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Elephant Evolution by Tanner Maddox
Project Name : Elephant Evolution by Tanner Maddox
Description : Tanner Maddox Spring Research Paper on the Evolution of Elephants
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The Evolution of Elephants
The past of an elephant is very interesting. Their evolution ladder is one almost as interesting as the human evolution ladder. Elephants even resemble humans with their big brains and their extensive lives (Goodman et al 2011,1). They have the bigger brains than any other land animal. Asian elephants have average brains masses of 5.5 kg and African ones average 6.5 kg (Goodman et al 2011,2). They had to take many steps to get where they are today, though. Elephants have gradually evolved over time.

Research shows that elephants have an aquatic past. Their ancestors used to live in a water environment. The ancient animal is called a Moeritherium. Its teeth has evidence that shows that it used to live in river systems and swamps. Scientists infer this because their teeth shows that they ate freshwater plants (Handwerk 2008,1). Alexander Liu, from Oxford University's department of earth sciences says that the Moeritherium lived about 37 million years ago. This is a long time after the genetic lineages split between elephants and sirenians. Elephants today and their ancestry also share common ancestors with manatees and dugongs along with the water mammals called sirenians (Handwerk 2008,2).

Although it is an elephant ancestor, the Moeritherium did not resemble the elephant we think of today. It was about the size of a tapir, at shoulder height it was between 29 and 42 inches tall. Also, instead of a trunk, it had a prehensile upper lip. This means that it used its upper lip to grasp things by wrapping around it. The Moeritherium's teeth were dug up in northern Egypt's Faiyum region. In the time that this animal lived, this area was a shallow estuary, or coastal system. This means that it was the wide mouth of a river (Handwerk 2008,3). The fossils were found in rock that suggested is was from a swamp or river environment. The scientists are not too sure though, because the possibilty of the Moeritherium fossils washing up there after they died somewhere else (Handwerk 2008,4). The teeth of the fossil of the Moeritherium helped out significantly in trying to find out its history (Handwerk 2008,5).
The elephant trunk is a very special feature. It is strong, mobile, sensitive, and elephants can use it to grasp things with it. It also seems to be a different animal on the elephants body because how it moves independently. The trunk has certainly helped out elephants and their ancestors a lot. All animals with trunks are called proboscideans, or trunk bearers. The trunk has helped the mammals adapt to strange environments that they encountered and use it for special things. Fossils of proboscideans have been found on all the continents on our planet, but not including Australia and Antarctica. This shows that the trunk bearers have lived in diverse places. These include lake shores, marshes, swamps, savannas, deserts, and mountains.

At the present time, there are only two proboscidean species alive. One of them is the African elephant (Loxodonta africana) and it is found in Sub-Saharan forests and grasslands. The other one is the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) and it is found in mixed habitat zones in Sri Lanka, India, and parts of Southeast Asia (Hans 2007,1).

The name 'elephant' was derived from the Greek word 'elephas' which means ivory. The name is referring to the long, ivory tusks that elephants have. Elephants are from the Elephantidae family. These amazing large mammals are studied in three different species now a days. These include the African Wild or Bush, African Forest, and the Asian elephant. Studies show that there were also more related species in the past, but they all became extinct during the last ice age. Mammoths lived up to 2,000 BC, from what fossil findings show. Before, the gigantic mammals known as mammoths were under the Pachydermata order because of their thick skin, but now they are classified as a part of Proboscidea order because of their trunks (Borade 2011,1).

The study of the ancient Eocene starts off the study of the evolution of elephants. According to gene comparisons, Sirenians and Hyraxes have a linked ancestry with elephants. Research showed that hyrax family were made up of amphibious hyracoids that grew to very big sizes. There is also a theory that early on, mammals spent most of their life underwater, and they used their trunks as snorkels for oxygen. This would make sense because the trunk size would grow to allow a greater depth in water that mammals could go. Modern elephants could swim in water for up to 6 hours, so the arguement suffices (Borade 2011,2).

The fossils of Moeritheriums that were dug up in Egypt in 1904, show the stage of evolution of elephants with large incisors, or tusks, and a lifestyle like a modern hippo. Due to the elongated nose and enlarged incisors of elephants, they are believed to be from the paleomastodon and gomphothere families (Borade 2011,3). It is a popular idea that mammoths and mastodons are related, but it is not true. Mastodons have heavier frames and flatter skulls than the mammoths. It is also confusing because both species inhabited the same areas as each other.

