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Gomphotherium (American Museum of Natural History)


Gomphotherium (Greek for "welded mammal"); pronounced GOM-foe-THEE-ree-um


Swamps of North America, Africa and Eurasia

Historical Epoch:

Early Miocene-Early Pliocene (15-5 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About 13 feet long and 2 tons



Distinguishing Characteristics:

Straight tusks on upper jaw; shovel-shaped tusks on lower jaw


About Gomphotherium:

With its shovel-toothed lower tusks--which were used for scooping up vegetation from flooded swamps and lakebeds--Gomphotherium set the pattern for the later shovel-toothed elephant Amebelodon, which had an even more pronounced digging apparatus. For a prehistoric elephant of the Miocene and Pliocene epochs, the two-ton Gomphotherium was remarkably widespread, taking advantage of various land bridges to colonize Africa and Eurasia from its original stomping grounds in North America.

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