Walking with Oliphaunts: Bibi et al (2012) on the Mleisa elephant trackways

February 22, 2012

Stegotetrabelodon making tracks at Mleisa, © Mauricio Antón

Sweet new paper out today by Bibi et al. in Biology Letters, on some awesome elephant tracks from the United Arab Emirates. I’ve known this was coming for a while, because the second author on the study, Brian Kraatz, has his office about 30 feet down the hall from mine. And I just ran into the lead author, Faysal Bibi, at the Museum fur Naturkunde in Berlin when I was there in December. I knew Faysal when he was an undergrad at Berkeley, and now he’s Dr. Bibi and doing a postdoc in Berlin–how time flies. Congratulations to Faysal, Brian, and the rest of the team on a really cool discovery.

The study is nothing to do with sauropods, but it has a lot of weird connections to SV-POW! Most importantly, the paper is open access, which is both awesome and timely. The life restoration is by the wicked talented Mauricio Antón, who is best known for his paleomammals work but who also restored Brontomerus for National Geographic last year. And some comparative data used in the paper was supplied by SV-POW! favorite and sometime sci-fi author John Hutchinson.

Finally, the elephants that made the tracks were probably Stegotetrabelodon, and although they might not have been full-on Tolkien-by-way-of-Jackson Amphicoelias-sized war-beasts, they were still big four-tusked proboscideans, so I’m calling them oliphaunts. Bibi et al. didn’t find any evidence that the trackmakers were ridden by Haradrim, but they didn’t find any evidence that they weren’t, so that’s how I’m going to imagine them.

Probably not the Mleisa trackmakers. Dammit.

For more stuff, including the paper, the full-res version of the image at top, more sweet images, author bios, and so on, see the press page. There are also nice writeups at Not Exactly Rocket Science and Laelaps. Go check it out.

Reference

Bibi, F., Kraatz, B., Craig, N., Beech, M., Schuster, M., and Hill, A. 2012. Early evidence for complex social structure in Proboscidea from a late Miocene trackway site in the United Arab Emirates. Biology Letters. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2011.1185

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6 Responses to “Walking with Oliphaunts: Bibi et al (2012) on the Mleisa elephant trackways”

  1. Dean Says:

    Whoo! Some large terrestrial animals, (albeit not sauropods):

  2. Callan Bentley Says:

    Faisal made a GigaPan image of the site, for those interested in exploring it a bit on their own:

    http://gigapan.org/gigapans/74055

  3. Sameer Says:

    That Elephant looks pretty cool..

  4. Zhen Says:

    I know the LOTR elephants was exactly what popped into my head when I saw that beast.


  5. [...] happy result of this will manifest in just a few weeks. Bunny-wrangler and sometime elephant-tracker Brian Kraatz and I co-teach a research capstone course for the MS students at WesternU, and one of [...]


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