The highest species on the ladder of the evolution of elephants is the Primelphas. It is the oldest ancestor of the Elephantidae family, which was on this planet about 7 million years ago. The species ladder seemed to split at the Primelphas, while the Loxodonta became today's African elephants, the Elephas evolved into modern Asian elephants (Borade 2011,4). Although the elephants are known for their wisdom and memory and they are big parts of cultures across the world, the elephants take a big toll on their environment (Borade 2011,5).

Due to Hollywood movies over the last century, it is a popular belief that mammoths, mastodons, and other ancient elephants lived with the dinosaurs. This is false. The mammoths, mastodons, and other ancient elephants evolved from a mouse-sized mammal that survived the K/T Extinction that happened 65 million years ago. It was not until 5 million years after the dinosaurs went extinct that the first mammal that resembled an elephant appeared (Strauss 2011,1). That mammal was a  Phosphatherium, a small pig-like animal that, 60 million years ago, appeared in Africa. The Phosphatherium is the first known proboscid. This means that it was the first mammal to be classified for their long, flexible noses. They lived like a hippo. Because we know that elephants' tusks evolved from incisors, not canines, the Phosphatherium's teeth fit right in (Strauss 2011,2).

The two more famous proboscids after the Phosphatherium were the Phiomia and the Moeritherium. They lived in African swamps and woodlands about 30 to 37 million years ago. The more known is the Moeritherium, and it had a prehensile upper lip, a snout, and extended canines, which are considered rudimentary tusks. The Moeritherium spent most of its time floating around in swamps, like a small hippo. The Phiomia was more like an elephant, because it ate land plants instead of marine plants, and it weighed a half ton (Strauss 2011,3).

About 25 million years after dinosaurs ceased to exist, the first proboscids appeared that was actually like an ancient elephant. The most important of the proboscids was the gomphotheres ("bolted mammals"). The most impressive, though, was the deinotheres, or deinotherium ("terrible mammal"). The gomphotheres were important in the evolution of elephants, but the deinotherium were one of the biggest mammals to ever exist on earth. They weighed 10 tons, and had downward curving tusks, they may have influenced tales of "giants" because it survived into the ice age (Strauss 2011,4).

Although the deinotheres were scary, the gomphotheres were the real action in the branch of the evolution of elephants. Their name was coined from their "shovel" like tusks that they used to dig in soft swampy ground, trying to find vegetation. The genus Gomphotherium was very widespread between 15 and 5 million years ago. They were in North America, Africa, and Eurasia. There was also two distinct species of gomphotheres in that era, Amebelodon ("shovel tusk") and Platybelodon ("flat tusk"). They had very specialized tusks, and when the rivers and lakebeds dried up where they dug up for food, they also ceased to exist (Strauss 2011,5).

There is a very confusing problem in natural history that is mind-boggling. This problem is the difference between mastodons and mammoths. They even have similar names. The mastodon's genus name is mammut, while the mammoth's is mamthus. These names are alike because they are both from the greek root meaning "earth burrower". The mastodons are more ancient than the mammoths, though, they evolved from gomphotheres 20 million years ago. The mastodons were also slightly smaller and bulkier, and had flatter skulls than mammoths. The most important difference, though, is that the mastodons had teeth that were specialized for grinding leaves of plants, while mammoths had ones to graze on grass (Strauss 2011,6). Mammoths showed up in the fossil record about 2 million years ago, so they are much younger than mastodons. They also lived well into the last ice age, like the mastodons. The North American Mastodon had a thick fur coat, which adds to the confusion since mammoths are known for that. Mammoths had fat humps on their necks and were larger and more widespread than mastodons. The best known mammoth of all time is the Wooly Mammoth. Entire bodies of Wooly Mammoths have been found in arctic permafrost in blocks of ice. It might even be possible in the future for scientists to make clone of a Wooly Mammoth in the womb of an elephant (Strauss 2011,7).

