Mini-Mammoth Discovered on Crete

Adult mammoth the size of modern-day baby elephant
By Mary Papenfuss,  Newser Staff
Posted May 10, 2012 12:31 AM CDT
Updated May 10, 2012 2:31 AM CDT
Mini-Mammoth Discovered on Crete
An adult mini-mammoth was three feet tall, smaller than this preserved baby mammoth on display in Hong Kong last month.   (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

A "mini-mammoth" the size of a baby elephant has been identified on the island of Crete. Mammuthus creticus is the tiniest mammoth ever found, and is another example of "dwarfism" on islands, where scare resources can keep animals small, notes the Telegraph. Fossilized teeth of the three-foot-tall mammoth were first discovered in 1904, but were initially believed to be elephant teeth. Scientists only recently re-examined them and determined they were evidence of a miniature mammoth. They also returned to the spot in Crete and discovered a mini leg bone.

"Dwarfism is a well-known evolutionary response of large mammals to island environments," said lead researcher Victoria Herrige from London's Natural History Museum. "Our findings show that on Crete, island dwarfism occurred to an extreme degree, producing the smallest mammoth known so far." Researchers believe the animals may have evolved from regular-sized mammoths as long as 3.5 million years ago. (More Mammuthus creticus stories.)

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