The scientific tourist #101 — Pippo, big & little

This week’s images come to you from the Paleontology section of Museo di Storia Naturale (Natural History Museum), Universitá degli Studi di Firenze in Florence, Italy. They’re two shots of Pippo, an Anancus Arvernensis — an extinct relative of the elephant. As you can see, Pippo and his kin had nearly-straight tusks up to 4 meters long, leading to their name (Anancus = “without curve”).

In the first image you see Pippo’s skeleton, collected by Filippo Nesti in 1825 near Montecarlo in Tuscany:

This clay model of Pippo makes his full form a bit easier to see…

Anancus Arvernensis (a.k.a., the Auvergne Mastodon) lived during the Pleistocene 1.8 million to 10,000 years ago in what is now southern Europe. Like other mastodons, Pippo had teeth optimized for chewing leaves (rather than grass), so he spent his time grazing in woodlands. I can’t imagine that his tusks made it easy to maneuver in trees — but they must have been useful (if only for defense), since they show up again later in other branches of the elephant family tree.

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