The Remarkable “Shovel-Dart Tooth” Amebelodon

By |2024-05-10T09:45:15+01:00November 27th, 2017|Dinosaur Fans, Everything Dinosaur Products, Main Page, Photos of Everything Dinosaur Products|0 Comments


Time to focus on one of our favourite members of the once very diverse Proboscidea – Amebelodon (A. fricki).  The Amebelodon genus is a member of a group of primitive proboscideans called gomphotheres, a group that also gave rise to the modern elephants.   Like other typical gomphotheres, Amebelodon possessed two sets of tusks, two uppers (much like those found on modern, extant elephants), and two lowers that extended from the very front of the lower jaws.  However, the lower tusks of Amebelodon were distinctive in that they were relatively long, slender and somewhat flattened.


These lower tusks reminded the first palaeontologists to study the fossils of shovels, hence Amebelodon and its close relatives are often referred to as “shovel-tusked”.

The Wild Safari Prehistoric Life Amebelodon Model

Wild Safari Prehistoric World Amebelodon.
Wild Safari Prehistoric World Amebelodon (2016)

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In 2016, Safari Ltd re-introduced an Amebelodon model into the “Wild Safari Prehistoric World” range.  This replica was broadly similar to an earlier model that had been retired, but this figure was brought back with a new colour scheme.

Amebelodon and Platybelodon

Another “shovel-tusked” gomphothere that may or may not be closely related to Amebelodon is Platybelodon, the exact taxonomic relationship between these two types of prehistoric elephant remains controversial.

Everything Dinosaur’s Scale Drawing of Amebelodon fricki

Amebelodon scale drawing.
A scale drawing of Amebelodon. Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur.

Picture credit: Everything Dinosaur

There has long been an assumption that these lower tusks were actually used as shovels by the animal during feeding, presumably to scoop up water plants.  An analysis of wear patterns on the tusks has shown that these teeth were most likely used in a variety of ways in addition to shovelling, including scraping bark from trees.

It is likely that Amebelodon was a versatile browser (an animal that eats broad-leaved plants rather than grass), feeding in both wet and dry settings in a variety of ways.   The length of the trunk is not known, but this elephant is usually depicted with a relatively short, broad trunk.  Fossils of the species Amebelodon fricki have been found in Oregon, Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska.

To view the Amebelodon model, visit: Safari Ltd – Wild Safari Prehistoric World.