Paul Andruss resumes his Writer in Residence duties today and will be writing an exclusive post for the blog once a month.. In addition Paul will be writing the monthly gardening column. This will not be a calendar to plant your bulbs by, but a look at some of the exotics you can grow in your garden or greenhouse, and other interesting snippets that will as always with Paul, make the column Unique..
In the meantime… I know exactly how I turned into a whale over Christmas.. but some creatures took millions of years to achieve that level of mammothness….. the elephant, if not a quirk of evolution might also have ended up there too.
How the Elephant almost became a whale by Paul Andruss
In the Elephant’s Child (Just So Stories) Rudyard Kipling told how the elephant got his trunk. Once the elephant had a bulgy nose; big as a boot. The trunk came about because the Elephant’s child, full of ‘satiatable curosity’, asked the crocodile, in an ill-judged moment, what he ate for dinner.
Just So Stories- Rudyard Kipling (Penguin Classics)
‘I think I’ll begin with Elephant’s child,’ said the Crocodile seizing his nose.
The Elephant’s child pulled and pulled to get free. The crocodile pulled and pulled to get dinner. All the while the Elephant’s nose stretched longer and longer until by the time he escaped it was a trunk.
On the face of it, my tale of how the elephant almost became a whale seems just as fantastical. But it’s true.
It all starts, O Best Beloved, in the High and Far-Off Times of the Triassic. Some 230 million years past, little lizards ran around on their hind legs (they would grow up to be dinosaurs) eating little mouse-like mammals (who grew up to become us: among other things). Due to the way they extracted water from their waste products in that hot thirsty desert world, dinosaurs won the race and dominated for 140 million years until a meteor ended their reign. Because mammals were tiny and lived underground, they survived.
And so 65 million years ago the Age of Mammals dawned. Although the tiny creatures looked like mice or rats, O Best Beloved, they had been evolving for 140 million years.
Despite looking all the same, they were no more related to each other than we are to a rhinoceros.
Given I have about 500 words left before everyone loses interest, I better drop the Kipling shtick and get on with it. Remember, if you’re flummoxed by unpronounceable names, do what I do: ignore them and look at the pictures.
World about 60 million years ago (paleomaps.com)
For 25 million years after the dinosaurs, England and North America were as hot and humid as South East Asia. There were no ice caps and sea levels were around 500 feet higher than today. One group had already started to evolve hooves rather than claws.
These became the most successful animals on the planet. Today, if we think of them at all, we think of two groups:
The hugely successful group consisting of pigs, cows, sheep, giraffes, camels, antelope, deer and hippos: it even produced whales. (DNA shows whales are most closely related to the hippopotamus.)
Ariodactyls (even-toed hoofed animals)
Early on it had a go at carnivores too, resulting in the largest ever meat-eater Andrewsarchus. (Definitely a sheep in wolf’s clothing.)
Andrewsarchus (with outlines to show scale) (dinoanimals.com)
Their cousins were initially successful, but today only horses, rhinos and tapirs survive.
Perissodactyls (odd-toed hoofed animals)
Once they included bizarre chalicotheres, huge brontotheres and a gigantic rhinoceros; the largest land mammal that ever lived.
Chalicotheres (Walking with Beasts BBC)
(BBC Walking with Beasts)
Huge rhinoceros Indricothere (BBC Walking with Beasts)
There were two other branches. One in South America now sadly extinct (I’ll save those for another time). The last group was in Africa.
In the Age of Dinosaurs the huge Southern continent of Gondwana (South America, Africa, Antarctica and Australian started to break up. Africa became an island for over 20 million years until land bridges formed.
5 million years ago Africa crashed into Europe creating the Alps and the Mediterranean Sea. As Africa continues colliding with Europe, the Mediterranean will become mountains high as the Himalayas.
Mammals we think are African are not: lions and cats, wild dogs, giraffes, hippos, rhinos, zebras, warthogs, buffalos, hyenas, antelopes, monkeys and apes. They are immigrants. Only elephants evolved in Africa.
Elephant relatives are an odd bunch you probably never heard of. Elephants’ closest living relative is the rabbit-sized hyrax.
Hyrax- the elephant’s closest living relative (focusonwildlife.com)
There are 2 rare fossils from animals living 60 million years ago in coastal swamps that are now Moroccan Desert. Even through these fox sized creatures look the same (like a hyrax) they show the group had already spilt.