Although there are many important differences between mammoths and mastodons, there is also an important similarity. This similarity is that they both lived into historic times, about as late as 10,000 to 4,000 BC. They were also hunted to extinction by early humans (Strauss 2011,8).

 Obviously, elephants' pasts are very interesting. They had many ancestors that took one step at a time to get where the modern elephant is today. The ancient elephants used to even be aquatic animals, so that shows you the power of evolution because now elephants are a prime example of a terrestrial mammal. They also used to be mouse-sized mammals during the era of the dinosaurs. Although it took many million of years, the end of the chain is now here, or is it?
Allen, W. R. "Ovulation, Pregnancy, Placentation and Husbandry in the African Elephant
(Loxodonta Africana)." Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.
Web. 01 May 2011. <>.

Borade, Gaynor. "Evolution of Elephants." Buzzle Web Portal: Intelligent Life on the Web. Web.
Apr. 2011. <>.

Brenner Et Al, Sydney. HiWire. Web. <

Goodman, Morris, Kirsten Sterner, and Munirul Islam Et Al. "Phylogenomic Analyses Reveal
Convergent Patterns of Adaptive Evolution in Elephant and Human Ancestries." Proceedings
of the National Academy of Sciences
. Web. 01 May 2011. <

Handwerk, Brian. "Ancient Elephant Ancestor Lived in Water, Study Finds." Daily Nature and Science
News and Headlines | National Geographic News
. 14 Apr. 2008. Web. Apr. 2011.

Hans. "Evolution and Use of Elephant Trunks." ATE. 19 July 2007. Web. Apr. 2011.

Strauss, Bob. "Elephant Evolution - The Story of Prehistoric Elephants and Elephant Evolution."
Dinosaurs - Types, Behavior and Evolution of Dinosaurs. Web. Apr. 2011.

Vidya Et Al, TN C. "Range-wide MtDNA Phylogeography Yields Insights into the Origins of
Asian Elephants." Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. Web. 01 May
2011. <>.
File Type File Name Attachment Description
Elephant Evolution
elephant evolution 2

Please provide constructive feedback/notes.
Tanner, the 3rd or 4th time was the charm.  It was REALLY annoying that you made it one long paragraph, but I went through, edited it, and now if you add pictures, it's ready to publish.  Quite interesting.  You really are a good writer (EXCEPT FOR PARAGRAPHS NOT BEING USED).

