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Huge Fossil Elephant Tusks From Greece

April 17, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 248

Giant Prehistoric Elephant Tusks Discovered in Greece

Greece may have its economic woes but it does have a rich geology and palaeontologists have discovered the remains of a number of prehistoric animals including the tusks of a giant prehistoric elephant.Although the country is not known for its dinosaur fossils, most of the exposed strata is too young to contain fossils of dinosaurs, there are a number of prehistoric mammal fossil sites.Recently, palaeontologists discovered the fossilised remains of the tusks from a giant, prehistoric elephant.Such items could have inspired the ancient Greeks to come up with tales of Gods and monsters.When viewed from the front, the skull of an elephant with its massive nasal opening, gives the impression of a one-eyed monster.Could this be the inspiration behind the stories of a one-eyed giant known as the Cyclops?

Dutch and Greek Scientists Excavate Fossil Elephant Tusks

Two enormous prehistoric tusks have been unearthed by a joint Dutch and Greek research team from a dig site in northern Greece.One of the tusks, believed to belong to a type of Mastodon (primitive elephant) is five metres long.As a comparison, the tusks of a large Imperial Mammoth (Mammuthus imperator) were up to four and a half metres in length, although they were much more curved compared to tusks uncovered in Greece.

The Mastodon remains, which include limb bones, teeth and jaw bones have been excavated from a sand quarry near the village of Milia about two hundred and fifty miles north of Athens,the capital city of Greece.The larger of the tusks probably belonged to a male and that stood over three and a half metres at the shoulder and could have weighed in excess of five tonnes, making this animal about the size of a modern, African elephant.A number of other prehistoric mammal remains have been excavated and these latest finds have been dated to the end of the Pliocene epoch, making them approximately two and a half million years old.

Excellent State of Fossil Preservation

The excellent state of preservation has permitted the research team to speculate that they may be able to study the annual growth rings laid down in the tusk enamel.This would provide a valuable insight into the seasonality of the climate in Greece around this time.When sliced in two, a tusk, even a fossilised one can reveal a lot of data to palaeontologists.Although the technique is very destructive, resulting in a fossil being effectively sliced in two, it can be worth it if a lot of important data is revealed.When carefully polished, the sliced tusk can provide information about how old the animal was when it died, the width of growth rings, can provide information on seasons and climate.Wide rings indicate rapid growth, likely to coincide with warmer weather such as spring or summer when vegetation was plentiful.The rings can be clearly seen when held under an ultra-violet light.Although the fossil material is damaged during this process, the data retrieved from a careful study can tell palaeontologists a lot about the elephant as well as the climate and the environment in which the prehistoric animal lived.

Giant Prehistoric Elephants - Mastodons

Mastodons roamed extensively across Europe, Asia and North America but began to decline at the end of the Pliocene epoch with the last of the Mastodons surviving in North America into the end of the Pleistocene (10,000 years ago).Such well- preserved tusks are an important find, given their excellent condition the growth rings from the tusks plus micro fossils such as plant remains and pollen may provide a detailed picture of the climate at the time when these huge elephants roamed the Mediterranean.

The Legend of the Cyclops

There have been many prehistoric elephant remains found in Greece and on the Greek islands.It is thought that the legend of the one-eyed monster called the Cyclops came from the misinterpretation of extinct elephant remains by the ancient Greeks.The large nasal space in the centre of an elephant's skull (the part where the fleshy trunk would be attached) may have given rise to the myth of the one-eyed monster.

Certainly, many elephant skulls have been found in this region, with many scientists speculating that it was the discovery of a relatively dwarf species of extinct elephant on Crete that marks the starting point of the Cyclops legend.

It is hoped that more fossil elephant remains will be found at the dig site and as the scientists and researchers carefully excavate in the quarry they hope to produce enough fossil material to be able to have enough fossil bones to permit an exhibit about this new discovery to be erected at a nearby natural history museum.

Everything Dinosaur is a company run by parents, teachers and real dinosaur experts. It specialises in developing educational dinosaur toys, models, clothing and games and strives to help young people learn more about science through their fascination with prehistoric animals. Many of the items featured on the Everything Dinosaur website http://everythingdinosaur.com/ have been designed and tested by the teachers and real dinosaur experts in the company.

To learn more about the products and services we offer at Everything Dinosaur click on our website links.

Our aim is to help young people learn more about Earth sciences through their fascination with dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals. Team members are happy to provide advice and support supplying free quizzes, drawing materials, puzzles, games even recipes for dinosaur themed biscuits and birthday cakes. With something like 600 products on line including dinosaur party supplies, Everything Dinosaur http://everythingdinosaur.com/ has built up a strong reputation assisting parents, guardians and fellow teachers, helping young people to learn more about science through creative play.

Source: EzineArticles
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