Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Early Elephants Were Amphibious

Stable isotope evidence for an amphibious phase in early proboscidean evolution. 2008. A. G. S. C. Liu et al. PNAS 105: 5786-5791.

An artist's rendering shows an adult Moeritherium, an ancient elephant ancestor, with its calf. Image:L. B.-Nash, Stony Brook University/PNAS.
A new study of Moeritherium teeth suggests that it was semi-aquatic, eating freshwater plants and dwelling in swamps or river systems.
From National Geographic News:

Moeritherium lived some 37 million years ago, many millions of years after the genetic lineages of elephants and sirenians split. Moeritherium didn't much resemble modern elephants. It was probably about the size of a tapir—74 to 107 cm tall --at the shoulder. It seems to have lacked a trunk but may have had a prehensile upper lip.