Sunday, 6 October 2019

ANCIENT AEGEAN ELEPHANTS

The islands of the Aegean are peaks of underwater mountains that extend out from the mainland. Crete is the last of this range and boasts a diverse beauty from its high mountains of Psiloritis, Lefka Ori, Dikti, to its ocean caressed pink sand beaches.

Much of the island of Crete is Miocene and filled with fossil mollusks, bivalves, gastropods who lived 5 to 23 million years ago in warm, tropical seas.

They are easily collected from their pink limestone matrix and are often eroded out, mixing with their modern relatives. Aside from the marine deposits, the island boasts some great vertebrate finds, including the remains of Deinotherium giganteum, a massive 8 million-year-old mammal and primitive relative of the elephants roaming the Earth today. Deinotherium evolved from the slightly smaller, early Miocene, Prodeinotherium, though both genera were much larger than all of the more primitive proboscideans.

With an enormous large nasal opening at the centre of his skull, presumably, to house a rather largish trunk, Deinotherium may be the inspiration behind the myth of the Cyclops, the one-eyed giant from Homer's famous Odyssey. I'll share about some of the North African finds with you and you can judge for yourself. I think the resemblance is striking. The photo above is from the Grigore Antipa National Museum of Natural History in Bucharest, Romania. If you're in Romania, it's definitely a highlight. Photo credit: Flavius70 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22541962