Happy EleFact Friday! You may remember reading about elephant teeth and how they shift and move as an elephant matures. Recent research from the University of Helsinki reveals an even greater shift in an elephant’s dental makeup: experts have found that changing environmental conditions over the past millions of years have shaped the way that elephants look today.
Probosideans include today’s elephants and their ancient relatives and can be traced back 26 million years in East Africa. The landscapes of this area have gone through intense changes and it seems that the species who inhabit them have learned to adapt. As landscapes change, vegetation patterns change, climates change, and diets must change as well. Research shows that roughly 10 million years ago, a “significant climate upheaval” reshaped the area of East Africa. Elephantidae, referred to in the study as true elephants, were found to have molars that had increased crown heights and more ridges. As this area of Africa became drier, grassland habitats became more prominent, resulting, of course, in elephants who were given no choice but to eat more grass. These changes show researchers that these types of adaptive traits in organisms of all sizes and species, not just elephants, are a result of extreme changes in environmental conditions.
This study poses a question that many are concerned about: as the climate changes in today’s modern society, what adaptive traits are we going to see in today’s species? As different humans try to survive ever changing conditions, temperatures, and climate patterns, it’s as important as ever that we stay aware and vigilant about what we can do to protect the environment, on small and large scales.
To read more about this study, visit here: https://www.earth.com/news/elephant-teeth-have-evolved-in-response-to-climate-change-for-millions-of-years/
Photo of Rana