Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Discovery Of Elephants' Oldest Known Relative

Date:
July 30, 2009
Source:
CNRS (Délégation Paris Michel-Ange)
Summary:
Paleontologists have discovered one of the oldest modern ungulates related to the elephant order.

View of the type specimen (skull) of the primitive proboscidean Eritherium azzouzorum.
Credit: Copyright MNHN, UMR 7207, C. Lemzaouda et P. Louis

Emmanuel Gheerbrant, paleontologist at the Paris Museum (1), discovered one of the oldest modern ungulates related to the elephant order.

Related Articles


The beginnings of the radiation (diversification) of the modern mammals (placental orders) remain poorly known because of fossil gaps, and especially in some key Southern continents such as Africa. Emmanuel Gheerbrant, researcher at the CNRS (2), reports(3) the discovery of one of the oldest known modern ungulates in Paleocene beds from Morocco. Dated to about 60 millions years ago, this fossil mammal belongs to a new species called Eritherium azzouzorum. It comes from the same Ouled Abdoun phosphate basin which yielded Phosphatherium escuilliei (4), which was until the Eritherium's discovery the oldest and most primitive proboscidean found. This is the oldest known African ungulate (called paenungulates), and among them the oldest known member of the elephant order (proboscideans) (5).

Eritherium azzouzorum is small (4 to 5 kg) and extraordinarily primitive. It exemplifies the emergence of a modern order of ungulates at a very primitive stage, which is illustrated by a likeness among proboscideans within primitive groups such as some condylarths (6) (louisinines, extinct) and non-paenungulate afrotherians (elephant shrews, Eocene to Present). Its primitiveness indicates  the rapid evolution of the proboscideans at the Paleocene-Eocene (7) transition (e.g., with increasing size), and the rapid radiation of the African ungulates after the Cretaceous-Tertiary crisis (65 millions years ago), probably in relation to the colonization of the herbivorous African free niches.

Eritherium is a new major find, and one of the oldest known calibration point of the phylogeny of the placental orders. It is especially important for the fine tuning of the placental molecular trees.

(1) UMR 7207 (MNHN/CNRS/Université Pierre et Marie Curie), Center for Research on Paleobiodiversity and Paleoenvironments ; .fr.

(2) Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique

(3) Paleontological research Agreement MNHN-OCP-Ministry of Energy and Mines (Rabat)-University Cadi Ayyad (Marrakech)-University Chouaib Doukkali (El Jadida).

(4) 55 millions years discovered in 1996 by the same team

(5) The elephant order or Proboscidea includes only 3 living species, but it has a very long and rich evolutionary history which is illustrated by 180 fossil species.

(6) Archaic ungulates which evolved at the end of the Cretaceous and the beginning of the Tertiary, and which includes the stem groups of the modern ungulates, as well as many extinct herbivorous lineages.

(7) The transition between Paleocene and Eocene occurred approximately 55 millions years ago.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by CNRS (Délégation Paris Michel-Ange). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Gheerbrant et al. Paleocene emergence of elephant relatives and the rapid radiation of African ungulates. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, June 22, 2009; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0900251106

Cite This Page:

CNRS (Délégation Paris Michel-Ange). "Discovery Of Elephants' Oldest Known Relative." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 July 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090626084425.htm>.
CNRS (Délégation Paris Michel-Ange). (2009, July 30). Discovery Of Elephants' Oldest Known Relative. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090626084425.htm
CNRS (Délégation Paris Michel-Ange). "Discovery Of Elephants' Oldest Known Relative." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090626084425.htm (accessed October 25, 2014).

Share This



More Fossils & Ruins News

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 24, 2014) — Miniature deep sea animals discovered off the Australian coast almost three decades ago are puzzling scientists, who say the organisms have proved impossible to categorise. Academics at the Natural History of Denmark have appealed to the world scientific community for help, saying that further information on Dendrogramma enigmatica and Dendrogramma discoides could answer key evolutionary questions. Jim Drury has more. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Fossil Treasures at Risk in Morocco Desert Town

Fossil Treasures at Risk in Morocco Desert Town

AFP (Oct. 23, 2014) — Hundreds of archeological jewels in and around the town of 30,000 people prompt geologists and archeologists to call the Erfoud area "the largest open air fossil museum in the world". Duration: 02:17 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Oldest Bone Ever Sequenced Shows Human/Neanderthal Mating

Oldest Bone Ever Sequenced Shows Human/Neanderthal Mating

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) — A 45,000-year-old thighbone is showing when humans and neanderthals may have first interbred and revealing details about our origins. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Weird-Looking Dinosaur Solves 50-Year-Old Mystery

Weird-Looking Dinosaur Solves 50-Year-Old Mystery

Newsy (Oct. 23, 2014) — You've probably seen some weird-looking dinosaurs, but have you ever seen one this weird? It's worth a look. Video provided by Newsy
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