General, Research, Technology

What elephants lived 300,000 years ago and why did they die out?

Elephants are considered the largest landanimals on Earth, whose height reaches 3 meters, and body weight - 6 tons. Throughout the history of our planet, there were dozens of species of elephants, however, over time, only savannahs, Asians, and forests remained. All other species, such as mammoths, disappeared under the influence of climate change or were simply destroyed by ancient people. About 300,000 years ago, huge straight-tusk elephants (Palaeoloxodon antiquus) lived on our planet and scientists believed that they were a particularly valuable object of hunting for our ancestors, which is why they died out over time. But a new find made them doubt that ancient people could hunt giant animals.

Reconstruction of straight-tusk elephants (Palaeoloxodon antiquus)

An ancient elephant found in Germany

The remains of straight-tusk elephants are found veryrarely and most often these are tusks that have barely survived to this day. But recently, paleontologists from the University of Tübingen were fortunate, and during excavations near the German city of Scheningen, they managed to find the well-preserved skeleton of an elephant who lived 300,000 years ago. Once upon a time, she died on the western shore of a local lake and her remains lay for thousands of years in a watery area.

Three-dimensional image of the discovered remains

According to the head of the research team, Jordi Serangeli,they managed to unearth 2.3-meter tusks, the remains of the spine and ribs, the bones of three huge legs and even fragments of bones located under the tongue of the animal. After studying the remains, scientists came to the conclusion that the height of the ancient elephant reached 3.2 meters, and body weight reached 6.8 tons. The condition of the bones clearly hinted that at the time of death the elephant was very weak and rather died of old age than at the hands of ancient people.

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And during the life of this elephant on the territorypresent-day Germany was inhabited by representatives of the species of Heidelberg man (Homo heidelbergensis). This is an intermediate view between bipedal people and Neanderthals - their growth did not exceed 1.5 meters, but they were already experienced hunters. However, scientists are not sure that ancient people endangered themselves by trying to kill as large animals as elephants on their own.

The discovery of a dead elephant by ancient people in the artist's view

And the thing is that in those days they could alreadynotice that old elephants often come to water bodies and die only there. According to researcher Ivo Verheyen, signs were found on the bones of an ancient elephant that someone was cutting meat, tendons and fat. They also noticed bite marks - most likely, when our ancestors grabbed the meat of the animal, the corpse was eaten up by predators. And in those days, a variety of animals could live in the vicinity of the lake: lions, rhinos and even saber-toothed tigers.

The most mysterious extinct elephant

Scientists noted that they did not set themselvesthe goal is to completely eliminate the likelihood of ancient people hunting elephants. But large animals usually lived in herds of 15 individuals and ate vegetation. Judging by the numerous tracks around the elephant’s spot, many representatives of its species lived near Lake Schöningen. According to researcher Flavio Altamura, the diameter of some tracks reached 60 centimeters. Given the huge size of elephants, scientists began to doubt that our ancestors dared to hunt them. On the other hand, did they hunt giant mammoths? Why not hunt for 3 meter giants?

Ancient people hunted giant mammoths, so why not hunt elephants?

Perhaps in this particular casethe elephant died for natural reasons. But in many other cases, straight-tailed elephants were clearly killed by ancient people. At least this is evidenced by the remains found in 1948 near the German city of Leringen. It was there that the skeleton of an ancient elephant was found, between the ribs of which the remains of a hunting spear were found. And in 2006, scientists discovered a 600-year-old skeleton of an elephant, next to which lay flint tools.

See also: Elephants began to gather in the "gang" and kill people

So, doubts of scientists from TübingenUniversity are hardly justified. The death of elephants who lived 300,000 years ago is clearly more to blame for the ancients than the climate. Moreover, during the life of the straight-tusk elephants, the climate of the planet was similar to the current one. Over 2 million years, severe cooling took place, but they caused the extinction of other species of ancient elephants.

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On the theme of ancient elephants, I advise you to readmaterial about mammoths extinct 11,000 years ago. Recently, scientists managed to resurrect the genes of these ancient giants - perhaps further research will help them identify the exact causes of the extinction of the ancestors of modern elephants.