Register for an account

X

Enter your name and email address below.

Your email address is used to log in and will not be shared or sold. Read our privacy policy.

X

Website access code

Enter your access code into the form field below.

If you are a Zinio, Nook, Kindle, Apple, or Google Play subscriber, you can enter your website access code to gain subscriber access. Your website access code is located in the upper right corner of the Table of Contents page of your digital edition.

Planet Earth

Meet the Prehistoric Elephantopotamus

DiscoblogBy Melissa LafskyApril 15, 2008 9:05 PM
waterelephant1.jpg

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

At least one species of proboscidean, a prehistoric relative of the elephant, lived in an aquatic environment, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The extinct water-lover, which belonged to the genus Moeritherium and lived around 37 million years ago, appears to have munched on freshwater plants and spent most of its days in swamps or river systems, according to Alexander Liu, an earth sciences expert at the University of Oxford and the lead author of the study. The research team based its findings on a group of fossilized teeth found in northern Egypt. By analyzing the patterns of different oxygen and carbon isotopes in the tooth enamel, Liu and his crew were able to identify the animal's diet and lifestyle. The Oxford scientist was particularly intrigued by the possibility that a mammal could have started out terrestrial (as did all mammals) and evolved into an aquatic species, then reverted back to terrestrial—with the end result being modern elephants, lumbering across the plain and visiting their ancestral graveyards. Ironically, while the creature is related to the elephant and enjoyed a hippo's lifestyle, it reportedly [strike]had hooves and[/strike] looked like a "cross between a horse and a rhino." So perhaps a more appropriate title would be "equaphantopotonocerous." Image courtesy of Luci Betti-Nash, Stony Brook University/PNAS.

2 Free Articles Left

Want it all? Get unlimited access when you subscribe.

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Register or Log In

Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 70%

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Register or Log In