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News Link • Biology, Botany and Zoology

World's Smallest Mammoth Discovered

•, Charles Choi
 These findings could help yield insights as to how giant animals can shrink to tiny sizes over evolutionary time, scientists added.

Dwarfism often happens to species of large animals when they get trapped on islands, including dinosaurs. Scientists think dwarfism helps giants survive within the limits imposed by islands.

Ancient Mediterranean dwarf elephants are especially extreme examples of island dwarfism. Over the course of less than 800,000 years — a short stint on an evolutionary scale — these dwarfs are thought to have descended from larger European elephants, weighing 100 times as much, which lived on mainland Europe.
"There's a big question regarding these elephants — how can something so big become dwarfs so small?" said researcher Victoria Herridge, a vertebrate paleontologist at the Natural History Museum in London.

To learn more, Herridge and her colleagues analyzed dwarf fossils first discovered in Crete (an island some say was the birthplace of the Greek god Zeus) more than a century ago. Paleontologists have long argued whether the remains belonged to curvy-tusked mammoths or straighter-tusked elephants.

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