All about dinosaurs, fossils and prehistoric animals by Everything Dinosaur team members.
4 01, 2016

Ancient Elephants on the Isle of Wight

By | January 4th, 2016|General Teaching, Key Stage 3/4|Comments Off on Ancient Elephants on the Isle of Wight

Prehistoric Elephants Once Roamed the Isle of Wight

Giant prehistoric elephants once roamed the Isle of Wight.  Palaeontologists know this thanks to eagle-eyed local resident Paul Hollingshead who spotted a large bone whilst exploring a beach on the western side of the island during an exceptionally low Spring tide.  Mr Hollingshead spotted a brown coloured object sticking out of the sand, he hoped he had found a dinosaur bone, but the fossil is actually part of a scapula (shoulder bone) from a prehistoric elephant identified as Palaeoloxodon antiquus.

A Fantastic Fossil Find

Mr Hollingshead and Family Show Off the Fossil 

Isle of Wight prehistoric elephant fossil discovery.

Paul and his family show off their fossil find behind an Iguanodon exhibit.

The fossil has been dated to around 100,000 years ago.  During this time, our planet was warming up after the previous Ice Age.  Average annual temperatures were around three degrees Celsius higher in the northern hemisphere than they are today.  In this interglacial period (referred to as the Ipswichian in the UK, or the Sangamonian in the United States), elephants and other animals now associated with Africa roamed as far north as Great Britain.

Prehistoric Elephants

Palaeoloxodon antiquus was about the size of a modern African elephant, unlike the much better known Woolly Mammoth, the Palaeoloxodon elephants had straight-tusks.  The only people who might have seen this prehistoric elephant 100,000 years ago were probably Neanderthals.  Although our species, Homo sapiens had evolved by then, the fossil record suggests that the earliest modern people in Europe did not arrive until some 40,000 years later.

The Eofauna Scientific Research range includes several models of prehistoric elephants.  To view this  range of models and figures: Eofauna Scientific Research Models.

4 01, 2016

Prehistoric Elephants Roamed the Isle of Wight

By | January 4th, 2016|Dinosaur and Prehistoric Animal News Stories, Dinosaur Fans, Main Page|0 Comments

Beachcomber Finds Prehistoric Elephant Shoulder Bone

An exceptionally low tide and a sharp-eyed beachcomber combined to permit another addition to be made to the prehistoric fauna of the Isle of Wight.  This small island off England’s southern coast, might be nick-named “the dinosaur fossil capital of Great Britain”, thanks to the wonderful, Early Cretaceous dinosaur fossil finds that have been made, but this new fossil represents a much more recent resident.

Prehistoric Elephant

Paul Hollingshead was exploring the rocks and sand ledges exposed by a really low tide back in March 2015, when he noticed a strange brown object partially sticking out of the mud.  He had been hoping to pick up some old fishing leads that he could melt down and recycle, but instead he thought he had stumbled upon the bone from a dinosaur.

Paul Hollingshead with his Children and the Prehistoric Elephant Fossil

Paul and his family show off their fossil find behind an Iguanodon exhibit.

Paul and his family show off their fossil find behind an iguanodont exhibit.

Isle of Wight Geology

The geology of the Isle of Wight is quite complicated.  Less than 10% of the island has exposures of Cretaceous aged strata (Wealden Group), the majority of the rocks are much more recent, dating from the Pleistocene Epoch for example.  The large fossil bone has been identified as belonging to an extinct straight-tusked elephant  Palaeoloxodon antiquus that roamed this part of Europe during a warm interglacial period when annual average temperatures were at least three degrees Celsius higher than today.

The bone is estimated to be around 100,000 years old – (Ipswichian stage) and it has been put on display at the local museum at Sandown.  In the picture above, finder, Paul shows off the scapula (shoulder bone) with his daughter Lily and son Shay looking on.  In the background is an exhibit of a more famous Isle of Wight resident an iguanodont.

That Big Elephant Family

Palaeoloxodon antiquus, is just one species in the Palaeoloxodon genus, these elephants were particularly widespread during the Pleistocene with fossils associated with Germany, Cyprus, Malta, Africa and Kent (southern England).  Many of these types of elephant become isolated in southern Europe as sea levels rose leading to dwarf forms having been identified on a number of Mediterranean islands.  The legend of the one-eyed cyclops may originate from prehistoric elephant skull fossil finds.

To read more about the potential link between ancient elephants and monsters from Greek legend: Dwarf Elephants and Legends.

The extant elephants, those species that are alive today, are members of the Elephantidae family, but there were a number of closely related other elephant families, all of which are now extinct.

Prehistoric Elephant Fossil

Straight-Tusked Elephant (Amebelodon)

Amebelodon due to be retired in 2013.

A straight-tusked “shovel-tusker”.

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur

For models and replicas of prehistoric elephants and other animals: Eofauna Scientific Research Models.

Commenting on his fossil discovery, Mr Hollingshead stated:

“I remember it was a big five-metre tide, so I knew the water would go out a long way, when I saw what looked like a bit of bone showing from the sand.  I stopped and realised it was a bit bigger, so I started clearing all of the sand and stones away from it.  I was shocked how big it was and spent around two and a half-hours digging it out.  I was hoping it was a dinosaur bone, so was quite shocked to find out it was from an elephant.”

A Shoulder Bone

The prehistoric elephant shoulder bone has been donated to the island’s Dinosaur Isle Museum.  It has taken several months to prepare the fossil for display as, in geological terms the bone is very young, so young in fact that the permineralisation process (the replacement of organic matter with minerals), is not complete.  Extensive conservation was required to prevent the bone from disintegrating.

Click on the link below to read about a remarkable elephant discovery from Kent.

Giant Prehistoric Straight-Tusked Elephant from Kent: Homo heidelbergensis and the Straight-Tusked, Giant Elephant from Kent.

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