A colored line drawing of Phosphatherium, an extinct early relative of elephants. it's a stocky tapir-like animal with a short fleshy snout, small eyes, a long flat forehead, and small ears, and its four limbs all end in five hoof-like toes. It's depicted with a reddish-brown color scheme.

Phosphatherium escuillei was one of the very earliest known members of the proboscideans, a lineage today represented only by the three living species of elephants.

Living in what is now Morocco during the late Paleocene and early Eocene, around 56 million years ago, it would have been about the size of a cat, roughly 30cm at the shoulder (~1′) and 60cm long (~2′). It had a fairly low flat head with a proportionally short snout, while the back end of its skull behind it eyes was elongated, supporting large powerful jaw muscles.

Wear patterns on its teeth suggest it ate a lot of tough vegetation, and it may have been a semiaquatic animal behaving somewhat like modern tapirs or pygmy hippos – spending a lot of the daytime lounging in water, and emerging onto land to forage during the night.

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