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elephants

Elephants

In Critias, Plato gives this very specific detail:

"Moreover, there were a great number of elephants in the island; for as there was provision for all other sorts of animals, both for those which live in lakes and marshes and rivers, and also for those which live in mountains and on plains, so there was for the animal which is the largest and most voracious of all."

It is reasonable, therefore, to conclude that any location proposal for Atlantis must answer the question of whether elephants are, were, or had ever been present.

Today, elephants are only found in Africa and in South Asia. However, this was not the case in circa 9,600 BCE when Atlantis is thought to have existed. It must be remembered that the landscape of 9600 BCE was very different to today. Many islands were larger, or not islands at all, but part of the mainland. During the Ice Age, sea levels were lower, and even though elephants are renowned swimmers, they did not need to swim in order to migrate so widely. What was Sundaland, for example, would have been easily accessible to elephants.

In the Andes, a species of elephant called Cuvieronius hyodon became extinct circa 7100 BCE, and elsewhere in South America the Stegomastodon survived until circa 4060 BCE. Their likenesses can be found carved on the great Gateway of the Sun in Tiahuanaco. On Malta, Ghar Hasan or Hasan’s Cave has Paleolithic cave paintings of elephants. James Bailey notes that the American mammoth, died out around 10,000 BCE, overlapping the time period for Atlantis. Indeed, the mammoths of the Channel Island of California survived even longer. Felice Vinci contends that Plato’s elephants may have been a cultural memory of woolly mammoths that survived on Wrangel Island until as recently as 1700 BCE, while Eckart Kahlhofer, a North-West European Atlantis subscriber, notes that the Greek for elephant, elephas, is very similar to the Greek elaphos which means deer, and that Plato could therefore have been commenting on a different animal entirely.

No known species of elephant has ever been discovered in Antarctica or Australasia.

Historically and Culturally

Elephants have been represented in art since Paleolithic times. Africa in particular contains many rock paintings and engravings of the animals, especially in the Sahara and southern Africa. In the Far East, the animals are depicted as motifs inHindu and Buddhist shrines and temples. The ancient Romans, who kept the animals in captivity, depicted anatomically accurate elephants on mosaics in Tunisia and Sicily. Details of a painting in the tomb of Rekhmire in Egypt is believed to depict a "pygmy mammoth" among other animals.

Hannibal of Carthage used elephants in his war against Rome. Some ancient traditions report the presence of wild elephants in Syria, where it was ritually hunted by kings and pharaohs. In India, elephants were used as War elephants, covered in armor, and there is some evidence they were also used for war chariots instead of horses.

It has been suggested by the paleontologist Othenio Abel in 1914, that the finding of skeletons of such elephants sparked the idea that they belonged to giant cyclopses, because the center nasal opening was thought to be a cyclopic eye socket. The Mbuti people believe that the souls of their dead ancestors resided in elephants. Similar ideas existed among other African tribes, who believed that their chiefs would be reincarnated as elephants. In Sumatra, elephants have been associated with lightning. Likewise in Hinduism, they are linked with thunderstorms as Airavata, the father of all elephants, represents both lightning and rainbows. One of the most important Hindu deities, the elephant-headed Ganesha, is ranked equal with the supreme gods Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma. Ganesha is associated with writers and merchants and it is believed that he can give people success as well as grant them their desires. In Buddhism, Buddha is said to have been a white elephant reincarnated as a human. In Islamic tradition, the year 570, when the Prophet Muhammad was born, is known as the Year of the Elephant. Elephants were thought to be religious themselves by the Romans, who believed that they worshipped the sun and stars.

Intelligence and Domestication

Elephants exhibit mirror self-recognition, an indication of self-awareness and cognition that has also been demonstrated in some apes and dolphins. One study of a captive female Asian elephant suggested the animal was capable of learning and distinguishing between several visual and some acoustic discrimination pairs. This individual was even able to score a high accuracy rating when re-tested with the same visual pairs a year later. Elephants are among the species known to use tools. An Asian elephant has been observed modifying branches and using them as flyswatters. Tool modification by these animals is not as advanced as that by chimpanzees. Elephants are popularly thought of as having an excellent memory. This could have a factual basis; they possibly have cognitive maps to allow them to remember large-scale spaces over long periods of time. Individuals appear to be able to keep track of the current location of their family members.

