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Speaking of connections, it may seem pretty bizarre to imagine a huge pachyderm with six tusks. However, during the late Miocene and early Pliocene epochs 23.5-5.3 million years ago, there was a real animal that had FOUR huge tusks! This prehistoric mammal is thought to be the earliest ancestor of the modern elephant. It was a transition between the primitive elephant-like Gomphotherum , to the elephants we are familiar with in Africa and Asia today. First described by Italian paleontologist Carlo Petrocchi in 1941, Stegotetrabelodon ranged in North Africa, through southern Europe, and parts of Asia. Its past presence is best known in Abu Dhabi.

In fact, the oldest fossilized elephant tracks that are in the Arabian Desert are from a herd of 13 Stegotetrabelon dating back 7 million years ago! There is even a set of tracks from a solitary male going in the opposite direction, which suggests that these animals had similar social behaviors to modern elephants.

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In Greek, "stego" means "roof", referring to the roof-like plates on the molars; "Tetra beledon" means "four tusks", referring to the two long tusks on the top and bottom jaws. It belongs to the family Elephantidae, and subfamily Gomphotheriidae. Much smaller than Middle-earth's Mûmakil, Stegotetrabelodon stood only around 4m (14ft) at the shoulders. The upper tusks were about 2.5m (8.2ft) long, while the bottom tusks were a bit shorter. What is a tusk exactly? Tusks are only very long, modified teeth, usually incisors or canines, which stick out of an animal's mouth when it is closed. Their purpose is most often used for digging or as a weapon. Other than elephants, what other species can you think of that sport an impressive set of tusks?

  • Adam Floyd