Gomphotherium (Greek for "welded mammal"); pronounced GOM-foe-THEE-ree-um
Swamps of North America, Africa and Eurasia
Early Miocene-Early Pliocene (15-5 million years ago)
Size and Weight:
About 13 feet long and 2 tons
Straight tusks on upper jaw; shovel-shaped tusks on lower jaw
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.