...a blog by Richard Flowers

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Day 2396: Evolution of the Elephants – Let's See Those TEETH!


Scientists working on my episode of "Who Do You Think You Are" have traced my FAMILY TREE.

We have discovered some exciting and interesting facts: AFRICAN elephants and ASIAN elephants are, as you all know, all descended from a COMMON GRANDPA elephant, but apparently their nearest common ancestor – "Gramps" – must have lived something like seven-and-a-half MILLION years ago!

This is at least TWICE as long ago as when you humans' monkey-esque ancestor Australopithecus afarensis is thought to have evolved. In fact, it is about that time that the common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees was living in the African jungle trees.

Which just goes to show what a GREAT and NOBLE family I come from!

Even more interesting, this article seems to suggest that Asian elephants are more closely related to FLUFFY MAMMOTHS than they are to African elephants!

(By "more closely related", evolutionary biologists – like my CHUM Professor Richard – mean "have an ancestor in common more recently". For example, humans and chimpanzees and bonobos all have an ancestor in common, but chimpanzees and bonobos have a more recent common great-great-great-etc-great-grandparent so they are more closely related to each other than they are to you!)

Mammoths were in fact NOT mammoth, but about the size of Asian elephants, so African elephants are BIGGER. Also, according to their genes, Mammoths could be brunette or even BLONDE!

I myself am of course a PLATINUM BLONDE as my many pictures show!

Only recently I was REALLY UPSET to read about a FROZEN fluffy baby mammoth who was discovered in SIBERIA!

The mammoths lived through the last ICE AGE and are thought to have survived until about five thousand years ago.

And they could have lasted even longer if your MURDEROUS ancestors hadn't EATEN THEM ALL! Yes, I have seen "Walking with Beasts"! I hope you are all PROUD of yourselves!

Still, at least SOME scientists seem to be tying to make up for this by trying to CLONE new Mammoths using FROZEN DNA. While in Russia there have been attempts to recreate the Mammoths habitat by turning part of Siberia into a "Pleistocene Park" (which is like "Jurassic Park" but with cuddly mammals instead of BERSERK DINOSAURS!)

A much more distant relative – although apparently ALSO ON THE MENU! – is the giant MASTODON, like this one that archaeologists have just dug up in Northern Greece.

This kindly, harmless herbivore with the most SPECTACULAR tuskage to be seen in the animal kingdom apparently lived between five million and ten thousand years ago… and was SERVED WITH A GOATS'-CHEESE AND YOGHURT SALAD!

Elephants clearly need some LOOKING AFTER.

So here is a NICE STORY about the Earth's largest living land animal – it is BRIAN BLESSED visiting the Millennium Elephant Sanctuary in Sri Lanka.

(You remember: the one that now comes second to my Very Fluffy Diary in Google Searches!)

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