Elephant ancestors Moeritherium and Barytherium

This video says about itself:

Finding A Fossil Gompotherium [sic; Gomphotherium] Elephant Tooth Scuba Diving

Here I find a small gompotherium tooth. It was an ancient elephant from the early Miocene.

From Discovery News:

Ancient Mammals Fill Elephant Family Tree

Jennifer Viegas

April 15, 2008 — Fossils of two ancient, extinct mammals are helping piece together the elephant family tree.

Modern elephants and their relatives, which fall into the order Proboscidea, form a diverse clan that includes hyraxes, manatees and dugongs. That group can now be linked to two extinct beasts, known as Barytherium and Moeritherium, which emerged around 50 million years ago.

Surprisingly, they didn’t look much like elephants or their living relatives either.

According to Alexander Liu, lead researcher on a new study of the fossils, Moeritherium was much smaller than today’s elephants and was instead “similar in size and stature to a modern tapir, having a prehensile upper lip rather than a trunk and weighing roughly 250 to 300 kg (551 to 661 pounds).”

Modern elephants, by contrast, can weigh up to 24,000 pounds.

Barytherium, on the other hand, was a little more elephant-like, given its trunk, but was still much smaller than today’s elephants, Liu told Discovery News.

Liu, a researcher in the University of Oxford’s Department of Earth Sciences, along with colleagues Erik Seiffert and Elwyn Simons, reconstructed the habitats and behaviors of the two extinct animals just by analyzing 11 of the beasts’ teeth.

Their findings are published in the latest issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Their detective work involved studying carbon and oxygen isotopes found in the teeth, which date to 37 million years ago and were excavated at the Birket Qarun Formation in northern Egypt. …

Despite these reservations, Sanders believes the new research “sets a good framework” for additional studies on the elephant family tree. He hopes Liu and his team will study remains from other elephant relatives, such as Phosphatherium and Numidotherium, in the future.

See also here.

New Proboscideans (Mammalia) from the middle Miocene of Thailand: here.

Miocene Mammals of Oregon: here.

Scientists have found evidence that cavemen near the U.S.-Mexico border were butchering gomphotheres, elephant-like beasts from the Ice Age, that were believed to be nearly extinct in North America by the time humans appeared there: here.

Scientists at the University of Leicester are using an unusual resource to investigate ancient climates – prehistoric animal urine. The animal in question is the rock hyrax, a common species in countries such as Namibia and Botswana. They look like large guinea pigs but are actually related to the elephant. Hyraxes use specific locations as communal toilets, some of which have been used by generations of animals for thousands of years. The urine crystallises and builds up in stratified accumulations known as ‘middens,’ providing a previously untapped resource for studying long-term climate change: here.

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12 thoughts on “Elephant ancestors Moeritherium and Barytherium

  1. Elephants, Once Thought Extinct, Likely Survived

    Vijay Joshi, Associated Press

    April 17, 2008 — Borneo’s pygmy elephants may be descendants of an extinct Javan elephant race, saved by chance by an 18th century ruler, according to a new study released Thursday.

    The study suggests that a small number of opposite-sex elephants can produce a thriving progeny of thousands if left undisturbed on an island, giving fresh hope to conservationists trying to protect nearly extinct species of large mammals.

    “If proven, this fascinating story would demonstrate that very small populations of large mammals can be saved from the brink of extinction (simply by) moving a few individuals, from a seemingly doomed population, to a different and safer habitat,” the study published in the Sarawak Museum Journal says.

    Study co-author Junaidi Payne said the Sultan of Java in Indonesia in the 18th century likely sent some pygmy elephants as gifts to the Sultan of Sulu in the Philippines. The Sultan of Sulu at some point apparently shipped them to Borneo and abandoned them there for unknown reasons.

    “There are a number of historical records of elephants shipped between various places in Asia by rulers as gifts to impress others,” Payne said.

    Borneo pygmy elephants, which are genetically distinct from other subspecies, grow less than about 8 feet compared to about 10 feet in height of Asian ale elephants.

    They also have babyish faces, large ears and longer tails. They are more rotund and less aggressive.

    The pygmy elephants in Java were extinct by the end of the 18th century, but the few that were brought to Borneo thrived, the study found.

    Historically, Borneo never had any elephants and the origins of pygmy elephants — a distinct subspecies of its mainland Asian cousin — remained shrouded in mystery until now.