Elephants have been working animals since at least the Indus Valley Civilization and continue to be used in modern times. There were 13,000–16,500 working elephants employed in Asia as of 2000.

Historically, elephants were considered formidable instruments of war. They were equipped with armor to protect their sides, and their tusks were given sharp points of iron or brass if they were large enough. War elephants were trained to grasp an enemy soldier and toss him to the person riding on them or to pin the soldier to the ground and impale him.

One of the earliest references to war elephants is in the Indian epic Mahabharata (written in the 4th century BCE, but said to describe events between the 11th and 8th centuries BCE). They were not used as much as horse-drawn chariots by either the Pandavas or Kauravas. During the Magadha Kingdom (which began in the 6th century BCE), elephants began to achieve greater cultural importance than horses, and later Indian kingdoms used war elephants extensively; 3,000 of them were used in the Nandas (5th and 4th centuries BCE) army, while 9,000 may have been used in the Mauryan army (between the 4th and 2nd centuries BCE). The Arthashastra (written around 300 BCE) advised the Mauryan government to reserve some forests for wild elephants for use in the army, and to execute anyone who killed them. From South Asia, the use of elephants in warfare spread west to Persia and east to Southeast Asia. The Persians used them during the Achaemenid Empire (between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE), while Southeast Asian states first used war elephants possibly as early as the 5th century BCE and continued to the 20th century.

Alexander the Great trained his foot soldiers to injure the animals and cause them to panic during wars with both the Persians and Indians. Ptolemy, who was one of Alexander's generals, used corps of Asian elephants during his reign as the ruler of Egypt (which began in 323 BCE). His son and successor Ptolemy II (who began his rule in 285 BCE) obtained his supply of elephants further south in Nubia. From then on, war elephants were employed in the Mediterranean and North Africa throughout the classical period. The Greek king Pyrrhus used elephants in his attempted invasion of Rome in 280 BCE. While they frightened the Roman horses, they were not decisive and Pyrrhus ultimately lost the battle. The Carthaginian general Hannibal took elephants across the Alps during his war with the Romans and reached the Po Valley in 217 BCE with all of them alive, but they later succumbed to disease.

Etymology

The word "elephant" is based on the Latinised form of the Greek ἐλέφας (elephas) (genitive ἐλέφαντος (elephantos), although it is thought that the word is probably from a non-Indo-European language, likely Phoenician. It is attested in Mycenaean Greek as e-re-paand e-re-pa-to in Linear B syllabic script. As in Mycenaean Greek, Homer used the Greek word to mean ivory, but after the time of Herodotus, it also referred to the animal. The word "elephant" appears in Middle English as olyfaunt (circa 1300 AD) and was borrowed from Old French oliphant(12th century). In Swahili elephants are known as Ndovu or Tembo. In Sanskrit the elephant is called hastin, while in Hindi it is known as hāthī (हाथी). Loxodonta, the generic name for the African elephants, is Greek for "oblique-sided tooth".

Taxonomy, Evolution and Spread

Elephants belong to the family Elephantidae, the sole remaining family within the order Proboscidea. Their closest extant relatives are the sirenians (dugongs and manatees) and the hyraxes, with which they share the clade Paenungulata within the superorder Afrotheria.

Traditionally, two species are recognized, the African elephant (Loxodonta africana) and the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), although some evidence suggests that African bush elephants and African forest elephants are separate species (L. africana and L. cyclotis respectively) However, over 161 extinct members and three major evolutionary radiations of the order Proboscidea have been recorded in the fossil record. Other, now extinct families of the order include mammoths and mastodons.

Elephants are herbivorous and can be found in different habitats including savannahs, forests, deserts and marshes. They prefer to stay near water. They are considered to be keystone species due to their impact on their environments. Other animals tend to keep their distance, and predators such as lions, tigers, hyenas and wild dogs usually target only the young.

