Giant Straight-Tusked Elephant-INDIAN EXPRESS-28-01-2020
Who are straight-tusked elephant?
• The straight-tusked elephant (Palaeoloxodon antiquus) is an extinct species of elephant that inhabited Europe and Western Asia during the Middle and Late Pleistocene (781,000–50,000 years before present).
• Recovered individuals have reached up to 4–4.2 metres (13.1–13.8 ft) in height, and an estimated 11.3–15 tonnes (11.1–14.8 long tons; 12.5–16.5 short tons) in weight. The straight-tusked elephant probably lived in small herds, flourishing in interglacial periods, when its range would extend as far as Great Britain.
• Isolated tusks are often found while partial or whole skeletons are rare, and there is evidence of predation by early humans. It is a possible ancestor of dwarf elephants that later inhabited islands in the Mediterranean.
• An international study in Quaternary Science Reviews has sought to bring some order into our understanding of giant straight-tusked elephant.
• About 800,000 years ago, a giant straight-tusked elephant migrated out of Africa and spread across Europe and Asia.
• Marked by a huge head (4.5 feet from the top of the skull roof to the base of the tusk sheaths), the elephant divided into many species, such as Palaeoloxodon antiquus (in Europe), Palaeoloxodon namadicus (India) and Palaeoloxodon naumanni (Japan).
• All these species are now extinct. Now, an international study in Quaternary Science Reviews has sought to bring some order into our understanding of these species.
• One key point of confusion was the different sizes of skull crests in fossils found in Europe. For a long time, it was thought that the European species had a rather slenderly built skull roof crest, whereas the Indian species was characterised by an extremely robust skull crest that extended near to the base of the trunk from the top of the skull.
• But some skulls, found in Italy and Germany, with almost the same exaggerated skull crest as the Indian form, raised confusion whether these were the same as the Indian species.
• The new study has concluded that there was a single European species. Measurements showed that even in European skulls with pronounced crests, the skull roof never becomes as thickened as in the Indian specimens. On the other hand, fossils found in Asia and East Africa represent distinct species that evolved.