The bones of this giant mammal are quite common in the Badlands of South Dakota and Nebraska. The local Sioux Indians had always associated them with the creatures of mythology — the great horses that galloped across the sky producing storms — and so the term "brontothere," "thunder beast," was born. Brontotherium itself was one of the largest — larger than the living rhinoceroses. Its nasal horn was Y-shaped and swept upward higher than the back of the head.
The vertebrae at the shoulders had enormous upward-projecting spines. These were evidently used to anchor powerful neck muscles that must have been needed to support the heavy head with its huge, flamboyant ornamentation. There may have been fleshy lips and a prehensile tongue, enabling Brontotherium to select and nibble the juiciest twigs and leaves from the bushes; the teeth were of relatively simple design and were able to deal only with tender vegetation.
Brontotherium seems to have lived, like other brontotheres, in herds that wandered through open scrubby woodlands. They roamed along the foothills of the rising Rocky Mountains — an intensely volcanic area at that time. Every now and again an eruption would bury herds of Brontotherium in ash, and it is in these volcanic deposits that their skeletons are found today.
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