This is the first intact mastodonskull found in
. Yet it is a reminder that the genus made itnot just into North America, but also into Chile South America.
The extinction of large animalsin the Northern Hemisphere can be explained by the event that I have named thePleistocene nonconformity which initially decimated the extantpopulations. We can easily surmise thatthe remainder was hunted out by early man who had the tools. The problem I have with all that is theAfrican Elephant particularly. It neverwas successfully hunted by well equipped local tribesmen before the advent ofmodern arms.
That it could be hunted isirrelevant, it simply never was properly exploited. Thus I find the human agency theory for both
uncomfortable, just as the Pleistocene Nonconformity also failed to actuallyeliminate all individuals. And theargument of habitat change simply does not fly with a mastodon that eats brush. Americas
As this item reminds us, thiscreature was able to populate every valley on earth at will, and only a handfulever pulled that feat off.
On top of that the mastodon was aforest dweller, quite able to protect itself. Recall that no one in his right mind is going to sneak up on an elephantin the woods and stick a spear into its gut. There is plenty of easier ways to make a meal.
They almost certainly would havebeen trapped in a pit at the least. Theywere also likely too clever to run over a cliff or even be stampeded. Certainly, African elephant do not looklikely to ever stampede, unless it is over their tormentors.
The fact remains that the genusis incredibly successful. Yet we havehuge extinction events that can not be properly explained. Even the Indian Elephant avoided extinctionand it was exposed to some of the worse land disturbances if we accept the consequencesof the Nonconformity. In fact allobvious threats are just as obviously survivable. These creatures were never thin on the groundand vulnerable to over hunting at all. Besides, you would only learn to hunt them if they were common enough tomake it worthwhile. Even in
Africa, that turned out to be an unattractiveproposition.
On top of that, the end of theIce Age would have naturally expanded their range and they would have easilyadapted to warmer conditions.
One other option that does workis that they were deliberately hunted out by an ancestral human stock withaccess to modern tools. We could todaychoose to eliminate all elephants quite easily and could also reduce oreliminate a few other inconvenient large creatures. I prefer not to use that option, except thatthe genus was just too successful globally to simply disappear easily.
Builders unearth 2million-year-old skull and tusks of elephant'sancient relative
Last updated at 11:46 AM on 25th March 2011
The skull and tusks of a giant primitive elephant that died up to2million years have been discovered by builders in
, it emerged today. Chile
The mastodon, around the same size as modern elephants, is thought tohave roamed forests and plains before dying and sinking into a swamp thatpreserved it.
The find, beside a river, could allow scientists to piece together moreinformation about the DNA they share with their much bigger relative, thewoolly mammoth.
Preserved: The remains of a mastodon discovered on the building site ofa hydroelectric plant in Chile
It could also shed more light on the origins of elephants.
The discovery was made by contrustion workers building a hydroelectricpower plant beside a river in Padre Hurtaldo, near the Chilean capital
Digging into the ground, they first noticed the pointed end of one ofthe 4ft long by 6in wide tusks.
Paleontologists were called in and, after further excavation,discovered what is
’sfirst ever discovery of a complete mastodon skull. Chile
Directed by Rafael Labarca, of
’s PDI institute, told Chileannewspaper La Tercera: 'When we were in the excavation process we were awarethat the bone continued. Chile
Intact: The discovery's is the first complete skull of the ancientcreature ever made in Chile
Big gnashers: The massive, crushing molar teeth that measure about 9inlong
'Practically the whole skull complete and in perfect conditions, withits four molars and together with both tusks of almost four feet in length.
'In addition, inside the skull one was part of the vertebrae of thespine.'
Mastodons were around the same size as modern elephants but were muchmore heavily muscled and had furry coats to protect them from cold.
The ancestry of the elephant has long been a source of fascination forbiologists.
Fossil evidence shows it began in
Africaaround 50million to 60million years ago with moeritheres, pig-like creatureswith long snouts.
Brushing teeth: Paleontologist Consuelo Huidobro cleans the molars.They could provide clues about elephants
These animals evolved into a range of other species, many of them muchlarger, and spread across the globe, inhabiting every continent exceptAustralasia and
The four-tusked trilophodon appeared 26million years ago and lasteduntil 2million years ago in Eurasia, Africa, and
North America. Modern humans, by contrast, evolved only around 200,000years ago.
Biggest of all was the imperial mammoth, which adapted to the cold inEurasia, Africa, and
North America during thePleistocene epoch 2million years ago.
It is believed that they are the closest relative of the elephants.Unlike, mastadons which eat shoots and leaves, mammoths were grazers.
Both species appear to have survived until just a few thousand yearsago and early humans would have been familiar with them.
Padre Hurtado: Where the mastodon was found
It is believed that the evolution and extinction of many modernelephant species may be closely tied up with the spread of the human race.
Both mammoths and mastodons are proboscids, but the former is assignedto the mammutidae family, while the latter is of the eliphantitae.
Most excavations of mastodons have been made in
North America. Very few have been discovered in the southern part of thecontinent.
Previously, only fragments had been found in
, for example. Chile
One of the biggest finds was made in 1993 at the
Diamond Valley Lakereservoir outside of . Hemet, California
It yielded numerous remains and led to the site being nicknamed the"Valley of the Mastodons".
Current excavations are going on annually at the Hiscock Site in
. Byron, New York
In July 2007, the longest mastodon tusks in the world – measuring 16ftand each weighing a ton – were discovered in Milia, north of