The earliest proboscids, the African Eritherium and Phosphatherium of the late Paleocene, heralded the first radiation. The Eocene included anthracobunids from the Indian subcontinent and Numidotherium, Moeritherium and Barytherium from Africa. These animals were relatively small and aquatic. Later on, genera such as Phiomia and Palaeomastodon arose; the latter likely inhabited forests and open woodlands. Proboscidean diversity declined during the Oligocene. One notable species of this epoch was Eritreum melakeghebrekristosi of the Horn of Africa, which may have been an ancestor to several later species. The beginning of the Miocene saw the second diversification, with the appearance of the deinotheres and the mammutids. The former were related to Barytherium, lived in Africa and Eurasia, while the latter may have descended from Eritreum and spread to North America.

The second radiation was represented by the emergence of the gomphotheres in the Miocene, which likely evolved from Eritreum and originated in Africa, spreading to every continent except Australia and Antarctica. Members of this group included Gomphotherium and Platybelodon.

The third radiation started in the late Miocene and led to the arrival of the elephantids, which descended from, and slowly replaced, the gomphotheres. The African Primelephas gomphotheroidesgave rise to Loxodonta, Mammuthus and Elephas. Loxodonta branched off earliest, around the Miocene and Pliocene boundary, while Mammuthus and Elephas diverged later during the early Pliocene. Loxodonta remained in Africa, while Mammuthus and Elephas spread to Eurasia, and the former reached North America. At the same time, the stegodontids, another proboscidean group descended from gomphotheres, spread throughout Asia, including the Indian subcontinent, China, southeast Asia and Japan. Mammutids continued to evolve into new species, such as the American mastodon.

At the beginning of the Pleistocene, elephantids experienced a high rate of speciation. Loxodonta atlantica became the most common species in northern and southern Africa but was replaced by Elephas iolensis later in the Pleistocene. Only when Elephas disappeared from Africa did Loxodonta become dominant once again, this time in the form of the modern species. Elephas diversified into new species in Asia, such as E. hysudricus and E. platycephus; the latter the likely ancestor of the modern Asian elephant. Mammuthus evolved into several species, including the well-known woolly mammoth. In the Late Pleistocene, most proboscidean species vanished during the Quaternary glaciation which killed off 50% of genera weighing over 5 kg (11 lb) worldwide.

Several species of proboscideans lived on islands and experienced insular dwarfism. This occurred primarily during the Pleistocene, when some elephant populations became isolated by fluctuating sea levels, although dwarf elephants did exist earlier in the Pliocene. These elephants likely grew smaller on islands due to a lack of large or viable predator populations and limited resources. By contrast, small mammals such as rodents develop gigantism in these conditions.

Fossil remains of dwarf elephants have been found on the Mediterranean islands of Cyprus, Malta (at Ghar Dalam), Crete (in Nomos Chanion at Vamos, Stylos and in a now under water cave on the coast), Sicily, Sardinia, the Cyclades Islands and the Dodecanese Islands. Other islands where dwarf stegodon have been found are Sulawesi, Flores, Timor and other islands of the Lesser Sundas. The Channel Islands of California once supported a dwarf species descended from Columbian mammoths, while small races of woolly mammoths were once found on Saint Paul Island; the mammoths on Wrangel island are no longer considered dwarfs, although they were smaller than most mammoths. That population survived on Wrangel Island up until 2000 BCE.

Habitat

The African bush elephant can be found in habitats as diverse as dry savannahs, deserts, marshes, and lake shores, and in elevations from sea level to mountain areas above the snow line. Forest elephants mainly live in equatorial forests, but will enter gallery forests and ecotones between forests and savannahs. Asian elephants prefer areas with a mix of grasses, low woody plants and trees, primarily inhabiting dry thorn-scrub forests in southern India and Sri Lanka and evergreen forests in Malaya.

Elephants are herbivorous and will eat leaves, twigs, fruit, bark and roots. Elephants, are born with sterile intestines, and require bacteria obtained from their mothers feces to digest vegetation. African elephants are mostly browsers while Asian elephants are mainly grazers. They can consume as much as 150 kg (330 lb) of food and 40 L (11 US gal) of water in a day. Elephants tend to stay near water sources. Major feeding bouts take place in the morning, afternoon and night. At midday, elephants rest under trees and may doze off while standing. Sleeping occurs at night while the animal is lying down. Elephants average 3–4 hours of sleep per day. Both males and family groups typically move 10–20 km (6–12 mi) a day, but distances as far as 90–180 km (56–112 mi) have been recorded in the Etosha region of Namibia. They go on seasonal migrations in search of food, water and mates. At Chobe National Park, Botswana, elephant herds travel 325 km (202 mi) to visit the river when the local waterholes dry up.

