Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Fossil Is Missing Link In Elephant Lineage

Date:
November 6, 2006
Source:
University of Michigan
Summary:
A pig-sized, tusked creature that roamed the earth some 27 million years ago represents a missing link between the oldest known relatives of elephants and the more recent group from which modern elephants descended, an international team that includes University of Michigan paleontologist William J. Sanders has found.

The teeth of the newly described Eritreum melakeghebrekristosi are a tip-off to its position as a missing link in the elephant family tree.
Credit: Image courtesy of University of Michigan

A pig-sized, tusked creature that roamed the earth some 27 million years ago represents a missing link between the oldest known relatives of elephants and the more recent group from which modern elephants descended, an international team that includes University of Michigan paleontologist William J. Sanders has found.

Related Articles


The group's findings, to be published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggest that mastodons and the ancestors of elephants originated in Africa, in contrast to mammals such as rhinos, giraffes and antelopes, which had their origins in Europe and Asia and migrated into Africa. The dating of the new fossil, discovered in the East African country of Eritrea, also pushes the origins of elephants and mastodons five million years farther into the past than previous records, Sanders said.

From 35 to 25 million years ago, representatives of the group known as proboscideans (which includes elephants, mastodons and their close relatives) lived only in Africa and Arabia, and most of them were palaeomastodonts. These animals were shorter and smaller than today's elephants, with short trunks and tusks and simple teeth that were all in place at the same time, as human adult teeth are.

After 25 million years ago, larger proboscideans such as mastodons and gomphotheres—the ancestors of modern elephants—dominated the scene. Elephant-sized, with long tusks and trunks, these advanced proboscidans had more complex teeth that emerged more slowly, so that each quadrant of the mouth had only one or two functional teeth in place at a time.

"The new fossil from Eritrea is important because it shows aspects of dental anatomy in common with the advanced group, including molars with more cusps and complex crowns and the delayed maturation and emergence of molars," said Sanders, an assistant research scientist in the U-M Museum of Paleontology. But the creature that the new fossil represents also had characteristics in common with palaeomastodonts, namely smaller body size and a jaw structure that suggests shorter tusks and trunk.

"In age and anatomy it is exactly the sort of intermediate evolutionists would expect to bridge the gap between archaic and advanced proboscideans," Sanders said.

In addition to Sanders, the research team included Jeheskel Shoshani of the University of Asmara in Eritrea and the Elephant Research Foundation in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.; Robert Walter of Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Penn.; Michael Abraha and Tesfalidet Ghirmai of the Eritrean Ministry of Mines and Energy; Seife Berhe of Global Resources in Asmara, Eritrea; Pascal Tassy of the Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris; Gary Marchant of the Elephant Research Foundation; Yosief Libsekal of the National Museum of Eritrea; and Dietmar Zinner of Deutsches Primatenzentrum in Gottingen, Germany.

Sanders received financial support for participation in the project from a Scott Turner Award from the U-M Department of Geological Sciences.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Michigan. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Michigan. "Fossil Is Missing Link In Elephant Lineage." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 November 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/11/061101150551.htm>.
University of Michigan. (2006, November 6). Fossil Is Missing Link In Elephant Lineage. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/11/061101150551.htm
University of Michigan. "Fossil Is Missing Link In Elephant Lineage." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/11/061101150551.htm (accessed December 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Fossils & Ruins News

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Bring Player Pianos Back to Life

Researchers Bring Player Pianos Back to Life

AP (Dec. 17, 2014) Stanford University wants to unlock the secrets of the player piano. Researchers are restoring and studying self-playing pianos and the music rolls that recorded major composers performing their own work. (Dec. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Domestication Might've Been Bad For Horses

Domestication Might've Been Bad For Horses

Newsy (Dec. 16, 2014) A group of scientists looked at the genetics behind the domestication of the horse and showed how human manipulation changed horses' DNA. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Mozart, Beethoven, Shubert and Bizet Manuscripts to Go on Sale

Mozart, Beethoven, Shubert and Bizet Manuscripts to Go on Sale

AFP (Dec. 16, 2014) A collection of rare manuscripts by composers Mozart, Beethoven, Shubert and Bizet are due to go on sale at auction on December 17. Duration: 00:57 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Old Ship Records to Shed Light on Arctic Ice Loss

Old Ship Records to Shed Light on Arctic Ice Loss

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 15, 2014) Researchers are looking to the past to gain a clearer picture of what the future holds for ice in the Arctic. A project to analyse and digitize ship logs dating back to the 1850's aims to lengthen the timeline of recorded ice data. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins