The Evolution of Elephants
Updated: Aug 27
Disclaimer: Although this is not backed by an expert in conversation, however the references are cited below and you can always read them as well as the concise version of the studies at the bottom of the blog.
Do you know that humans and elephants actually share the same ancestor? The same ancestor in the lineage line that goes back at least 50- 60 million years ago, so like a seriously ancient ancestor. Yet, we turned out to be punt, except maybe those who make the NBA team and in elephants even their baby is bigger than most human adult women.
But other than our ancestral line, there are a few other characteristics that we share. Like using tool, while humans evolved to make tools out of melting metal, elephants evolved to learn how to use naturally available objects as tools such as tree trunks. Both Humans and Elephants are known to get intoxicated, on which note you should try Amrula (it is not a paid promotion, but it is tasty), it’s made out of African fruits that elephants consume to get intoxicated and above all they share a sort of similar grievance process over death and loss of member of the group.
The major location of their evolution can be marked in Africa. That is where the first elephant was seen. From there elephants moved across the landmass. According to Scientific jibber jabber the elephants belong to the Order Proboscidea and interestingly their closest water relatives are the manatee.
To understand the lineage of elephants I have one last thing to explain that is the Genus in its simplest terms refers to species of the elephants. According to genetic analysis there are only 2 known species of Elephants: Elepha Maximum or commonly known as Asian
Elephants and Loxodonta commonly known as African Elephants, because calling them just that was not okay.
Now that our basics is clear, lets move on to the evolution of the mighty elephants.
Like I mentioned before, the evidence of the first appearance of elephants was found in Africa. However, even with that fact in mind it is interesting to note that the first ancestor of the elephants was actually pretty much the size of a modern-day pig. There are fossils of about 300 species of elephant ancestors that have come and gone before the entering of our might headed, strongly built elephants which covers about 300 million years. One of the major contributors however to the evolution of elephants seem to be climate change and the survival of the fittest theory. Although it is a working theory and is still being tested out for its scientific possibility, it does contribute to my story so I shall consider it.
We will travel all the way back to the time when the African continent collided into the Asia continent around 200 million years ago. The African landmass was populated at the time by the Palaeoloxodon Recki, the ancient ancestor of Elephants, but after the collation there were a number of species that entered Africa through Asia, including ancestors of the modern-day Lion. The invasive species were both predators and prey. At this point the elephants had started moving away from African mainland where they evolved into the next in the kin line of predecessors the Paleoloxodon Antiquus, they had straight tusked elephants, they are said to be extinct for 120,
If you noticed something in the start, Loxodon was used for African Elephants, now how is that they are they are the ancestors for Asian Elephants too, this answer may lie with a DNA study that indicated that Antiquus DNA is a mixture of a lot of different DNA out which it maybe possible that the Asian elephants DNA may have become the one picked up over the other strands, which could have happened during interbreeding. After that there are a lot of inbetweeners that I skipped.
Now, the amount of science we went through today, is only to explain the relation between 2 species of African Elephants and Asian Elephants. Another interesting factoid is that they don’t even share the same genetics.
Now, before I get torched to death for such a complicated article, let’s sum it up. Since I have only established the connection between the two species, down below is how they evolved over the time period, to become the magnificently huge creatures they are today.
If you want to know more about elephants and how they were protrayed in various mythology and how we humans maybe contributing to the steady decline in their population due to ivory trade markets, listen to our podcast: The Legends of Fauna- The Tales of Elephants.
If you really want to know more about Elepant Evolution, leave a comment here and I will do my best to find an expert.