|A skull and model of P. antiquus|
Palaeoloxodon is an extinct genus that contains the various species of straight-tusked elephant. Its species' remains have been found in Bilzingsleben, Germany; Cyprus; Japan; Sicily; Malta; and in England during the excavation of the second Channel Tunnel. The English discovery, in 2006 in northwest Kent, dated c. 400,000 ybp, was of a single adult; associated with it were Palaeolithic stone butchering tools of the type used by Homo heidelbergensis.
Palaeoloxodon was previously thought to be a subgenus of Elephas, but this was abandoned by 2007. It is more closely related to the Asian Elephant than the Asian is to the two species of African elephants in genus Loxodonta. Palaeoloxodon is known informally as the "straight-tusked elephant" because of the straight tusks of Palaeoloxodon antiquus.
Some notable species are:
- P. antiquus (Europe, Middle east, Asia), was a bit larger than the modern African elephant
- P. chaniensis (Crete), dwarf elephant
- P. cypriotes (Cyprus), dwarf elephant
- P. falconeri (Sicily and Malta), dwarf elephant
- P. mnaidriensis (Sicily), dwarf elephant
- P. namadicus (Asia)
- P. naumanni (Southern Japan), dwarf elephant and possible subspecies of E. namadicus
- P. recki (east Africa), the oldest (4.0 - 0.6 million years ago) and one of the largest species
The last mainland European Palaeoloxodon faced extinction 30,000 years ago. The Japanese species possibly survived for a little longer afterwards. Among the last straight-tusked elephants were the Mediterranean dwarf species, which died out 3,000 years ago - possibly at the hands of human hunters and introduced predators.
One Palaeoloxodon population of undetermined species is thought to have survived in northern China until 3,000 years ago. These were previously thought to be Asian elephants, Elephas maximus. Teeth and tusks from northern China that were formerly classified as the subspecies Elephas maximus rubridens were re-examined by Li Ji and colleagues from the Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Beijing and found to belong to Palaeoloxodon instead. Likewise, elephant sculptures made during this period depict trunks with two "fingers", whereas Asian elephants only have one. Fossil elephant experts Victoria Herridge and Adrian Lister disagree with the assignment, stating that the claimed diagnostic dental features are actually contrast artifacts created due to the low resolution of the figures in the scientific paper, and which are not evident in better quality photographs.
- "Early signs of elephant butchers". BBC News. 30 June 2006.
- Shoshani, J.; Ferretti, M. P.; Lister, A. M.; Agenbroad, L. D.; Saegusa, H.; Mol, D.; Takahashi, K. (2007). "Relationships within the Elephantinae using hyoid characters". Quaternary International. 169-170: 174. Bibcode:2007QuInt.169..174S. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2007.02.003.
- Turner, A. (2004) Prehistoric Mammals. Larousse
- Li, J.; Hou, Y.; Li, Y.; Zhang, J. (2012). "The latest straight-tusked elephants (Palaeoloxodon)? "Wild elephants" lived 3000 years ago in North China". Quaternary International 281: 84. Bibcode:2012QuInt.281...84L. doi:10.1016/j.quaint.2011.10.039.
- Warwicker, Michelle (19 December 2012). "Extinct elephant 'survived late' in North China". BBC News.
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