on this and isotopic studies of the Coryphodon’s teeth, scientists concluded that this creature might have switched diets during different seasons.

Coryphodons probably fed on soft vegetation like flowering plants and aquatic plants during the warmer months. Then during the extended period of darkness where photosynthesis was impossible, it would switch to eating twigs, evergreen plants, leaf litter, fungus, and other plants that do not require sunlight.

Habitat – When and Where Did Coryphodon Live

The Coryphodon and many other pantodonts had a lifestyle similar to that of the present-day hippopotamus. It spent most of its day in weed-choked marshes, feeding on swamp plants. Although they were not as prolific as the dinosaurs, the slow and sluggish mammal still managed to populate most of Eurasia and North America during their short five million years on earth. Their habitats were mostly warm swamp forests with huge trees similar to modern-day cypress swamps common in the American South.

Threats and Predators

The Coryphodon does not seem to have much in the way of predators. Most of the predators that lived around the same time were much smaller, meaning none of them could have preyed on this large mammal. Aside from the massive canines, they didn’t have much in terms of defenses.

Discoveries and Fossils – Where It Was Found

The Coryphodon has quite a widespread distribution and left a lot of fossil remains. The first fossil was discovered in Wyoming. Since then, several other fossils have been found, which led to the identification of several species, so much so that the taxonomy of the genus is in disarray. Despite efforts to prune their numbers, there are still up to a dozen species of Coryphodon.

Extinction – When Did It Die Out?

The Coryphodons migrated to the North American continent, where they had major prominence for a few million years. They eventually disappeared about 51 million years ago during the Eocene Epoch. They had small brains, imperfect structures, and bulky builds. This made them less adaptable than the ungulates that soon displaced them.

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Coryphodon FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

When was Coryphodon alive?

The Coryphodon lived during the Late Paleocene to Early Eocene epoch of the Cenozoic Era. Thatโ€™s approximately 50 to 63 million years ago.

How big was Coryphodon?

The Coryphodon was the largest mammal of its time. It grew to lengths of up to 7.4ft (2.5 m) and was up to 3.3 ft (1 m) in height. The average weight of this mammal was about 500kg (1,100 lb)

Where did a Coryphodon live?

The Coryphodon is native to Asia and lived during the Paleocene epoch. However, the genus migrated to North America and contributed to the disappearance of the Barylambda, another pantodont that lived in the region before their arrival.

What did Coryphodon eat?

The Coryphodon was an herbivore with a semi-aquatic lifestyle. Its diet consisted mainly of soft flowering plants, aquatic plants, leaves and other soft vegetation. However, during the long, dark, winter months, when photosynthetic plants were rare, it would have fed on evergreen needles, twigs, and leaf litter

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  2. Britannica / Accessed October 13, 2022
  3. Dinopedia / Accessed October 13, 2022
  4. Thought Co. / Accessed October 13, 2022