Monday, December 29, 2008

Mastodon

The mastodon, an elephantikle mammal belonging to the order Proboscidea, was widespread from Miocene through the Pleistocene epochs (26 million to 10 thousand years ago). Mastodons were in the mainline of proboscidean evolution, first appearing in the early Oligocene (38 million to 26 million years ago). Their teeth, consisting of a series of paired conical cusps, seen in profile resemble a woman’s breasts; hence the name mastodon was derived from the Greek for breasts tooth.

Gomphotherium (also called Trilophodon) lived during the late Miocene and the early Pliocene (12 million to 3, 5 million years ago). It resemble Phiomia, but the teeth were more beastlike and the trunk was more fully developed. Shovel-tusked mastodons such as amebelodon developed broad, scoop-shaped lower tusks that were useful for digging vegetation. Mastodon americanus, common in North America during the Pleistocene Epoch and perhaps up to a few thousand years ago, was not as tall as tall as modern elephants. Its strongly curved upper tusks were very large, and its body was covered with long, reddish brown hair.


The Mastodon, a browsing mammal somewhat smaller than a present day elephant became extinct only in the last 10,000 years.

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