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Jeheskel Shoshani and Pascal Tassy (2005)

Advances in proboscidean taxonomy & classification, anatomy & physiology, and ecology & behavior

Quaternary International, 126-128:5-20.

With the addition of 13 new taxa, we recognized 175 species and subspecies of proboscideans, classified in 42 genera and 10 families. The three extant species are: forest African elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis), bush African elephant (L. africana), and Asian elephant (Elephas maximus, with three subspecies). Rigorous analysis of characters published or awaiting publication is imperative for better understanding of the cladistic relationships among currently recognized proboscideans. Here we focus on “aquatic ancestry” of Proboscidea, interordinal relationships within Placentalia, proboscidean taxonomy in general and South American in particular, anatomy and physiology and some ecological considerations. New taxa above the family level include sister taxa Mammutida and Elephantida, and Plesielephantiformes as a sister taxon to Elephantiformes. Neontological research is currently under way on the hyoid apparatus, lungs, brain, hearing, ecology and behavior. Topics for future research include: phylogenetic positions of anthracobunids, Moeritherium, tetralophodont gomphotheres, Stegolophodon and Stegodon, and intra-familial relationships among Loxodonta, Elephas and Mammuthus, and continuing studies on encephalization quotient. Certain anatomical features and functions (e.g., the hyoid apparatus that helps in food procurement, in production of infrasonic sounds, and in storing water to be used in time of stress) evolved about 25 million years ago, in time for diversification into new niches when grasses appeared in the landscape.



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