Straight-Tusked Elephant (Elephas Antiquus)

straight-tusked elephant
The Straight-Tusked Elephant (Wikimedia Commons).

Name:

Straight-Tusked Elephant; also known as Palaeoloxodon and Elephas antiquus

Habitat:

Plains of western Europe

Historical Epoch:

Middle-Late Pleistocene (1 million-50,000 years ago)

Size and Weight:

About 12 feet tall and 2-3 tons

Diet:

Plants

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Large size; long, slightly curved tusks

 

About the Straight-Tusked Elephant

Understanding the Straight-Tusked Elephant requires a quick primer in modern elephant classification.

Living elephants are represented by two genera, Loxodonta and Elephas; the former comprises two species (Loxodonta africana and Loxodonta cyclotis) of African elephants, while the latter contains but a single species: Elephas maximus, the Asian elephant. Long story short, most paleontologists consider the Straight-Tusked Elephant to be an extinct species of Elephas, Elephas antiquus, though some assign it to its own genus, Palaeoloxodon antiquus. As if that's not confusing enough, this prehistoric relative of the Asian elephant was native to western Europe!

Classification issues aside, the Straight-Tusked Elephant was one of the largest pachyderms of the Pleistocene epoch, standing 12 feet tall and weighing in the neighborhood of two to three tons. As you might expect given its name, this elephant's most distinctive trait was its exceptionally long, slightly curving tusks, which it used along with its unusually long tongue and trunk to strip the leaves off trees.

Judging by fossil remains, the Straight-Tusked Elephant roamed the European plains in smallish herds of a dozen or so individuals, and was eventually out-competed in its increasingly frigid ecosystem by the well-insulated Woolly Mammoth. (By the way, some experts believe it was the Straight-Tusked Elephant that spawned the Dwarf Elephants of the Mediterranean basin.)

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Strauss, Bob. "Straight-Tusked Elephant (Elephas Antiquus)." ThoughtCo, Jan. 24, 2017, thoughtco.com/straight-tusked-elephant-elephas-antiquus-1093149. Strauss, Bob. (2017, January 24). Straight-Tusked Elephant (Elephas Antiquus). Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/straight-tusked-elephant-elephas-antiquus-1093149 Strauss, Bob. "Straight-Tusked Elephant (Elephas Antiquus)." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/straight-tusked-elephant-elephas-antiquus-1093149 (accessed May 26, 2018).