CLOSE
Asier Larramendi
Asier Larramendi

An Ancient Elephant May Have Been Biggest Land Mammal Ever

Asier Larramendi
Asier Larramendi

For decades, an extinct group of rhinos have been universally recognized as the biggest land mammals of all time. Some 34 million to 23 million years ago, the hornless Paraceratherium genus dwelled in what’s now central Asia. Thus far, we’ve discovered at least three species. Given their long necks and tall builds, these herbivores invite vague comparisons with modern giraffes. In fact, just like the spotted leaf-eaters, Paraceratherium might’ve used strong, grasping lips to yank down tree branches. 

At roughly 18.7 tons, the heaviest adults were giants in every sense of the word. But new research suggests two mammals were bigger.

According to a new studyPalaeoloxodon namadicus, which once roamed India, China and Japan and is closely akin to the modern Asian elephant, was a 24-ton colossus, 16 feet tall at the shoulder. And Mammut borsoni, a European mastodon, was 13.5 feet tall, and especially big ones weighed at least as much as the rhinos, and possibly more. 

If the study is correct, that means Palaeoloxodon namadicus is the biggest land mammal to have ever walked the Earth.  

Collectively, elephants and their prehistoric cousins are called proboscideans. Enormous as today’s varieties are, they’d almost look puny alongside these bygone species. Yet, there’s no sure-fire way to figure out exactly how tall or massive those deceased behemoths could get. So paleontologist Asier Larramendi compared the bones of 24 species, living and extinct. (For Palaeoloxodon namadicus, he had only a single femur to work with.) He developed digital models based on this data, and then calculated the new weight and height estimates.  

At such an impressive size, Palaeoloxodon namadicus would’ve not only outweighed Paraceratherium, but possibly certain long-necked dinosaurs like Camarasaurus as well. The behemoth died out around 24,000 years ago. 

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Courtesy of The National Aviary
arrow
Animals
Watch This Live Stream to See Two Rare Penguin Chicks Hatch From Their Eggs
Courtesy of The National Aviary
Courtesy of The National Aviary

Bringing an African penguin chick into the world is an involved process, with both penguin parents taking turns incubating the egg. Now, over a month since they were laid, two penguin eggs at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania are ready to hatch. As Gizmodo reports, the baby birds will make their grand debut live for the world to see on the zoo's website.

The live stream follows couple Sidney and Bette in their nest, waiting for their young to emerge. The first egg was laid November 7 and is expected to hatch between December 14 and 18. The second, laid November 11, should hatch between December 18 and 22.

"We are thrilled to give the public this inside view of the arrival of these rare chicks," National Aviary executive director Cheryl Tracy said in a statement. "This is an important opportunity to raise awareness of a critically endangered species that is in rapid decline in the wild, and to learn about the work that the National Aviary is doing to care for and propagate African penguins."

African penguins are endangered, with less than 25,000 pairs left in the wild today. The National Aviary, the only independent indoor nonprofit aviary in the U.S., works to conserve threatened populations and raise awareness of them with bird breeding programs and educational campaigns.

After Sidney and Bette's new chicks are born, they will care for them in the nest for their first three weeks of life. The two penguins are parenting pros at this point: The monogamous couple has already hatched and raised three sets of chicks together.

[h/t Gizmodo]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
holidays
Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
iStock
iStock

Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios