AskDefine | Define artiodactyl

Dictionary Definition

artiodactyl adj : of or relating to or belonging to mammals of the order Artiodactyla [syn: artiodactylous, even-toed] n : placental mammal having hooves with an even number of functional toes on each foot [syn: even-toed ungulate, artiodactyl mammal] [ant: odd-toed ungulate]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Any ungulate mammal with an even number of toes and belonging to the Artiodactyla, including pigs, sheep, deer, cattle, and most grazing animals.

See also

Extensive Definition

The even-toed ungulates form the mammal order Artiodactyla. They are ungulates whose weight is borne (if they have more than two toes) about equally by the third and fourth toes, rather than mostly or entirely by the third as in perissodactyls. Another key distinguishing feature is the shape of the astragalus (a bone in the hock joint), which has a double-pulley structure in artiodactyls, giving the foot greater flexibility.
There are about 220 artiodactyl species, including many that are of great nutritional, economic and cultural importance to humans.


As with many animal groups, even-toed ungulates first appeared during the Early Eocene (about 54 million years ago). In form they were rather like today's chevrotains: small, short-legged creatures that ate leaves and the soft parts of plants. By the Late Eocene (46 million years ago), the three modern suborders had already developed: Suina (the pig group); Tylopoda (the camel group); and Ruminantia (the goat and cattle group). Nevertheless, artiodactyls were far from dominant at that time: the odd-toed ungulates (ancestors of today's horses and rhinos) were much more successful and far more numerous. Even-toed ungulates survived in niche roles, usually occupying marginal habitats, and it is presumably at that time that they developed their complex digestive systems, which allowed them to survive on lower-grade food.
The appearance of grasses during the Eocene and their subsequent spread during the Miocene (about 20 million years ago) saw a major change: grasses are very difficult to eat and the even-toed ungulates with their highly-developed stomachs were better able to adapt to this coarse, low-nutrition diet, and soon replaced the odd-toed ungulates as the dominant terrestrial herbivores. Now-extinct Artiodactyla which developed during the Miocene include the species Ampelomeryx, Tauromeryx, Triceromeryx, and others.


Suina (pigs and peccaries) are artiodactyls that retain four toes of fairly equal size, have simpler molars, short legs, and often have enlarged canine teeth that form tusks. In general, they are omnivores and have a simple stomach, except for the two hippopotamus species and the babirusa which are herbivores. Hippopotamidae have been considered a member of Suina, however, recent morphological and genetic research suggests that hippos are more closely related to whales.

Camelids and Ruminantia

Camelids and Ruminantia tend to be longer-legged, to walk on only the central two toes (though the outer two may survive as rarely-used dew-claws) and to have more complex cheek teeth well-suited to grinding up tough grasses. They have evolved a highly developed digestive process in which partly-digested food is regurgitated and re-chewed (chewing the cud or cudding). This complex digestion takes place in a multi-chambered stomach, the rumen itself. It allows them to use fermentation by microorganisms to digest cellulose, a plant material which animals cannot digest directly.


See also


artiodactyl in Old English (ca. 450-1100): Cliferfētedēor
artiodactyl in Aragonese: Artiodactyla
artiodactyl in Asturian: Artiodactyla
artiodactyl in Min Nan: Ngó͘-tê tōng-bu̍t
artiodactyl in Bosnian: Papkari
artiodactyl in Bulgarian: Чифтокопитни
artiodactyl in Catalan: Artiodàctil
artiodactyl in Czech: Sudokopytníci
artiodactyl in Danish: Parrettåede hovdyr
artiodactyl in German: Paarhufer
artiodactyl in Modern Greek (1453-): Αρτιοδάκτυλα
artiodactyl in Spanish: Artiodactyla
artiodactyl in Esperanto: Parhufuloj
artiodactyl in Basque: Artiodaktilo
artiodactyl in Persian: جفت‌سمان
artiodactyl in French: Artiodactyla
artiodactyl in Galician: Artiodáctilo
artiodactyl in Korean: 소목
artiodactyl in Croatian: Parnoprstaši
artiodactyl in Ido: Para-hufajo
artiodactyl in Indonesian: Hewan berkuku genap
artiodactyl in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Artiodactyla
artiodactyl in Icelandic: Klaufdýr
artiodactyl in Italian: Artiodactyla
artiodactyl in Hebrew: מכפילי פרסה
artiodactyl in Javanese: Kéwan kuku genep
artiodactyl in Latin: Artiodactyla
artiodactyl in Luxembourgish: Artiodactyla
artiodactyl in Lithuanian: Porakanopiai
artiodactyl in Limburgan: Evehovege
artiodactyl in Hungarian: Párosujjú patások
artiodactyl in Dutch: Evenhoevigen
artiodactyl in Japanese: ウシ目
artiodactyl in Norwegian: Partåede hov- og klovdyr
artiodactyl in Norwegian Nynorsk: Klauvdyr
artiodactyl in Occitan (post 1500): Artiodactyla
artiodactyl in Polish: Parzystokopytne
artiodactyl in Portuguese: Artiodátilos
artiodactyl in Romanian: Artiodactyla
artiodactyl in Quechua: Iskay ruk'anayuq
artiodactyl in Russian: Парнокопытные
artiodactyl in Simple English: Even-toed ungulate
artiodactyl in Slovak: Párnokopytníky
artiodactyl in Slovenian: Sodoprsti kopitarji
artiodactyl in Finnish: Sorkkaeläimet
artiodactyl in Swedish: Partåiga hovdjur
artiodactyl in Vietnamese: Bộ Guốc chẵn
artiodactyl in Turkish: Çift toynaklılar
artiodactyl in Ukrainian: Парнокопитні
artiodactyl in Zeeuws: Evenoevihen
artiodactyl in Chinese: 偶蹄目
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