GRADING RUBRIC - Click field to toggle color and assign grade. Start top to bottom - go in order. Proper grade wont be calculated until all fields are entered.
Sections Description of grading points         % of Grade Input
Title 0% 65 75 85 100    
Title 2% not present There is a title but not descriptive? Title is very bland and somewhat conveys what the paper is about Title is descriptive of what the paper is about Title is catchy & descriptive of what the paper is about 2 85 1.7
Intro 8% not present Topic Introduction has nothing of interest. The topic is introduced. Topic is introduced in a somewhat interesting way Introduces topic in a catchy way & previews all findings sections 2.67 85 2.27
not present Few main topics are mentioned Some main topics are introduced Most main topics are introduced All main topics of the paper are introduced 2.67 75 2
not present Intro is really not long enough to be a REAL intro One paragraph with 4 or 5 sentences One paragraph with 6 or 7 sentences One paragraph with 8 to 10 sentences 2.67 85 2.27
* (Parenthetical references are not required in this section if the points are going to be made again in the "Findings" section. If you use an attention grabbing introductory point that is not going to be used again, then it needs a parenthetical reference.)         Title and Intro out of 10 8.2
Findings 40% 0% 65 75 85 100    
findings 1 not present Information content is well short of covering the topic Information content is not adequate to cover the topic Information content is almost adequate to cover the topic Scientific background appropriate to the topic is clearly and accurately presented. 10 100 10
findings 2 not present Examples and facts are inadequate to convey depth and breadth of topic. Examples and facts are somewhat inadequate. Examples, facts, and details mostly convey depth and breadth of topic. Precise examples, facts and details convey both the depth and breadth of the topic. 10 100 10
findings 3 not present The topic is not adequately researched and includes 1 primary source. The topic is researched and somewhat integrates a variety of sources that include 2 primary sources The topic is researched and integrates a variety of sources that include 3 primary sources The topic is thoroughly researched and integrates a variety of sources that include 4 primary sources 10 100 10
findings 4 not present Scientific vocabulary is not well defined and is used in a way that shows minimal understanding of the concepts Some scientific vocab is defined and used in a way that shows some understanding of concepts Most scientific vocab is appropriately define and used in a way that mostly shows an understanding of the concepts Scientific vocabulary is appropriately defined and used in a way that shows an understanding of the concepts. 10 100 10
Findings content adustments % of Grade 100% from findings 35% from findings 25% from findings 15% from findings 0% from findings   findings total/40 40
Findings content adustments 1 parenthetical references are not used minimal information is tied to literature cited with parenthetical references Some info in this section is tied to the lit cited with parenthetical references Most info in this section is tied to the lit cited with correct references ALL information in the findings section is tied to the lit cited   100 0
Findings content adustments 2 parenthetical references are not used Many references do not have the requested information Some references have requested information Most references have requested information with few exceptions ALL references have (Author's last name Year, & anchor #) linked to the web documents source   100 0
Findings content adustments 3 parenthetical references are not used Very little of the paper is in your voice Some of the paper is in your voice Most of the paper is in your voice ALL of the paper is in your voice. Minimal plagiarism is found. Quotations are used for statements that are not paraphrased.   100 0
Conclusions 0% 65 75 85 100      
Conclusions 1 not present Information content is well short of covering the topic Information content is not adequate to cover the topic Information content is almost adequate to cover the topic Summarized all sections to remind readers of paper's main points 10 100 10
Conclusions 2 not present You last statement did not seem very thoughtful or bring closure. I'm left wondering if there is another page? Your last statement seemed weak but it did bring closure. You make an adequate statement to bring the paper to a close. You make a thought provoking statement to bring closure to the paper. 10 100 10
Mechanics and Organization 0% 65 75 85 100      
Mechanics Org 1 not present GRAMMAR usage was a problem throughout Some GRAMMAR errors Very few GRAMMAR errors No apparent GRAMMAR errors 7.5 85 6.38
Mechanics Org 2 not present ORGANIZATION: Sentence structure was choppy and hard to read. ORGANIZATION: Some sentence structure was a problem ORGANIZATION: Very few problems with sentence structure and smotthness ORGANIZATION: This read very smoothly because of proper sentence structure and flow of thoughts 7.5 85 6.38
Mechanics Org 3 not present ORGANIZATION: Sources are choppily pieced together in chunks on source at a time ORGANIZATION: Sources are not very smoothly inegrated ORGANIZATION: Sources are somewhat integrated into a coherent flow ORANIZATION: Sources are smoothly integrated into a coherent flow 7.5 100 7.5
Mechanics Org 4 not present SPELLING and PUNCTUATION were a problem throughout Some SPELLING & PUNCTUATION errors Very few SPELLING & PUNCTUATION errors No apparent SPELLING & PUNCTUATION errors 7.5 85 6.38
  Mechanics & Organization Total 26.639999999999997
  Paper Subtotal 94.84
Literature Cited

Number of authored Sources in bibliography (8 required) -Please list your sources that you used in your "Findings" section. They should be in alphabetical order by the author's last name (CSE style guide).

-8 authored sources minimum. No anonymous sources accepted as "the 8 " (sources must have a human author with a last name). Anonymous sources can be used, but not included in "the 8." In other words, if you used 2 anonymous sources, you would need 10 total. -contains at least 4 primary resources (scientific journals) IF YOU HAVE 4 OUT OF 8 REQUIRED SOURCES, THEN YOUR MAX GRADE IS 50%

Web Documents -copies of the sources need to be made into a web document on - text highlighted (one color if it pertains, another color if actually used) if it is used -Your web document need anchors so that the text of your res. paper can be linked to its exact source. Percent Deduction
Word Length The paper (findings) must be between 1800 & 2400. If you write 900 words your grade will be 50% maximum with a 1/2 deduction. If you write 1200 words your grade will be 67% maximum with a 1/3 deduction. If you write 1500 words your grade will be 83% maximum with a 1/6 deduction. Number of words
Font and Size 12 point font Arial (0 given for other fonts or sizes)

Point Deduction

  Grade % 90.84
Grade out of 300 284.52
Extra Credit
Final Grade 284.52
91 %