    Borneo is a large island shared by Indonesia, Malaysia and the sultanate of Brunei. It is separated by at least 250 miles of sea from Java, the main island in Indonesia. Sulu is much farther to the east.

    Payne said just one fertile female and one fertile male elephant, if left undisturbed in enough good habitat, could in theory end up as a population of 2,000 elephants within less than 300 years.

    “And that may be what happened in practice here,” said Payne, who works for the global conservation group World Wildlife Fund.

    There are about 1,000 pygmy elephants in the wild in Borneo today, mostly in the Malaysian state of Sabah.

    “If they came from Java, this fascinating story demonstrates the value of efforts to save even small populations of certain species, often thought to be doomed,” said Christy Williams, coordinator of WWF’s Asian elephant and rhino program.

    Augustine Tuuga, assistant director of the Sabah Wildlife Department, said the study confirms what many conservationists have long believed — that a small number of animals can flourish into large herds even though they may have multiplied by inbreeding.

    “My own feeling is that as long as there is no continous hunting and there is no problem about diseases their numbers will multiply,” he said.


  2. Newborn hyraxes seem right at home


    Published: July 07. 2009 1:15AM

    A pair of baby rock hyrax explore their surrounding at the Erie Zoo on July 6. The pair were born on June 23. The rock hyrax is a sociable animal from Africa theat lives in colonies of up to 60 members. Their habitat consists of rock outcroppings.. JACK HANRAHAN/ ERIE TIMES-NEWS

    Two more heads than usual are popping up from behind the rocks at the Erie Zoo’s meerkat and hyrax exhibit.

    June 23 marked the first ever birth of two new rock hyraxes in the zoo’s captivity. The babies, whose genders are still unknown, were seen scurrying about just two days after they were born.

    “For as young as they are, they’re very active,” said Scott Mitchell, the zoo’s chief executive. “Because it’s our first time, it’s significant for us. A successful birth is always an important milestone.”

    Zoo Director Cindy Kreider said the species itself has been in Erie for about 15 years, though the three adults now in the exhibit were half of six originally imported from a group held in captivity in southern Africa.

    She said the other three hyraxes were later transported to the Buffalo Zoo.

    Baby hyraxes are a small, furry mammal about the size of an adult human palm. Once fully grown, they are about a foot tall at the shoulder and live for an average of seven years.

    With their round ears and stubby tails, Kreider said, many people often mistake them for guinea pigs.

    It can be difficult to tell when the zoo’s two females are pregnant because they are largely round and full of fur, she said.

    “We knew they were capable of having babies, but didn’t know when,” Kreider said.

    Their birth in Erie is a testament to the management of hyraxes and meerkats in one living environment, Mitchell said, because two different species competing in the same space require genetically appropriate pairs and specific nutritional care.

    “Quite frankly, if animals are stressed out and not in a comfortable environment, they’re not likely to breed,” he said.

    Kreider said the exhibit is more popular now, as passers-by stop in front of the window to take a gander at the newborns.

    “The public’s reactions have been pretty funny, actually,” Mitchell said. “You’re kind of surprised to see them.”

    Among the bystanders Monday was Erie native Eileen Nill, who visited the zoo with her husband, Peter, her nephew John McGowan, of Alexandria, Va., and his two children.

    The group watched as a hyrax jumped from rock to tree and the two babies dashed between hiding places, but most people had wondered what happened to the other half of the exhibit — the meerkats.

    “It doesn’t look like (the zoo has) the meerkats in there since the births,” Nill said.

    Indeed, the meerkats are temporarily out of the exhibit while the baby hyraxes get used to life at the zoo, Kreider said. Whether they stay at the zoo once they’re fully grown, she said, remains to be decided.

    “There’s a good chance that when they grow up, they’ll go on to other zoos because other zoos are looking to get up their population,” she said.

    JACKIE SMITH can be reached at 870-1714 or by e-mail.



  3. Sun, 05 Jul 2009 14:41:38 GMT
    Author : DPA

    Abu Dhabi – Paleontologists on Sunday announced that they had discovered the 8-million-year-old fossilized remains of an elephant, a hippo and a giant ostrich in western Abu Dhabi. Archaeologists from Yale University and Abu Dhabi’s Authority on Culture and Heritage (AUCH) have been studying fossilized remains from the Miocene Era, some 6-8 million years ago, the AUCH said in a statement.

    The researchers concluded that the area in Abu Dhabi, now a windswept desert, was once full of life. Researchers have previously found other remains of ancestors of the modern ostrich, catfish, elephants, crocodiles, and turtles.


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