Straight-tusked Elephant
The Straight-tusked Elephant (Elephas (Palaeoloxodon) antiquus or Palaeoloxodon antiquus) is an extinct species of elephant
Elephants are large land mammals in two extant genera of the family Elephantidae: Elephas and Loxodonta, with the third genus Mammuthus extinct...

 closely related to the living Asian Elephant
Asian Elephant
The Asian or Asiatic elephant is the only living species of the genus Elephas and distributed in Southeast Asia from India in the west to Borneo in the east. Three subspecies are recognized — Elephas maximus maximus from Sri Lanka, the Indian elephant or E. m. indicus from mainland Asia, and E. m....

. It inhabited Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 during the Middle and Late Pleistocene
The Pleistocene is the epoch from 2,588,000 to 11,700 years BP that spans the world's recent period of repeated glaciations. The name pleistocene is derived from the Greek and ....

 (781,000–50,000 years before present). Some experts regard the smaller Asian species E. namadicus, as a variant or subspecies of this one.


The creature was 3.90 m (12 ft) tall and had long, slightly upward-curving tusks. E. antiquuss legs were slightly longer than those of modern elephants. It is suggested that this elephant had a 80 cm long tongue that could be projected a short distance from the mouth to grasp leaves and grasses. With this tongue along with a flexible trunk, straight-tusked elephants could graze
Grazing generally describes a type of feeding, in which a herbivore feeds on plants , and also on other multicellular autotrophs...

 or browse
Browsing (predation)
Browsing is a type of herbivory in which an herbivore feeds on leaves, soft shoots, or fruits of high growing, generally woody, plants such as shrubs. This is contrasted with grazing, usually associated with animals feeding on grass or other low vegetation...

 on Pleistocene foliage about 8 meters above ground.


Straight-tusked elephants lived in small herds of about 5 to 15 individuals. They preferred warm conditions and flourished in the interglacial periods during the current Ice Age
Quaternary glaciation
Quaternary glaciation, also known as the Pleistocene glaciation, the current ice age or simply the ice age, refers to the period of the last few million years in which permanent ice sheets were established in Antarctica and perhaps Greenland, and fluctuating ice sheets have occurred elsewhere...

, spreading from continental Europe to Great Britain
Great Britain
Great Britain or Britain is an island situated to the northwest of Continental Europe. It is the ninth largest island in the world, and the largest European island, as well as the largest of the British Isles...

 during the warmer periods. It is assumed that they preferred wooded environments. During colder periods the species migrated south. It became extinct in Britain by the beginning of the last glacial, about 115,000 years ago. Eventually it was replaced by the mammoth
A mammoth is any species of the extinct genus Mammuthus. These proboscideans are members of Elephantidae, the family of elephants and mammoths, and close relatives of modern elephants. They were often equipped with long curved tusks and, in northern species, a covering of long hair...



Finds of isolated tusks are relatively common in the United Kingdom. For example a tusk of this elephant was found during the construction of the Swan Valley Community School in Swanscombe
Swanscombe is a small town, part of the Borough of Dartford on the north Kent coast in England. It is part of the civil parish of Swanscombe and Greenhithe.-Prehistory:...

, Kent. However, finds of whole or partial skeletons of this elephant are very rare.

Skeleton finds in the United Kingdom are known from only a few sites. Two sites were found in the Lower Thames basin, one at Upnor
Lower Upnor and Upper Upnor are two small villages in Medway, Kent, England. They are in the parish of Frindsbury Extra on the western bank of the River Medway...

, Kent
Kent is a county in southeast England, and is one of the home counties. It borders East Sussex, Surrey and Greater London and has a defined boundary with Essex in the middle of the Thames Estuary. The ceremonial county boundaries of Kent include the shire county of Kent and the unitary borough of...

 and one at Aveley
Aveley is a place in the Thurrock unitary authority in Essex, England and one of the traditional parishes in Thurrock. It is a suburban development located 16.3 miles east of Charing Cross in London and within the eastern bounds of the M25 motorway.-Location:Aveley is roughly bounded to the north...

, Essex
Essex is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan county in the East region of England, and one of the home counties. It is located to the northeast of Greater London. It borders with Cambridgeshire and Suffolk to the north, Hertfordshire to the west, Kent to the South and London to the south west...

. Archaeological excavations in advance of High Speed 1 revealed the 400,000 years old skeleton of a straight-tusked elephant in the Ebbsfleet Valley
Ebbsfleet Valley
Ebbsfleet Valley is a new town and redevelopment area in Kent, South East England; and part of the Thames Gateway. It is located south west of Gravesend.It is named after the valley of the Ebbsfleet River, which it straddles...

, near Swanscombe. It was lying at the edge of what would once have been a small lake. Flint tools lay scattered around, suggesting the elephant had been cut up by a tribe of the early humans around at the time, known as Homo heidelbergensis
Homo heidelbergensis
Homo heidelbergensis is an extinct species of the genus Homo which may be the direct ancestor of both Homo neanderthalensis in Europe and Homo sapiens. The best evidence found for these hominins date between 600,000 and 400,000 years ago. H...

On the European mainland many remains of the straight-tusked elephant have been found. A handful of these sites even contain, besides a skeleton, archaeological material like in the Ebbsfleet Valley (England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

). A skeleton at Lehringen (Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

) was found with the remains of a yew
Taxus baccata
Taxus baccata is a conifer native to western, central and southern Europe, northwest Africa, northern Iran and southwest Asia. It is the tree originally known as yew, though with other related trees becoming known, it may be now known as the English yew, or European yew.-Description:It is a small-...

A spear is a pole weapon consisting of a shaft, usually of wood, with a pointed head.The head may be simply the sharpened end of the shaft itself, as is the case with bamboo spears, or it may be made of a more durable material fastened to the shaft, such as flint, obsidian, iron, steel or...

 between it ribs and lithic
Lithic analysis
In archaeology, lithic analysis is the analysis of stone tools and other chipped stone artifacts using basic scientific techniques. At its most basic level, lithic analyses involve an analysis of the artifact’s morphology, the measurement of various physical attributes, and examining other visible...

 artifacts around the head.

Straight-tusked elephant remains have been found with flint tools at a number of sites, such as Torralba and Aridos in Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

, Notarchirico in Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, Gröbern
Gröbern is a village and a former municipality in the district of Anhalt-Bitterfeld, in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. Since 1 January 2010, it is part of the municipality Muldestausee....

 and Ehringsdorf in Germany.

Dwarfed descendants

Elephants presumably derived from the Straight-tusked Elephant are described from many Mediterranean islands, where they evolved into dwarfed elephants
Dwarf elephant
Dwarf elephants are prehistoric members of the order Proboscidea, that, through the process of allopatric speciation, evolved to a fraction of the size of their immediate ancestors...

. The responsible factors for the dwarfing of island mammals
Insular dwarfism
Insular dwarfism, a form of phyletic dwarfism, is the process and condition of the reduction in size of large animals – typically mammals – when their population's range is limited to a small environment, primarily islands. This natural process is distinct from the intentional creation of dwarf...

 are thought to be the reduction in food availability, predation and competition.

External links

Japanese Wiki article concerning the E. namadicus naumannni :ja:%E3%83%8A%E3%82%A6%E3%83%9E%E3%83%B3%E3%82%BE%E3%82%A6
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