What is pachyderm?

What Does pachyderm Mean

The notion of pachyderm comes from the Greek word pachýdermos , which can be translated as “thick-skinned” . The term is used to refer to certain mammalian animals whose skin is very thick and hard .

It should be remembered that a mammal is a vertebrate (its skeleton has a skull and spinal column, and its central nervous system has the brain and spinal cord) with young that develop as embryos in the mother's womb and are then fed with milk from the mothers. breasts of the female. In the case of pachyderms, the concept specifically refers to mammals that are part of the groups of proboscides , perissodactyls and artiodactyls .

The elephant is the best known pachyderm. It belongs to the order of the proboscidia (it has a prehensile trunk and limbs with five fingers) and is the largest land animal.
These pachyderms have small heads and large ears. Their natural habitat is in Africa and Asia , where they live in the wild in national parks and nature reserves.
The hippos are also pachyderms. In this case, they are artiodactyls (their extremities display an even number of toes, supporting at least two for walking) characterized by their huge mouths and short legs. Hippos are found in several African rivers.
The rhinos , as are other members of the group of pachyderms. These perissodactyls (their extremities end in hooves with odd toes), inhabitants of Africa and Asia , have as a distinctive feature the pointed snout with at least one horn in the sector of the nose.
It is important to note that the term pachyderm should not be used loosely within the scope of zoology, since it is a neologism that was invented to group certain thick-skinned animals such as those mentioned in the previous paragraphs, but not just any .
In fact, this name has become obsolete for scientists. One of the main reasons is that they speak of a common trait that is not enough to associate these species with the same order : it is confusing to relate the probiscidae, the artiodactyls and the prissodactyls only because some of them have very thick skin . Therefore, the word pachyderm is not considered technical but vulgar.

The history of this appellation takes us back to the early 19th century, when the French naturalist Georges Léopold Chrétien Frédéric Dagobert Cuvier used it in a taxonomy table to highlight the thickness of the skin of certain animals he had studied. Also known as Baron de Cuvier or Chrétien , he was a pioneer in promoting paleontology and comparative anatomy .
Precisely, comparative anatomy is a discipline that focuses on the differences and similarities between different organisms from a physical point of view. At present, it is part of the phylogeny and descriptive morphology. Returning to the concept of pachyderm , with the passage of time zoology began to prioritize the internal characteristics of the anatomy over the external ones, and it was along this path that other ways of classifying the different species emerged.
It should be noted that Cuvier was not the first to have used the word pachyderm to refer to thick skin, but that it had been minted at least a century earlier, as evidenced by the existence of certain seventeenth-century documents written in France. If we refer to its Greek roots, we can find evidence that the philosopher and scientist Aristotle had used an equivalent term in the fourth century BC. C., almost two thousand years before.

Go up