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Ancient fossil genome shakes up elephant family tree

life model of antiquus/Apotea

From Ewen Callaway at Nature:

Scientists had assumed from fossil evidence that an ancient predecessor called the straight-tusked elephant (Paleoloxodon antiquus), which lived in European forests until around 100,000 years ago, was a close relative of Asian elephants.

In fact, this ancient species is most closely related to African forest elephants, a genetic analysis now reveals. Even more surprising, living forest elephants in the Congo Basin are closer kin to the extinct species than they are to today’s African savannah-dwellers. And, together with newly announced genomes from ancient mammoths, the analysis also reveals that many different elephant and mammoth species interbred in the past. More.

This is happening so often now that there is clearly something wrong with the way we classify species. It’s unfortunate that, in these times, a serious discussion is typically impossible. We must inure ourselves to years more of patronizing coughs from people who admit that there is a problem, ridicule anyone for pointing out the fact, and then thwart doing anything about it.

Obviously, they have more to fear than the rest of us do, and at this point, one can only wonder what that is.

See also: DNA: Giraffes are four separate species

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One example of Paleoloxodon:


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