Meet the gomphothere: Archaeologists discover bones of elephant ancestor

Jul 14, 2014
These sculptures, made by Mexican artist Sergio de la Rosa, show three elephant ancestors: (from left to right) the mastodon, the mammoth and the gomphothere. Credit: Sergio de la Rosa

An animal once believed to have disappeared from North America before humans ever arrived there might actually have roamed the continent longer than previously thought – and it was likely on the list of prey for some of continent's earliest humans, researchers from the University of Arizona and elsewhere have found.

Archaeologists have discovered artifacts of the prehistoric Clovis culture mingled with the bones of two gomphotheres – an ancient ancestor of the elephant – at an archaeological site in northwestern Mexico.

The discovery suggests that the Clovis – the earliest widespread group of hunter-gatherers to inhabit North America – likely hunted and ate gomphotheres. The members of the Clovis culture were already well-known as hunters of the gomphotheres' cousins, mammoths and mastodons.

Although humans were known to have hunted gomphotheres in Central America and South America, this is the first time a human-gomphothere connection has been made in North America, says archaeologist Vance Holliday, who co-authored a new paper on the findings, published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"This is the first archaeological gomphothere found in North America, and it's the only one known," said Holliday, a professor of anthropology and geology at the UA.

Holliday and colleagues from the U.S. and Mexico began excavating the skeletal remains of two juvenile gomphotheres in 2007 after ranchers alerted them that the bones had been found in northwestern Sonora, Mexico.

Archaeologists working in northwestern Mexico were not sure what kind of animal they had unearthed until they found this telltale jawbone, which belonged to a gomphothere. Credit: Joaquin Arroyo-Cabrales/Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia

They didn't know at first what kind of animal they were dealing with.

"At first, just based on the size of the , we thought maybe it was a bison, because the extinct bison were a little bigger than our modern bison," Holliday said.

Then, in 2008, they discovered a jawbone with teeth, buried upside down in the dirt.

"We finally found the mandible, and that's what told the tale," Holliday said.

Gomphotheres were smaller than mammoths – about the same size as modern elephants. They once were widespread in North America, but until now they seemed to have disappeared from the continent's fossil record long before humans arrived in North America, which happened some 13,000 to 13,500 years ago, during the late Ice Age.

However, the bones that Holliday and his colleagues uncovered date back 13,400 years, making them the last known gomphotheres in North America.

Archaeologists have uncovered the first evidence that gomphotheres, an ancient ancestor of the elephant, were once hunted in North America. Credit: Vance Holliday/University of Arizona

The gomphothere remains weren't all Holliday and his colleagues unearthed at the site, which they dubbed El Fin del Mundo – Spanish for The End of the World – because of its remote location.

As their excavation of the bones progressed, they also uncovered numerous Clovis artifacts, including signature Clovis projectile points, or spear tips, as well as cutting tools and flint flakes from stone tool-making. The Clovis culture is so named for its distinctive stone tools, first discovered by archaeologists near Clovis, New Mexico, in the 1930s.

Radiocarbon dating, done at the UA, puts the El Fin del Mundo site at about 13,400 years old, making it one of the two oldest known Clovis sites in North America; the other is the Aubrey Clovis site in north Texas.

A clear quartz Clovis point found near the bone bed at El Fin del Mundo. Although very difficult to shape into a tool, quartz was used by Clovis tool makers at several sites. Credit: INAH Sonora

The position and proximity of Clovis weapon fragments relative to the gomphothere bones at the site suggest that humans did in fact kill the two animals there. Of the seven Clovis points found at the site, four were in place among the bones, including one with bone and teeth fragments above and below. The other three points had clearly eroded away from the bone bed and were found scattered nearby.

"This is the first Clovis gomphothere, it's the first archaeological gomphothere found in North America, it's the first evidence that people were hunting gomphotheres in North America, and it adds another item to the Clovis menu," Holliday said.

Explore further: Early Clovis knew their land and stone

More information: Human (Clovis)–gomphothere (Cuvieronius sp.) association ∼13,390 calibrated yBP in Sonora, Mexico, PNAS, www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1404546111

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verkle
1 / 5 (15) Jul 14, 2014
Incredile. And species or a sub-species of the elephant found.
If evolution were true, we would be finding such new species every day, as there is a long, long, path in the evolution theory to get from one kind to another. However, the fact that we find so few of these new species shows that evolution couldn't possibly have happened. It is just not scientifically nor mathematically possible.

