Gomphotheriidae: an elephant-like relative of the mammoth
The elephantimorpha was the common ancestor of the elephants, proboscis animals and mammoths. These animals have populated the Earth for millions of years. There were many different species, which looked alike but also differed. One of the resulting genera is the Gomphotheriidae. After the Panamanian Isthmus was created by a volcano rising from the ocean, an exchange began between the North American animal species and the South American animal species. Over time, the different species of the Gomphotheriidae developed a very specific diet that may be responsible for the extinction of the species.
- Rich: Animalia (Animals);
- Strain: Chordata (Chorda animals);
- Class: Mammalia (Mammals);
- Order: Proboscidea (Proboscis animals);
- Family: Gomphotheriidae.
The progenitor of the elephants, mammoths and proboscis animals was the elephantimorpha. As a descendant of this progenitor, even one of the earliest descendants, it is not surprising that this Gomphotheriidae had characteristics of an elephant and a trunk animal. Today, all the descendants of the progenitor except the African elephant and the Asian elephant are extinct. The Gomphotheriidae lived in the Miocene and Pliocene. The Miocene was the era from 23.03 million years ago to 5.333 million years ago. The Pliocene lasted from 5.333 million years ago to 2.588 million years ago.
The Gomphotheriidae were found all over North America. About 5 million years ago they were pushed back by the mammoth, which came to live in their habitat. The Gomphotheriidae were also found in Beringia and Eurasia.
Great American Interchange
The Great American Exchange was the event that took place after the Panamanian Isthmus was formed and the Americas became linked. This was the result of the rising from the ocean of the Istmus volcano of Panama. After this association, the Gomphotheriidae also appeared in South America. The South American descendants of this species survived in Mexico and Central America until about 12,000 years ago.
Different types of Gomphotheriidae
Many different species of Gomphotheriidae have been identified, all of which are extinct.
The subdivision of the Gomphotheriidae
For example, the Gomphotheriidae can be divided as follows:
Amebelondontinae can be subdivided into:
Gomphotheriinae has the following subdivision:
- Natiomastodon / Haplomastodon;
Differences between the Gomphotheriidae and an elephant
The main difference between Gomphotheriidae and an elephant was the difference in the teeth and the way of chewing and grinding. The first species of the Gomphotheriidae had four tusks. Research of skeletons shows that they did have a kind of trunk, but it was probably different from that of the current elephant.
The investigation of the excavations that took place mainly in South America showed that some Gomphotheriidae had an exclusive C4 diet and some an exclusive C3 diet. And in some cases a mixed diet.
In plants of type C3, the carbon dioxide is immediately removed from the air by the plant. These plants thrive in areas where there is not too much sun and the temperature is moderate and groundwater abundant. The C3 plants originated during the Mesozoic and Paleozoic Era. The Mesozoic Era, also known as the Age of Reptiles and Conifers, covers a period from 252 million years ago to 66 million years ago. The Paleozoic was from 541 million years ago to 252 million years ago. 95% of the plants on earth are still of the C3 type. Important crops of the C3 type are: rice, wheat, soybeans and barley. C3 plants cannot thrive in extremely warm areas.
C4 plants cannot immediately remove the carbon from the air, but must first extract it from carbon dioxide via photosynthesis in order to be able to use it in sugar and other biomolecules. There are 8,100 different types of plants that use this method. That is about 3% of the plants on earth. Many grasses are plants of the type C4. Other examples of plants and crops of the C4 type are: corn, sugar cane and millet. These plants can grow in very dry sunny areas and also where there is less nitrogen and CO2 available.
C4 rice project
Because of the benefits of the C4 plants, a group of scientists around the world in 2019 is working on the rice project. That is the project in which one tries to convert C3 plants into C4 plants. Rice is a C3 plant but could therefore grow more efficiently if it were a C4 plant because then it would need less water and nutrients.
Gomphotheriidae and the Paleo-Indian
Depaleo Indians, the first Indians to inhabit North and South America, are the known hunters of the mammoth and therefore also of the Gomphotheriidae. This is evident from remains of mammoths and Gomphotheriidae found in settlements of the paleo-Indians such as Clovis in present-day Mexico and Monte Verde in Chile. Before these finds dating back to about 11,000 years ago, these species were thought to have become extinct 30,000 years ago.
Extinction of the Gomphotheriidae
Known possible reasons for the extinction of large mammals in the late Pleistocene, such as the woolly mammoth, the Colombian mammoth, the dwarf mammoth as well as the Gomphotheriidae, are climate change and man’s hunt for large mammals. In the case of the Gomphotheriidae, in addition, in the case of these beasts, a change in diet could have been a possible cause for extinction. In their case it has been found that a shift has taken place from a more general diet to eating a more special diet. It is therefore possible that it became increasingly difficult to obtain that special food.
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