The Field Museum is home to many holotypes-Brachiosaurus, the Southwestern species of Parasaurolophus, Cryolophosaurus, Cacops, Secernosaurus, Varanops and Thylacosmilus (more on them later). However, one prominent specimen is a complete skeleton that puzzles visitors and scientists alike. It’s the first thing visitors see exiting the theater that in turn exits from the dinosaur hall. It’s mounted next to the tusked skulls of Coryphodon and Eobasileus in a glass case, facing across from another showing extant orders of mammals under Charles Knight’s depiction of Uintatherium and Orohippus. It’s been displayed outside the exhibit on the gallery, and when Life Over Time opened in 1992, the mount was heralded, like the others, by a colorful circus banner by Glen C. Davies. I distinctly remember the hairy mammal in a boxer’s robe and gloves, raising his first Ali-style over a fallen dinosaur in the ring, a symbol of mammalian success as the dinosaurs fell to the mass extinction. This is Barylamdba.
Bryan Patterson of the Field Museum had followed Elmer Riggs on many expeditions to Colorado in the 1910s and 20s, and so when Riggs decided to focus on South American material instead in the 1930s, Patterson continued Riggs’ work in Colorado. So, near Grand Junction, off what is now a stretch of Highway 65 between the Colorado River and the Jerry Creek reservoirs, Patterson prospected near where Othniel Marsh, Edward Cope, and Joseph Leidy had worked on Paleocene mammals. In Mesa County he had found many specimens of the primitive ungulate Phenacodus, the huge strange bearlike browser Titanoides, and the small predator Paleonictis, This time in 1933, Patterson found another big browser, bigger than anything else in the Debeque Formation. He named it Titanoides faberi, assuming it to be another variation on the original creature.
Barylamdba is a pantodont cimolestid, two groups that have been extinct since the Eocene. Cimolestids were a non-placental group of mammals appearing in the late Cretaceous as small rodentlike critters in North America. In the Paleocene, they seized their opportunity and burst into a huge diversity of herbivores with large teeth. The shrewlike Palaeoryctes hunted insects in the jungles of what is now Wyoming and Colorado, the dog-sized Stylinodon and Psitaccotherium dug up roots with their big claws and devoured them with their giant incisors. Another bigtoothed cimolestid was Trogosus, weighing up to 300 lbs and chomping through the woody undergrowth for starchy tubers. A small Cimolestid was the arboreal Kopidodon from Germany’s Messel Pit, having a squirrellike anatomy with the strange addition of big fighting canines
More blogs on Barylambda include https://www.fieldmuseum.org/science/blog/seeing-double-how-field-museum-makes-fossil-casts, https://tanystropheus.wordpress.com/2010/06/19/weekly-spotlight-barylambda/, http://spinops.blogspot.com/2016/01/barylambda-faberi.html
John Conrad Hansen and Karen Carr have illustrated this animal but only as accompaniment to the Field Museum’s mount. But thanks to Barylambda’s appearance in Rudolph Zallinger’s Mural the Age of Mammals, it made it into an obscure toy set by Lido sold in Nabisco cereal in the 50s. However, otherwise it’s been invisible in popular media. The lack of pop cultural representation of animals between the Cretaceous and Pleistocene has pretty much frozen out Barylambda. In terms of mammal media, BBC’s Walking With Beasts was a godsend, but it ignored North America completely and so Barylambda missed its chance.
So anyway, Hollywood, give it a break. Museums, keep it on display. Toy companies, here’s a new fresh face. Authors, think about the crap you’re writing and how this genus could perk up the place. And remember, shop Barylambda where you work or play!