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Dinosaur: Stegodon Tusk Found In Pakistan, 1.1 Million Years Old

Feb 17, 2016 02:06 PM EST
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A team of Pakistani scientists recently unearthed a 1.1 million-year-old tusk from what is believed to be a distant relative of modern elephants, the stegodon. When announcing the find, University of Punjab researchers stated the ancient tusk is the largest ever found in the country, and therefore provides new insight on the evolutionary history of these prehistoric mammals.

Researchers led by Professor Muhammad Akhtar discovered the tusk in the central province of Punjab, measuring a staggering eight feet in length and eight inches in diameter, according to a news release.

Stegodons are thought to have roamed the Earth 1.1 million years ago until the end of the late Pleistocene period, which extended to the end of the last Ice Age roughly 11,700 years ago.

"This discovery adds to our knowledge about the evolution of the stegodon, particularly in this region," Akhtar explained. "It also sheds light on what the environment was like at the time of the animal's life."

According to Dr. Gerrit Van Den Bergh, a paleontologist from the University of Wollongong in Australia who has done a lot of research on stegodons, finding such a well-preserved and complete tusk is special and rare. However, he did note that further examination of the tusk is required.

Based on a uranium-lead radioactive dating technique, researchers believe the fossil belongs to the late Pleistocene period. Stegodons were known for their long, nearly straight tusks and low-crowned teeth with peaked ridges. Compared to mammoths and modern elephants, equipped with high-crowned plated molars for grazing, stegodons were browsers or mixed feeders in their forested environment. Previous fossil evidence suggests they were also strong swimmers, and likely originated in Africa before quickly migrating to Asia, where most remains have been found.

"Around 1.2 million years ago they were still thriving," Van Den Bergh added. "They are mostly an Asian species but remains have been found further afield. Recently a molar fragment was discovered in Greece."

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