Vietvet
5 / 5 (10) Jul 14, 2014
Incredile. And species or a sub-species of the elephant found.
If evolution were true, we would be finding such new species every day, as there is a long, long, path in the evolution theory to get from one kind to another. However, the fact that we find so few of these new species shows that evolution couldn't possibly have happened. It is just not scientifically nor mathematically possible.

You must enjoy making a fool of yourself.


kelman66
4.6 / 5 (10) Jul 14, 2014
Incredile. And species or a sub-species of the elephant found.
If evolution were true, we would be finding such new species every day, as there is a long, long, path in the evolution theory to get from one kind to another. However, the fact that we find so few of these new species shows that evolution couldn't possibly have happened. It is just not scientifically nor mathematically possible.



Very puzzling reasoning.
Captain Stumpy
4.5 / 5 (8) Jul 14, 2014
Very puzzling reasoning.
@kelman66
absolutely true... and it is also called a fallacy.
His aim is to support intelligent design or some christian dogma stating that the world is younger than we believe and that science has no clue what is going on... however, he has never been able to provide any empirical data supporting his hypothesis, which is why he uses circular logic and reasoning, as well as fallacious arguments
If evolution were true, we would be finding such new species every day
@verkle
how did you come by this number?
how did you come by this data?

did you even READ the article? did you miss where they said
might actually have roamed the continent longer than previously thought
at the beginning?
this is NOT new, verkle...its been known for a while

NOT just found

TheGhostofOtto1923
4.3 / 5 (12) Jul 14, 2014
If evolution were true, we would be finding such new species every day,
If creation were true and the earth formed 6500 years ago with all these species on it at the same time, innumerable species would be trying to inhabit the same niches at the same time.

We know that nature cannot work this way unless it is run like a park, where lions lay down with lambs because they are fed regularly. With what? Manna? Kibble?

"The term niche differentiation (synonymous with niche segregation, niche separation and niche partitioning), as it applies to the field of ecology, refers to the process by which natural selection drives competing species into different patterns of resource use or different niches."
Steve 200mph Cruiz
5 / 5 (12) Jul 14, 2014
Verkle, I don't think you realize how rare fossils are, especially identifiable ones. If every animal that ever lived left a fossil, it would be smooth. But even with that in mind, you will still find certain species would be around for longer periods of time than others.
This is due to success in an environment being determined by how well an organism can make use of the resources in its environment. When an animal successfully fills a niche, it's evolution can slow, until something changes in its environment. Such as changing predators, changing food sources, changing climates, evolution is really a reflection of change in local ecology.
sennekuyl
5 / 5 (10) Jul 14, 2014
Verkle: if evolution isn't the most correct theory we have, then can you explain the mechanism that does?

Following the most vocal proposition by which the 1500 - 8000 odd kinds allegedly surviving the global catastrophe produced the kinds today, the records that are accepted as correctly dated by the said proponents have many of the current kinds completed by 300 odd years after Noah's flood to at most 1000 years after. Those numbers are 'enveloped' from continuous civilisation records of species widely known to exist around 3500BC.

That is a ridiculously fast speciation to reconcile. Last time I attempted a rigorous calculation of the speciation in that time frame it was 30 different species to one generation per kind.

In the realms of magic. Even the magical story of Jacob's sheep colour change was too small to account for the changes. They should have been birthing llamas or something. Strangely all such records only show creatures local to the respective area.
verkle
1 / 5 (10) Jul 15, 2014
Interesting that few of these self-proclaimed scientists actually want to discuss what I had to say. Thank you, Captain Stumpy, for being an exception.

Have you calculated the number of genes involved in each organisnm? And then calculate the absolute difference in genes between each organism being considered for evolutional theory? Then how many changes need to be made over what kind of time period for evolution to be be feasible? In that time how many other species should be present in the evolutionary tree? Then, compare it to what we see in the fossil record.

The math doesn't add up.
alfie_null
5 / 5 (10) Jul 15, 2014
If evolution were true, . . . It is just not scientifically nor mathematically possible.

You have hubris if you imagine you are doing your cause any good, braying out your childish beliefs. It's like listening to a convocation of mathematicians arguing with a child who doesn't believe there is such a number as zero.

Intellect isn't your forté. I wonder if you understand that.
TheGhostofOtto1923
4.2 / 5 (10) Jul 15, 2014
Verkle wants math to add up.

"Robert E. Sloan, a paleontologist at the University of Minnesota, has studied the Karroo Formation. He told me that the animals fossilized there range from the size of a small lizard to the size of a cow, with the average animal perhaps the size of a fox. A minute's work with a calculator shows that, if the 800 billion animals in the Karroo Formation could be resurrected, there would be 21 of them for every acre of land on earth. Suppose we assume (conservatively, I think) that the Karroo Formation contains 1% of the vertebrate fossils on earth. Then when the Flood began there must have been at least 2100 living animals per acre, ranging from tiny shrews to immense dinosaurs. To a noncreationist mind, that seems a bit crowded."

-That's per every acre on earth. All competing for food, territory, repro rights. What carnage must have ensued. No wonder 99% of all species are extinct. Natural selection at its most horrific.

WHAT WAS GOD THINKING??
Dr_toad
Jul 15, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
TheGhostofOtto1923
4.1 / 5 (9) Jul 15, 2014
But god loves carnage. Because he wasn't satisfied with his initial creation he decided to kill everything on the earth. Later on he wrote a book to avoid having to do this yet again.

So why didn't god just write the bible earlier? Nobody could read Greek and Hebrew and Aramaic back then you say? Most people couldn't read the holy books until long after they were written, and it still requires holy men to tell them what it means, what parts to ignore.

Did this just not occur to god at the time verkle? "People don't have to die I'll just write a book! It'll be about a chosen people who were promised a homeland if they would just slaughter all the inhabitants, including their children, their livestock, and their olive trees. People will know it's just a metaphor right?"

- But because it was written in his book, people have been doing this very thing with glee ever since. As I say god LOVES carnage.
kelman66
5 / 5 (9) Jul 15, 2014
Interesting that few of these self-proclaimed scientists actually want to discuss what I had to say. Thank you, Captain Stumpy, for being an exception.

Have you calculated the number of genes involved in each organisnm? And then calculate the absolute difference in genes between each organism being considered for evolutional theory? Then how many changes need to be made over what kind of time period for evolution to be be feasible? In that time how many other species should be present in the evolutionary tree? Then, compare it to what we see in the fossil record.

The math doesn't add up.


Again, I wanted to discuss what you have to say but it makes no sense.
Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence is the closest thing I can come up with to begin to start to make heads or tails of your logic. You are failing on such a fundamental level to grasp the basics that it is difficult to discuss anything.
Captain Stumpy
5 / 5 (7) Jul 15, 2014
Have you calculated the number of genes involved in each organisnm? And then calculate the absolute difference in genes between each organism being considered for evolutional theory? Then how many changes need to be made over what kind of time period for evolution to be be feasible? In that time how many other species should be present in the evolutionary tree?
@verkle
and you have done this?
please provide the maths! There is a fallacy with the assumption that you are taking: starting with the time periods involved ( http://www.tim-th...lar.html ), ending with the assumptions about genetic diversity, math (with no formulation to show for your assumption) and the assumption that ALL animals, or even a large number of existing animals will fossilize at any given age. http://www.tim-th...ils.html

First lets start with your maths & specific references.
WARNING: I will require from you the same level of evidence that I will provide

