16 October 2006

Shoveltuskers

While visiting the Delaware Museum of Natural History (DMNH) last Friday, I had a chance for a peek at an exhibit on ice-age mammals that was to open Saturday. Included in the exhibit were remains of mammoths and mastodons, extinct relatives of modern elephants, that lived in North America until the end of the last Ice Age, 10,000 years ago.

Besides the familiar mammoths etc., there was one other group of animals that I had never seen or heard of before: shoveltuskers. The picture below shows the lower jaw of one shoveltusker. Look at the size of that thing relative to the TV screen on the upper lefthand corner.

shoveltusker1
The museum display identified the owner of this fossil jaw as Britt's Shoveltusker (Amebeledon britti)

Unlike the cylindrical tusks of an elephant, the 2 tusks of a shoveltusker were considerably flattened and emerged from the lower jaw next to each other, forming a huge spatula-like structure (see the picture below). What exactly the shoveltuskers did with their peculiar tusks is open to speculation.

shoveltusker2

The exhibit, called TUSKS!, will be at DMNH until 7 January 2007. More info is available at the museum site.

shoveltusker3

2 comments:

Nuthatch said...

Very cool! And a good name for a band.

afarensis said...

Cool! Elephant evolution is amazing!