Anatomy of Modern Elephant

Elephants are the largest living terrestrial animals. African elephants stand 3–4 m (10–13 ft) and weigh 4,000–7,000 kg (8,800–15,000 lb) while Asian elephants stand 2–3.5 m (7–11 ft) and weigh 3,000–5,000 kg (6,600–11,000 lb). In both cases, males are larger than females. Among African elephants, the forest form is smaller than the savannah form. To support the animal's weight, an elephant's limbs are positioned more vertically under the body than in most other mammals. Elephants can move both forwards and backwards, but cannot trot, jump, or gallop. Fast-moving elephants appear to 'run' with their front legs, but 'walk' with their hind legs and can reach a top speed of 18 km/h (11 mph). Elephants are capable swimmers. They have been recorded swimming for up to six hours without touching the bottom, and have travelled as far as 48 km (30 mi) at a stretch and at speeds of up to 2.1 km/h (1 mph).

Elephants are dichromats (a deficiency of color vision), and they can see well in dim light but not in bright light. The body temperature averages 35.9°C (97°F), similar to a human. Like a camel, an elephant can raise or lower its temperature a few degrees from the average in response to extreme environmental conditions.

Elephants are capable of hearing at low frequencies and are most sensitive at 1 kHz. Elephants produce several sounds, usually through the larynx, though some may be modified by the trunk. Perhaps the most well known is the trumpet, which is made during excitement, distress or aggression. Fighting elephants may roar or squeal, and wounded ones may bellow. Rumbles are produced during mild arousal and some appear to be infrasonic. Infrasonic calls are important, particularly for long-distance communication, in both Asian and African elephants. For Asian elephants, these calls have a frequency of 14–24 Hz, with sound pressure levels of 85–90 dB and last 10–15 seconds. For African elephants, calls range from 15–35 Hz and can be as loud as 117 dB, allowing communication for many kilometers, with a possible maximum range of around 10 km (6 mi). Elephants are known to communicate with seismics, vibrations produced by impacts on the earth's surface or acoustical waves that travel through it. They appear to rely on their leg and shoulder bones to transmit the signals to the middle ear. When detecting seismic signals, the animals lean forward and put more weight on their larger front feet; this is known as the "freezing behavior". Seismic waveforms produced by locomotion appear to travel distances of up to 32 km (20 mi) while those from vocalizations travel 16 km (10 mi).

Comparison with historical elephants

Mammoths were quite large. The largest known species reached heights in the region of 4 m (13 ft) at the shoulder and weighed up to 8 tons, while exceptionally large males may have exceeded 12 tons. The woolly mammoth was roughly the same size as modern African elephants. Males reached shoulder heights between 2.7 and 3.4 m (9 and 11 ft) and weighed up to 6 tons (6.6 tons). Females averaged 2.6–2.9 meters (8.5–9.5 ft) in height.

The pygmy mammoth of the Channel Islands of California reached a height of 1.2–1.8 m (4–6 ft) and weighed 200–2,000 kg (440–4,400 lb).

Mastodons had shorter legs, a longer body and were more heavily muscled than Mammoths. They had a build similar to that of the current Asian elephants. The average body size of the species M. americanum was around 2.3 m (7.7 ft) in height at the shoulders, corresponding to a large female or a small male, but large males could grow up to 2.8 m (9.2 ft.)

Gomphotheres differed from elephants in their tooth structure, particularly the chewing surfaces on the molar teeth. Most had four tusks, and their retracted facial and nasal bones prompt paleontologists to believe that gomphotheres had elephant-like trunks. Cuvieronius, the extinct South American genus of gomphothere stood 2.7 m (9 ft) tall and looked like a modern elephant except for its spiral-shaped tusks. Stegomastodon stood 2.8 m (9 ft) tall and looked like a robust version of the modern elephant. It weighed about 6,000 kilograms (13,000 lb). Like modern elephants, but unlike most of its closer relatives, it had just two tusks. These tusks curved upwards and were about 3.5 metres (11 ft) long.

The Cyprus dwarf elephant had an estimated body weight of only 200 kg, only 2% of its 10,000 kg ancestor. Molars of this dwarf are reduced to approximately 40% the size of mainland straight-tusked elephants.

