"Seeing elephants in the wild is a timelessly awe-inspiring experience. There
are only three living species today: the African savannah elephant, African
forest elephant, and Asian elephant.
They are the remnants of a once prosperous lineage of megaherbivores called
proboscideans, whose evolutionary epic spanned 60 million years and some 200
species. The African continent was the centre stage of this story.
But, until now, it hasn’t been clear how natural selection favoured modern
elephants as the only tiny surviving branch of proboscideans.
A new study by palaeontologists Juha Saarinen and Adrian Lister provides the
answers. Lister supervised my PhD, which focused on evolutionary relationships
of fossil elephants. Saarinen hosts my current postdoctoral position at the
University of Helsinki, as we’re pursuing research stemming from these
They focused on the emergence of elephants’ highly specialised, multi-plated
cheek teeth from the primitive dentition of earlier proboscideans. Their
conclusions demonstrate that behavioural adjustments in response to changing
environments can produce sustained transformative trends in animals’ adaptive
structures over tens of millions of years."
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics