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Sorting out half-pint elephants

May 1, 2006


Nikos Poulakakis of the Natural History Museum of Crete reports in Biological Letters (alas, no link) a comparative study of DNA fragments from fossil half-height elephants, of ages ranging up to 800 thousand years old.

Their closest relatives had always been assumed to be modern elephants. But one species, on Crete, turns out not to belong to the modern genus Elephas, but to Mammuthus.

That’s right. Move over, jumbo shrimp! There’s a new oxymoron on the block: the pygmy mammoth.

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