Elephas falconeri of Malta and Sicily was only 1 m (3 ft) tall, and had probably evolved from the straight-tusked elephant.

Wrangel Island mammoths ranged from 1.8m-2.3m (5.9-7.5 ft) in shoulder height.

The Sulawesi dwarfed Stegodon sompoensis had a shoulder height of only 1.5m (4.9 ft).

Last Known Elephant Populations by Region

Africa

  • Loxodonta africana
  • Loxodonta cyclotis

African elephants are the elephants of the genus Loxodonta (Greek for 'oblique-sided tooth'), consisting of two extant species: the African bush elephant and the smaller African forest elephant. Loxodonta is one of the two existing genera in the family Elephantidae. Fossil members of Loxodonta have been found only in Africa, where they developed in the middle Pliocene.

One of the species of African elephant, the bush elephant, is the largest living terrestrial animal, while the forest elephant is the third largest. L. africana, males stand 3.2–4.0 m (10–13 ft) tall at the shoulder and weigh 4,700–6,048 kg (10,360–13,330 lb), while females stand 2.2–2.6 m (7–9 ft) tall and weigh 2,160–3,232 kg (4,762–7,125 lb); L. cyclotis is smaller with male shoulder heights of up to 2.5 m (8 ft). The largest recorded individual stood four meters (13.1 ft) to the shoulders and weighed 10 tonnes (10 long tons; 11 short tons).

Status: Alive. Vulnerable.

Asia

  • Elephas maximus maximus
  • Elephas maximus indicus
  • Elephas maximus sumatranus

Asian elephants vary geographically in their color and amount of depigmentation. The Sri Lankan elephant, Elephas maximus maximus, inhabits Sri Lanka, the Indian elephant (E. m. indicus) is native to mainland Asia (on the Indian subcontinent and Indochina), and the Sumatran elephant (E. m. sumatranus) is found in Sumatra. One disputed subspecies, the Borneo elephant, lives in northern Borneo and is smaller than all the other subspecies. It has larger ears, a longer tail, and straighter tusks than the typical elephant. A 2008 study found that Borneo elephants are not indigenous to the island but were brought there before 1521 by the Sultan of Sulu from Java, where elephants are now extinct.

STATUS: Alive. Endangered to Critically Endangered.

Britain

  • Mammuthus primigenius

STATUS: Extinct circa 10,000 BCE

Channel Islands of California

The Columbian mammoth (Mammuthus columbii) produced a separate, isolated population at the end of the Pleistocene. One of these isolated groups was formed on the Channel Islands of California, most likely about 40,000 years ago (although the time of isolation is not fully known). Selective forces on the Channel Islands resulted in smaller animals, forming a new species, the Pygmy Mammoth Mammuthus exilis. Channel Islands mammoths ranged from 150–190 cm in shoulder height.

STATUS: Extinct around 8,800 - 9,300 BCE.

Crete

  • Elephas antiquus
  • Mammuthus creticus (Bate, 1907)
  • Elephas (Palaeoloxodon) creutzburgi (Kuss, 1965)
  • Elephas (Palaeoloxodon) chaniensis (Symeonides et al., 2001)

This is evidence of two waves of elephants living on Crete. The first is the dwarf elephant, and later the Elephas antiquus which was of similar size to modern elephants.

After DNA research, published in 2006, it has been proposed to rename Elephas (Palaeoloxodon) creticus into Mammuthus creticus (Bate, 1907). Others proposed to rename all the described specimens of larger size under the new subspecies name Elephas antiquus creutzburgi (Kuss, 1965). In a recent study of 2007, it was argued for the groundlessness of the theory by Poulakakis et al. in 2006. showing the weak points of that DNA research. However, morphological data is at least equivocal, and may also support placement in Mammuthus.

Elephas chaniensis remains were found in Stylos and in Vamos caves, in Chania, north-west Crete in 2000. They were found to be of an intermediate size between dwarf and Elephas antiquus.

The extinction of most of these species of elephant has not been determined.

STATUS: Extinct. Elephas chaniensis has been dated to 16,000 BCE.

