Monday, 16 July 2012

Another "dwaergelefant", Specimen 2981

Lars Thomas of the University of Copenhagen kindly sent me a bunch of photos he'd taken for me of the other "dwaergelefant" (Danish for "dwarf elephant") from the University's museum, shot in South Cameroon in 1955. This is the skull of Specimen 2981, a female. The Stanley knife in front of it is 15cm long. The other one (see below) is Specimen 2980, which had milk in its teats. Lars felt that, based on the position and wear on the teeth - elephants' teeth come out at different points in their jaw during their lifetime, making dentition a better guide to their age than size - they were very small adults. I forwarded some photos of Specimen 2980 to the expert of fossil elephants, especially mammoths, Prof. Adrian Lister of the Natural History Museum, London, who's also very knowledgeable indeed on living elephants. Based on some calculations my mathematician colleague did on the size of the skull, using the 15cm-long Stanley knife as a guide, Prof. Lister felt that Specimen 2980 was within the range of the size a forest elephant could be. He also felt - based on the photographs and what he could see in them - Specimen 2980 could be as young as 20 years old, which wouldn't make it fully grown anyway. Prof. Lister emphasised that this was just an initial view based on looking at a couple of photographs only. There's more in the book Pygmy Elephants, due out in December from CFZ Press.

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