Real-Life Paleo Diet Included Spiral-Tusked Elephant Ancestor

There’s a new mega-mammal on the menu of America’s first hunters.

On a ranch in northwestern Sonora, Mexico, archaeologists have discovered 13,400-year-old weapons mingled with bones from an extinct elephant relative called the gomphothere. The animal was smaller than mastodons and mammoths, but most had four sharp tusks for defense.

The new evidence puts the gomphothere in North America at the same time as a prehistoric group of paleo-Indians known as the Clovis culture, whose beautifully crafted projectile points helped bring down giant Ice Age mammals, including mammoths. This is the first time gomphothere fossils have been discovered with Clovis artifacts. Read more.

Archaeobelodon filholi, an elephant-like “shovel-tusker” gomphothere from the Miocene of Europe and Africa, about 16 million years ago. Slightly smaller than modern elephants, they appear to have stood around 2m (6.5ft) tall at the shoulder.

The bizarre elongated lower jaw is thought to have been used to strip bark from trees. The two lower incisor “tusks” may also have acted as a cutting surface, grasping tough vegetation with the trunk and rubbing it against the lower teeth to slice through it.

It has long been known that the Clovis people, among the first to spread across North America, hunted and ate mammoths when they still roamed the continent. Now recent archaeological evidence from Mexico has added the gomphothere to their diet. Gomphotheres, like the skeleton above, was an elephant relative with four tusks. Researchers found their bones alongside distinctive Clovis points and other tools. 

Osage Orange - Maclura Pomifera

- Seeds available for swap on myFolia -

Seeds of this North American Native member of the Moraceae family are thought to have once been distributed by now-extinct pleistocene megafauna, such as the giant ground sloth, mammoth, mastodon and gomphothere (much like the Paw Paw, Kentucky Coffeetree, and the American Persimmon). As these species–and native equine species–went extinct at the end of the last ice age, the range of the Osage Orange became severely circumscribed. Now, the seeds are dispersed by humans (anthropochory) and squirrels (zoochory).

The tree itself is thorny, and often planted as windbreak and wildlife/livestock barriers for fields, hence the moniker “Hedge Apple.” It yields a beautiful, dense, rot-resistant wood that is used for a variety of applications, including bowmaking. Many North American indigenous peoples prized this tree for this and other purposes: the name “Osage Orange” refers to the Osage  (Ni-u-kon-ska) Nation.

The fruit is considered inedible because of it’s sticky white latex-containing juice, as well as it’s dense and mealy texture. It is purported to repel insects, but accumulated scientific evidence in recent years asserts that insect-repellant properties only occur in concentrates derived from the plant. Nonetheless, the tree is largely free of pest and fungal problems.

As of this morning, I have four newly-sprouted Osage Orange seedlings, from seeds exchanged by kihaku-gato. I have a number left over that I cannot possibly use.

To swap, join myFolia for free, and I will send you a swap code. Check out my wishlist to find out what I am looking for, and browse my growing germplasm (seeds, bulbs, and cuttings) inventory.

Photos: Bruce Marlin,  H. Zell, Hobbit House, Dallas/Forth Worth Urban Wildlife 
#seedswap #fruit trees #forest gardening #edible landscaping #North America #indigenous

The last Iberian gomphothere (Mammalia, Proboscidea): Anancus arvernensis mencalensis nov. ssp. from the earliest Pleistocene of the Guadix Basin (Granada, Spain)

  • by Guiomar Garrido and Alfonso Arribas

This work describes a new finding of Anancus arvernensis—a maxilla fragment that preserves M2 and M3—from the earliest Pleistocene (c.a. 2.5-2.4 Ma) at the Fonelas SCC-3 site (Cuenca de Guadix, Granada, Spain). This fossil is attributed to a new chronosubspecies based on the combination of anatomical features shown by M3: a primitive anatomical pattern plus derived features. The primitive features include the hexalophodont condition, a massive, rectangular distal outline, inconspicuous enamel folding, and indiscernible anancoidy. The derived features—tooth-valleys covered by cement and the small overall size of the tooth—are typical of the last representatives of the lineage. This mosaic of features allows a new chronosubspecies to be proposed: Anancus arvernensis mencalensis nov. ssp. This would be the youngest representative of the genus Anancus known for the Iberian Peninsula (MNQ 17a), and represents an intermediate evolutionary stage between Anancus arvernensis arvernensis and Anancus arvernensis chilhiacensis, the last known representative of the European lineage. A. arvernensis mencalensistherefore forms part of a temporal cline in the configuration of M3 over the Plio-Pleistocene transition. These anatomical changes could have occurred as a response to the aridification that began around 2.5 Ma, which led to changes in the composition of plant communities" (read more/open access).

(Open access source: Palaeontologia Electronica 17(13a):1-16, 2014)