Osiris1
1 / 5 (5) Jul 15, 2014
Some other article denies the commonly held idea of a cosmic catastrophe behind the wiping out of the Clovis culture. This writer would rather we kept with that idea if the alternative would probably be a periodically recurring bout of mutant bubonic plague or some other pandemic doing the job Plague is, as all know, endemic to small animals in the southwest and could mutate at any time. If said mutation carries with it multiple antibiotic resistance...you could be next!! Which would YOU like to believe?
Osiris1
1.7 / 5 (6) Jul 15, 2014
Everyone, see how one willful ignoramus can hijack a discussion? Please ignore these trolls and press on. Furthermore, it is entirely possible that much of our evolution occurred on other worlds long ago and that much could be dis-continuous in nature. Random re-curing Panspermia can mimic this easily as space borne life randomly drifts our way. It is all too possible that space faring peoples found us in antiquity and modified morphological similar of our species with DNA addition and alteration from their own DNA stocks. We had a sudden spurt of discovery 12,500 years ago. No one can explain how humanity that did nothing but sharpen rocks and chuck spears for 250,000 years or more could suddenly build cities complete with functioning plumbing, sewerage, etc. in square grid patterns of streets of houses, etc. But if others modified us with their DNA.... Theologically, a Universal God older than the universe could do this by directing our engineers...successively..eternally!
Steve 200mph Cruiz
2.8 / 5 (4) Jul 15, 2014
Verkle,
I Didn't mean to offend, as long as the gloves are on (and i never try/mean to throw them off first), I really don't try to be a butt hole. But Christ is love and the Old Testament is social conscious, not a history book. Both of those things are independent of scientific theory, for the mere fact it changes, decency doesn't, The future is now and Christianity is all about peace and understanding, if God is about the truth who are you to deny an experiment?
Love your world and your foes, and nothing else really matters, it'll be cool.
What I'm saying is live in decency and love and you did your part by God.
Captain Stumpy
4 / 5 (4) Jul 16, 2014
It is all too possible that space faring peoples found us in antiquity and modified morphological similar of our species with DNA addition and alteration from their own DNA stocks.
@Osiris1
there is NO empirical evidence supporting this conclusion, whatsoever.
No one can explain how humanity that did nothing but sharpen rocks and chuck spears for 250,000 years or more could suddenly build cities complete with functioning plumbing, sewerage, etc
you are making an assumption.
cities are built over time. New York circa 1800 was vastly different that the New York of today. to assume a correlation between aliens, our knowledge and abilities as social creatures and the lack of historical written data is called conjecture without evidence, unless you provide some logical connection that can be empirically proven
a Universal God older than the universe
SCIENCE does not invoke magic for explanations.
neither should someone pushing a hypothesis here
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.4 / 5 (5) Jul 16, 2014
But Christ is love and the Old Testament is social conscious
But all religions say this. All religions say that their god loves believers and he will give them anything they want including immortality if they only love him in return.

All religions also say this:

"17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God's one and only Son." John3

-In other words unbelievers cannot be good. If you look up the word bigotry you see that it is what your book is all about.

Science tells us the bible stories are all myths. No good can come from a book full of lies. 'Christ is love' is especially foul.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.4 / 5 (5) Jul 16, 2014
not a history book
Of course it is. It SAYS it is. And people believed this for centuries until science showed them it was not.

So now some of you want to believe that the stories are metaphor. But what is metaphor and what is not? Mt Sinai is metaphor but the commandments are literal? The Joshuan genocide didn't really happen but Jews still have a divine right to the holy land?
Christianity is peace
This is only true where secularists have FORCED xians to refrain from enacting gods will. Elsewhere - in Bosnia, Ireland, Konys Africa, xians are free to follow instructions.

Elsewhere xians are gleefully presenting themselves for killing by other religionists. Martyrdom is a particularly repulsive form of violence. And Jesus demands it by example - he marched into the holy city on its holiest day and proclaimed to the priests that he was not only their king but their GOD. Millions have died as a result. For a nonexistent god and an evil book full of lies.
896835986
1 / 5 (1) Jul 27, 2014
An interesting point about Elephants and the Americas is that they are,usually, thought to have died out there about 12,000 years ago, all be it, this find is believed to be 10,000 years old.
A solid gold plate thought to be Mayan (2000 BC) shows a Pyramid, which has depicted on either side a Jaguar
("Lion of the Americas") and
strangely enough Elephants at the sides.
This begs the question, did Elephants continue in the Americas thousands of years later than zoology is aware of, or is the Pyramid building culture of the Americas much older than archaeologists and historians are prepared to consider.
The remaining option is that Africans, who were known in ancient America, showed the artist images or drew the Elephants onto the plaques themselves.
The Pyramids of the Americas have many similarities to those on the African continent, Egypt & Nubia (today's Sudan)
Elephants were sacred in ancient Egypt, so much so that, only twice were they used as hieroglyphs,
much the same as a God'
896835986
1 / 5 (1) Jul 27, 2014
.....
as a God's Name which is rarely uttered, because of it's sacredness.
One of the two Egyptian drawings of an Elephant is at Dendera, near Thebes / Nowe / Luxor, there the Elephant is preceded by a Snake, the Cobra.
It will be noted that above the Pyramid on the American plate are two, naturally, flying Snakes.
Recently found "hidden" drawings in the Cambodian Temples of Angor Wat, depict, among other things, Elephants.
Anywhere the Elephant is found in ancient culture, it is held as sacred in some way.
Today we are becoming aware of it's great intelligence.
Just as the Pharaoh wore the Negus / Neka (Snake) on the crown, so too, the trunk of the Elephant may be held to represent the Snake and all it's Mystical Godlike Powers.

This comment and link to the article is scooped at
http://sco.lt/5dTTxh
and a bigger copy of the picture is at
http://a.disquscdn.com/uploads/mediaembed/images/1184/3533/original.jpg