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The origins and build of the African elephant

2 March 2015

www.leopard.tv

The earliest ancestor of all the elephants was the trunkless, pig-like Moeritherium of about 60 cm tall that is known to have lived in the Al Fayum Swamp in Egypt and along the fringes of the Tethys Sea between Africa and Asia. This sea disappeared when the Indian tectonic plate, that broke away from Gondwana in the southern hemisphere, collided with Asia some 50 million years ago to form the Himalaya Mountains. What is the Sahara Desert now was a mosaic of swamps and plains at that time.

Five families of the Order Proboscidea (mammals with trunks), which includes the living elephants and numerous extinct forms, later developed as climates and the distribution of the land masses changed, but only the family Elephantidae has survived. It is ironic that the human migration from Africa some 65 to 50 million years ago has led to much of this extinction because they hunted the megafauna as a source of food, while monetary greed among humans are now threatening the existence of the last surviving family of the elephants... (Become a subscriber for more)

 

Reference:

Skinner, J D & C T Chimimba (Eds) 2005. The mammals of the southern African subregion, third edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp 51 - 55.

 

article by Prof J du P Bothma

 

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