Cyclades Islands

Remains of paleoloxodontine elephants have been reported from the islands of Delos, Naxos, Kythnos, Serifos and Milos. The Delos elephant is of similar size to a small Elephas antiquus, while the Naxos elephant is of similar size to Elephas melitensis. The remains from Kythnos, Serifos and Milos have not been described.

Cyprus

  • Elephas (Palaeoloxodon) cypriotes (Bate, 1903)

The Cyprus dwarf elephant survived at least until 9000 BCE. Its estimated body weight was only 200 kg, only 2% of its 10,000 kg ancestor. Molars of this dwarf are reduced to approximately 40% the size of mainland straight-tusked elephants.

Remains of the species were first discovered and recorded by Dorothea Bate in a cave in the Kyrenia hills of Cyprus in 1902 and reported in 1903.

STATUS: Extinct circa 7500 BCE.

European Mainland

  • Elephas (Palaeoloxodon) antiquus]]
  • Mammuthus primigenius

The straight-tusked elephant is an extinct species of elephant closely related to the living Asian elephant. It inhabited Europe during the Middle and Late Pleistocene. Straight-tusked elephant remains have been found with flint tools at a number of sites, such as Torralba and Aridos in Spain, Notarchirico in Italy, and Gröbern and Ehringsdorf in Germany.

All other elephants found in Europe since the extinction of this species are not native, but were imported. They went extinct circa 48,000 BCE

Woolly Mammoths continued across Europe until around 8000 BCE.

STATUS: Extinct circa 8,000 BCE.

Dodecanese Islands

  • Elephas tiliensis

On the island of Rhodes, bones of an endemic dwarf elephant have been discovered. This elephant was similar in size to Elephas mnaidriensis.

Two groups of remains of dwarf elephants have been found on the island of Tilos. They are similar in size to Elephas mnaidriensis and the smaller Elephas falconeri, but the two groups indicate sexual dimorphism. The remains had originally been designated to Palaeoloxodon antiquus falconeri (Busk, 1867). However, this name refers to the dwarf elephants from the island of Malta. As a result, since no migration route between the two islands can be proved, this name should not be used when referring to the elephant remnants from Tilos. The species has now been described as Elephas tiliensis.

The Tilos dwarf elephant is the first dwarf elephant whose DNA sequence has been studied. The results of this research are consistent with previous morphological reports, according to which Palaeoloxodon is more closely related to Elephas than to Loxodonta or Mammuthus. After the study of new osteological material (Theodorou et al. 2007) that has been excavated in anatomical connection in the Charkadio Cave on Tilos island the new species name Elephas tiliensis has been assigned to the Tilos dwarf elephants. It was the latest paleoloxodontine to survive in Europe. This elephant survived well into the Holocene. A exhibition is available at the Municipality of Tilos Island, soon to be transferred to the new building near Charkadio Cave.

STATUS: Extinct around 2000 BCE.

Flores

  • Stegodon sondaarii
  • Stegodon florensis

The present understanding of the succession of Stegodon species on Flores is that endemic dwarfs, represented by the Early Pleistocene species Stegodon sondaarii, became extinct around 840,000 years ago.

These dwarf forms were then replaced by the medium to large-sized Stegodon florensis, a species closely related to the Stegodon trigonocephalus group found both in Java and in the islands of biogeographical Wallacea, separated by deep water from the Asian and Australian continental shelves.

STATUS: Extinct circa 10,000 BCE.

North America

  • Cuvieronius sp.
  • Mammuthus primigenius
  • Mammuthus columbi
  • Mammuthus‭ ‬imperator
  • Mammuthus jeffersonii
  • Mammut matthewi
  • Mammut raki
  • Mammut cosoensis
  • Mammut americanum

Several species of mammoth roamed the North American mainland, across a habitat known as the mammoth steppe, which stretched across northern Eurasia and North America. The Columbian mammoth (named after the province of British Columbia in Canada), and the Woolly mammoth lived side by side, but also appear to have bred with each other. M. jeffersonii may have been a hybrid between the two species. The largest species was the Imperial mammoth which is one of the largest known mammoth species in the fossil record,‭ ‬and‭ the largest terrestrial mammal currently known from North America.‭ ‬

The date of disappearance is generally set at approximately 10,500 BCE. However, several specimens have been dated to 7,000 BCE, and one near Nashville, Tennessee, was dated to only about 4800 BCE.