Ocepeia: 60 million year old ancestor of elephants and all their relatives
Insect eating Elephants? Aardvark, 8: tenric, 3: Elephant Shrew, 5: Golden mole
(Adapted from Wikipedia)
Ocepeia’s descendants became insect eaters, golden moles, tenrics, the so called elephant shrews and the aardvark. Eritherium descendants became elephants, hyraxes and their relatives. Not all Hyraxes were cute and bunny sized. Some were big as hippos.
Fossil Hyraxes (© Princeton Guide to Prehistoric Animals)
Four million years later the dog-sized Phosphatherium was the direct ancestor of the elephant side of the family.
Here are some of the weird and wonderful shapes elephants took: the hippo-like Moeritherium, the shovel jawed Platybelodon and Dinotherium.
(BBC Walking with Beasts)
Platybelodon (by N Tamura Deviant art)
(BBC Walking with Beasts)
The Elephant Family tree (Source: Q files)
Relatives include the extinct strange rhino like Arsinoitherium.
(BBC Walking with Beasts)
And the Manatee
Manatee or Sea Cow (Factzoo)
Some 50 million years ago came the first ancestor of the sea cow: something you are more likely to see in Florida than Africa.
Prorastomus lived in Jamaica having travelled from Africa along the European and American coastlines through tropical seas stretching into the Artic. Because North and South America were not connected by Central America sea cows moved into the Pacific up to Alaska.
Prorastomus (By Nobu Tamura- Wikipedia)
During the Ice Age they got bigger in order to cope with the cold: just like whales. At 30 foot long Steller’s Sea Cow was the largest. It survived until the 1768, when it was hunted to extinction, in 26 years, for its oil rich fat.
Steller’s Sea Cow (© Princeton Guide to Prehistoric Animals)
And that O Best Beloved is how the elephant almost became a whale… until we killed it.
©Paul Andruss 2018.
Only Paul Andruss could take us on a journey across millions of years and leave us better informed than we were at the beginning.. my one concern was that I leave an image out and we would have all taken a different path in our evolution…..
About Paul Andruss.
Paul Andruss is a writer whose primary focus is to take a subject, research every element thoroughly and then bring the pieces back together in a unique and thought provoking way. His desire to understand the origins of man, history, religion, politics and the minds of legends who rocked the world is inspiring. He does not hesitate to question, refute or make you rethink your own belief system and his work is always interesting and entertaining. Whilst is reluctant to talk about his own achievements he offers a warm and generous support and friendship to those he comes into contact with.
Paul Andruss is the author of 2 contrasting fantasy novels
When Fairy Queen Sylvie snatches his brother, schoolboy Jack is plunged into a sinister fantasy world of illusion and deception – the realm of telepathic fairies ruled by spoilt, arrogant fairy queens.
Haunted by nightmares about his brother and pursued by a mysterious tramp (only seen by Jack and his friends) Jack fears he too will be stolen away.
The tramp is Thomas the Rhymer, who only speaks in rhyme. Lost and frightened Thomas needs Jack’s help to find his way home.
The race is on for Jack and his friends to save Thomas from the wicked Agnes Day (who wants to treat Thomas like a lab rat). And save Jack’s brother from Sylvie.
To do this they need the help of Bess – the most ancient powerful fairy queen in the land.
But there is a problem…
No one knows where Bess is… or even if she is still lives.
And even if they find her… will she let them go?
Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Thomas-Rhymer-Jack-Hughes-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B00EPQL7KC
When the fairy folk deliver a soldier called Finn (the first outsider in plague-stricken Ireland for a decade) Erin believes he is Finn Mac Cool – returned to kill the tyrant King Conor Mac Nessa of Ulster. and free Great Queen Maeve – Ireland’s true ruler & Erin’s dying mother.
The druids kidnap Finn – planning to turn him into the hero Finn Mac Cool – who will save the world by destroying it.
Erin goes in looking for Finn – so he can kill Conor Mac Nessa before her mother’s dream of a free Ireland dies with her.
Erin’s quest draws her ever-deeper into Ireland’s ancient mythological landscape; a place…
… Where dream and reality merge
… Where a man’s fate is written fifteen hundred years before he was born
… Where books are legends & a library a myth
… Where people hate Christians for defying the gods
… Where phony druids use real magic
Find out more and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Finn-Mac-Cool-Paul-Andruss-ebook/dp/B018OJZ9KY
Currently for a limited period Thomas the Rhymer is FREE to download via Paul’s website. It would be a great service if you could download the book and review and put it on Amazon and Goodreads.
Connect to Paul on social media.