First ever DNA extracted from remains of elephant on Sicily!

While Sicily is the largest island lying in the Mediterranean, it is less than 10,000 square miles, and as such it is quite amazing to find that Sicily played host to two different species of elephant in the last few hundred thousand years.

This image shows quite how small the smallest dwarf elephant was

Due to the small island size, on both occasions the elephant miniaturised! Around the world, it has been shown that when animals find themselves isolated on an island often they either get bigger or smaller (depending on various factors).

In the case of the Sicilian elephant they got smaller, and this happened to an incredible degree. One of these elephants lost 8000kg of its size to become one of the most smallest elephants ever to live on earth. Oddly, they developed from one of the biggest elephants to ever walk the earth : the straight-tusked elephant which could grow up to 4.5m tall and weigh as much as 14 tonnes. To put it in perspective, a straight tusked elephant could have comfortably rested its chin on the largest African elephant now alive.

What is even more incredible is that it took only 40 generations for this to occur. As an elephant generation is around 25 years, this mean that in 1 millennia, One of these miniature elephants was amazingly small. it was only 1m tall and weighed around 300kg the size of a Shetland pony. The second miniature elephant species was bigger at 2m tall and weighing about 1000kg though this would still be dwarfed by current African elephants which stand over 3m tall

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

See Animals Wild