Mastodons inhabited North and Central America during the late Miocene or late Pliocene up to their extinction at the end of the Pleistocene circa 8500 BCE. They were predominantly forest dwelling animals that fed on a mixed diet of browsing and grazing with a seasonal preference for browsing, in contrast to living elephants that are mostly grazing animals.

In 2014, scientists at the University of Arizona published their results showing that gomphotheres (Cuvieronius sp.) inhabited Sonora, Mexico in 13,390 BCE, and were being butchered by Clovis hunter-gatherers.

STATUS: Extinct circa 4800 BCE.

Sardinia

  • Mammuthus lamarmorae (Major, 1883)

STATUS: Extinct. Date Unknown.

Sicily and Malta

Elephas falconeri of Malta and Sicily was only 1 m (3 ft) tall, and had probably evolved from the straight-tusked elephant.

  • Elephas (Palaeoloxodon) antiquus leonardii (Aguirre, 1969)
  • Elephas (Palaeoloxodon) mnaidriensis (Adams, 1874)
  • Elephas (Palaeoloxodon) melitensis (Falconer, 1868)
  • Elephas (Palaeoloxodon) falconeri (Busk, 1867)

STATUS: Extinct. Date unknown.

South America

  • Cuveronius hyodon
  • Stegomastodon

The last two South American species of Gomphotheres (Gomphotheriidae), were Cuvieronius hydon, and Stegamastadon. Cuveronius hyodon became extinct circa 7,100 BCE, and Stegomastodon remains have been dated as recently as 4,060 BCE in the Valle del Magdalena, Colombia. Gomphotheres also survived in Mexico and Central America until the end of the Pleistocene.

STATUS: Extinct circa 4060 BCE.

St. Paul Island

Mammoths survived on Saint Paul Island in the Bering Sea until 3750 BCE. Survival of a mammoth population may be explained by local geographic, topographic and climatic features, which entailed preservation of communities of steppe plants, as well as a degree of isolation sufficient to delay colonization by humans. St. Paul Island shares this characteristic of geographic isolation, implying that human hunting may have played a role in the disappearance of the woolly mammoth.

STATUS: Extinct around 3750 BCE.

Sulawesi

  • Stegodon sompoensis
  • Elephas celebensis

The dwarfed Stegodon sompoensis lived during the Pleistocene Epoch. They had a shoulder height of only 1.5m.

Elephas celebensis of Sulawesi is believed to have descended from Elephas planifrons.

STATUS: Extinct. Circa 700,000 BCE.

Wrangel Island

  • Mammuthus primigenius

During the last ice age, woolly mammoths lived on Wrangel Island in the Arctic Ocean (87 miles north of the Siberian coast), and survived until 1700 BCE.

The most recent survival of any known mammoth population. Wrangel Island is thought to have become separated from the mainland by 10,000 BCE. It was assumed that Wrangel Island mammoths ranged from 180–230 cm in shoulder height and were for a time considered "dwarf mammoths". However this classification has been re-evaluated and since the Second International Mammoth Conference in 1999, these mammoths are no longer considered to be true "dwarf mammoths".

STATUS: Extinct around 1700 BCE.

References

Alberdi, Maria Teresa; Prado, José Luis; Perea, Daniel; Ubilla, Martin (2007) "Stegomastodon Waringi (Mammalia, Proboscidea) from the Late Pleistocene of northeastern Uruguay" Neues Jahrbuch Für Geologie Und Paläontologie - Abhandlungen 243.2 179-189.

Alter, S. (2004). Elephas Maximus: A Portrait of the Indian Elephant. Penguin Books India. p. 93. ISBN 0-14-303174-0.

Asevedo, Lidiane; Winck, Gisele R.; Mothe, Dimila; Avilla,Leonardo S. (2012) "Ancient Diet of the Pleistocene Gomphothere Notiomastodon Platensis (Mammalia, Proboscidea, Gomphotheriidae) from Lowland Mid-latitudes of South America: Stereomicrowear and Tooth Calculus Analyses Combined"Quarternary International 255 45-52.

Bate, Dorothea, Cyprus work diary 1901–02, 3 volumes, Natural History Museum's earth sciences library, paleontology MSS.

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elephants.txt · Last modified: 2016/04/17 18:16 (external edit)